Notebook: Home runs lead Orioles past Red Sox, 12-9


BALTIMORE — With two pitchers returning to the starting rotation for their respective teams, it was clear Saturday night’s game had the potential to become an offensive explosion, especially with the temperature soaring to the mid-80s in downtown Baltimore.

Twenty-one runs, 24 hits, and nine home runs later, the Orioles (6-18) bested the Boston Red Sox, 12-9, in a game filled with offense and short on pitching.

Baltimore’s 12 runs was a season high, besting their eight-run effort against the Oakland Athletics on April 18.

As he has for the entire 2010 season, Ty Wigginton led the offense with two home runs, including a solo blast in the fifth inning that ignited a six-run explosion that put the Orioles in front for good. Wigginton leads the club in nearly every run-producing category imaginable including home runs (8), runs batted in (14), average (.324), slugging percentage (.721), and on-base percentage (.413).

“I’m just executing my plan,” he said. “I try to come up with the best approach [at the plate] and stick with it. I’m executing it more times than I’m not.”

Manager Dave Trembley believes there’s a far simpler explanation, especially with Brian Roberts being on the disabled list for all but four games this season.

“You ask Ty and he’ll tell you if he gets his at-bats, he’ll put his numbers up. He’s getting his at-bats.”

It was Wigginton’s second multi-homer game of the season and the 11th of his career.

Markakis, Wieters connect

While both have been criticized for failing to connect for the long ball, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters both connected for three-run blasts.

Markakis hit his against Tim Wakefield in the sixth inning to extend the Baltimore lead to 11-4. He matched his career high of five runs batted in, a feat he accomplished twice before and most recently against Boston on April 17, 2009. The right fielder has now reached base safely in 22 of 24 games this season and is 22 for his last 63 (.349).

“Nick Markakis is a pure hitter,” said Trembley. “He can hit, always has. Nick’s a guy that I don’t really concern myself with. Nick will be there at the end of the year with the numbers that he always puts up, and he’ll probably put up better numbers.”

While Markakis had the bigger night overall, Wieters’ opposite-field, three-run blast off Daisuke Matsuzaka broke a 4-4 tie in the fifth. It was the phenom catcher’s first home run since connecting off James Shields on Opening Night in Tampa Bay on April 6.

Bergesen returns to Baltimore

It wasn’t pretty, but Brad Bergesen notched his first victory of the season in his return to the starting rotation on Saturday night. After looking completely lost in his first three starts with a 12.19 ERA and seemingly falling apart mentally, Bergesen spent 11 days at Triple-A Norfolk, making one start last weekend for the Tides.

His sinker lacked the downward movement it showed last season, but Bergesen battled through five innings, giving up four runs, seven hits, two home runs, and striking out two.

“I’ve made some progress,” said Bergesen, who feels much better about his mental approach. “It’s still not quite where where it needs to be, but it’s going in the right direction right now.”

Bergesen improved to 1-2 and actually lowered his ERA to 10.57.

Simon Says: Save No. 2

Alfredo Simon received his second save opportunity Saturday night, and the new closer looked far more comfortable than he did in his prior two appearances this week.

After walking leadoff man Marco Scutaro, Simon struck out Dustin Pedroia and recorded the final two outs to pick up his second save and give the Orioles their first series win of the season.

“He didn’t overthrow like he did [Friday] night,” said Trembley. “[Friday] he was flying off that mound. Tonight he stayed back over the rubber, his split was a lot better. He didn’t try to throw it as hard.”

Beating Boston? Really?

After going just 2-16 against the Red Sox in 2009, the Orioles have already eclipsed that total in 2010 with their third straight win over Boston on Saturday night, the first coming at Fenway Park last Sunday. The Orioles lead the season series, 3-2.

Baltimore will go for its fourth straight victory over the Red Sox on Sunday, a feat it hasn’t accomplished since 2004.

“We got April behind us, which wasn’t the most pleasant of circumstances, but you have to put it behind you and keep fighting,” said Trembley.

In addition to securing their first series win of the season after dropping their first seven, the Orioles can complete a three-game sweep of Boston in Baltimore for the first time since Sept. 1974.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below, including details behind the demotion of reliever Jim Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk.

