*Nolan Reimold wasn’t lying when he said Friday that he was starting to get more comfortable in the leadoff spot.
Reimold doubled in his first at-bat Saturday and followed it up with a huge, tie-breaking, two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Orioles a 6-4 win and their first series victory in Toronto since June 6-8, 2008.
“We talked to him since the day we contemplated it,” manager Buck Showalter said of Reimold being the team’s leadoff hitter in Brian Roberts’ absence. “I don’t want him to start being chop-shop, I want him to be Nolan Reimold and get deep into some counts and when it’s time to square up a ball and do something with it, go ahead and do it. Don’t change anything. Just bring what he brings.”
In the first two games of the series Reimold has brought out his power stroke, going 5-for-10 with two doubles, two homers, four runs scored and three RBIs. He said having Showalter’s reassurance has helped him warm up to the idea of hitting leadoff, a notion which at first conjured up visions of playing small ball.
“At this point in your career, you know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at,” said Reimold who isthe team’s every day left fielder for the first time in his career. “I’ve never been much of a bunter or anything like that. It’s good to have the manager say, ‘Don’t change anything and just go out and play’.”
With one out and the score tied at 4, Reimold got the hit-and-run sign with pinch-runner Ryan Flaherty at first, and he made solid contact on Francisco Cordero’s 1-0 slider, sending it over the left-field wall for his second homer in as many games. Showalter joked the team was going to change the sign to the “hit and trot”.
*The confidence is evident in the Orioles clubhouse after going 2-0 in Toronto, a city they had dropped 29 of their previous 34 games. Here’s a sampling of what was said postgame..
Manager Buck Showalter
“There’s a lot of good karma around our club, has been since Spring Training started. It’s kind of a quiet, competitive emotion. And if we can continue to stay in ballgames with our starting pitching we can have some fun. “
“We never thought that we were going to be a team that was going to finish in the cellar and just go out there and play dead for nine innings. We obviously believe in the product we have, and like I said in Spring Training, if you don’t believe you have a winning ballclub whenever you start the season, there no point in you going out there and playing the game. We’re happy with the way things are going and we’re going to try to keep it rolling.”
“We’re confident. We’re not here to just roll over and go play baseball. We are out to play good baseball and inside the clubhouse we know we can compete in this league and we are very, very proud of that.”
“Every question seems to be prefaced with how we’ve struggled here, so it’s good to come in here and have some close ballgames that we can do the little things you have to do to get the win.”
*Closer Jim Johnson picked up his fourth save of the season and is 12 for his last 12 in save opportunities dating back to last year. Seems when the lights come on, Johnson really is ready, as he told reporters all spring.
*Hammel and the Orioles got a big break in the second inning when Brett Lawrie made the puzzling decision to try to steal home with two outs, the bases loaded and the menacing Jose Bautista at the plate.
“I don’t have any regrets about that situation,” said Lawrie, who was tagged out by catcher Matt Wieters to the end the inning, “But at the same time I never want to take the bat out of Jose’s hands, especially in that situation with the bases loaded and one of the best hitters in the game up. I don’t want to take the bat out of his hands but at the same time I’m going to continue to be aggressive, just have to be a little bit smarter next time.”
Lawrie’s blunder helped Hammel –who allowed three straight hits and a run to already cross the plate – get out of a tough spot, and the right-hander was all for it.
“I was surprised,” said Hammel, who called the decision more of a “thank-you” to him than anything else. “I was very calm, stepped off and actually gave Wietey a bad throw and he was able to get the tag down and out of the inning. That was a big spot in the game.”
“Probably not the best decision to make at that time, particularly with who’s at the plate,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Lawrie. “We were in an extended inning with Hammel and he felt like he had good timing … in terms of the beginning of his delivery to the point of releasing the baseball. He felt like he could steal a bag, which shutdown a potential big inning.
He has the green light but the awareness to the situation has to be a little more keen.”
*Wilson Betemit’s sixth-inning error lead to a pair of unearned runs off reliever Matt Lindstrom, but Showalter wasn’t so sure that Edwin Encarnacion shouldn’t have been given a hit.
“They score that an error?,” Showalter said. “I’d like to see the score guy stand on that turf then see what he wants to score it, but Wilson’s been playing long enough he doesn’t dwell on things like that. You like to see how guys respond and stuff like that but we didn’t really look at it like something he had to respond to. That’s a tough play.”