BALTIMORE — Good afternoon from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the second of a three-game set between the Orioles and Boston Red Sox at 7:05 p.m.

With last night’s dramatic 5-4 victory, thanks in large part to the bat of Miguel Tejada, the Orioles have already equaled last season’s win total against the Red Sox (2-16 in 2009) and have an opportunity to win their first series of the season if they can grab one of the next two games at Camden Yards.

The big news this afternoon is the demotion of reliever Jim Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for the return of Brad Bergesen to the starting rotation. The right-hander  struggled mightily in April with a 6.52 ERA and three blown saves in 10 appearances. I’ll have more on Johnson in a bit.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

SS Marco Scutaro
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
DH David Ortiz
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Darnell McDonald
CF Jonathan Van Every

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka (first start of 2010)

CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
1B Rhyne Hughes
LF Nolan Reimold
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Brad Bergesen (0-2, 12.19 ERA)

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to first pitch at 7:05 p.m.


5:45 p.m. — The other piece of news to pass along from Trembley’s pre-game comments was a slight adjustment in the appearance schedule for Koji Uehara at Triple-A Norfolk. The Japanese hurler will pitch in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday, easing the burden of pitching on consecutive days by allowing him to pitch in a day game followed by a night game on Monday.

The skipper was adamant that it had nothing to do with any injury or health-related concern.

Personally, I’m not sure where he would have gotten the idea that we’d be wondering if it were. (Insert your favorite hamstring joke here.)

The club will assess where Uehara is at following Monday’s outing and decide whether it wants to activate him from the disabled list. Of course, that would mean a corresponding roster move after already optioning Johnson to Norfolk this afternoon.

There was no update on the timetable for Mike Gonzalez’s concern, but Trembley went on to say the pitcher is still pain-free in the midst of a strengthening program for his injured pitching shoulder.

5:35 p.m. — If you’ve been following my blog (and if you haven’t been, why not?), I’ve made my thoughts abundantly clear on the quick return of Brad Bergesen. In the club’s defense, it sounds as though it was planned all along for the young pitcher to make only one start in Norfolk before being recalled.

All parties involved seem to think his problems—both mechanical and mental—are solved, and we’ll now see the Bergesen who emerged as the team’s best starter in 2009 before missing the final two months of the season after taking a wicked line drive to the shin. If so, much credit belongs to the coaching staff at Triple-A Norfolk.

We can only hope, or the Orioles will find themselves right back where they were when Bergesen was sprinting off the mound, visibly shaken following a disastrous outing in Seattle less than two weeks ago.

4:55 p.m. — Speculation began flying Friday night about the possibility of Jim Johnson being demoted, especially after the right-hander pitched so poorly and Matt Albers followed it up with another good outing while picking up the victory in the 5-4 final. Johnson gave up three hits, walked two, and gave up a home run in his one inning of work Friday.

Most assumed earlier in the week that Albers would be the one to go with Bergesen returning to the big club, but three straight strong outings—not to mention the fact that he’s out of options—saved him from the chopping block and hoisted him back into Trembley’s good graces for now.

Johnson, who spent time as the team’s closer last season following the trade of George Sherrill, struggled to find any consistency in April. He failed in the closer role after Mike Gonzalez went on the disabled list and has struggled with his command, pitching to a 6.52 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in 2010.

“[It] was a tough decision, but it’s the best thing to do for Jim Johnson,” said Trembley. “We now have to have other guys step up.”

Trembley does not anticipate Johnson being in Norfolk for long but would not elaborate on any specific adjustments needed to be made after pitching coach Rick Kranitz and Trembley sat down with the reliever. The manager did say Johnson simply needs to find his “comfort zone” that has made him so dominant at times in his brief career.

Dating back to last season following the Sherrill trade, Johnson has pitched 31 1/3 innings with a 6.32 ERA. It’s clear something is off with the setup man, so perhaps a return to Triple A will allow him to clear his head and regain the form he displayed in 2008 and the first half of last season.

The Orioles certainly hope it works with Bergesen tonight.