Sunday, April 20, 2008

Burres Grinds out O's 3rd Win in a Row

BALTIMORE -- Brian Burres helped pave a well-worn path to first base on Saturday night and compensated by erecting a roadblock whenever runners reached scoring position. The Orioles starter walked four batters and gave up five hits against the Yankees, but he made big pitches and led Baltimore to its first shutout of the year in a 6-0 win.

"When you get a shutout," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, "obviously the guy you should be talking to isn't the guy sitting up here. You should be impressed with what the pitching did and the guys playing behind them. You've got to appreciate that, especially after some of the situations. You've got to tip your hat to Burres -- a lot."

Burres had thrown four no-hit innings against the Rays in his previous outing, but the bats caught up to him in a six-run fifth inning. That reckoning never arrived on Saturday, thanks to some strong work with runners on base. Burres (2-1) got two key double plays in the early going and stranded at least one runner in all of his innings.

Perhaps the toughest moment came in the first inning, when Burres worked out of a bases-loaded jam. The southpaw forced New York to leave three runners in scoring position in the first three innings and left the game with two outs and a man on in the sixth. Burres threw 88 pitches, but most importantly, he showed his manager some poise.

"I think what gets him in trouble is he gets to two strikes and then he nibbles," said Trembley. "Tonight, for the most part, I saw him stay the course and be aggressive and attack and go after the hitters. And that kind of sets the tone for the game, especially after you've scored. After you score, you want to keep that tempo going, and I saw him do that tonight."

"I did manage to get myself in some trouble," added Burres. "But I made a pitch when I needed to at the right time. ... It's definitely nice when it happens. It's kind of a relief getting out of first and second and one out."

The Orioles have now won three straight games, improving to 9-3 at home and 5-4 against division rivals.

Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez finished the night with two doubles and two RBIs, and he said he noticed a profound difference in Burres. Instead of sticking with the same plan all the way through the game like he did in St. Petersburg, Hernandez said that Burres was able to make adjustments once he got through the batting order twice.

"He mixed up his pitches," said Hernandez, who ushered Burres through the start. "He used his changeup, breaking ball, slow curve, slider and he was spotting the fastball pretty good -- especially inside to righties and lefties. I think he did a great job. He kept them off balance, he threw strikes and got ahead in the count. If you've got that, it's going to be a little easier."

Baltimore (11-7) left the bases loaded in the first inning but took a lead in the second on consecutive doubles by Hernandez and shortstop Brandon Fahey. First baseman Kevin Millar led off the third with a solo home run to left field, and a few batters later, Hernandez cashed in after two batters walked by smashing a 3-0 pitch for a two-run double.

"I wanted to make sure to hit it hard if I was going to swing," Hernandez said. "It's got to be a strike on 3-0."

"You've got to send them a message that you have confidence in them," said Trembley of the green light. "And especially early in the season, you have to do that when guys who are proven Major League players and have had success in the past are struggling. The best thing you can do is support them and let them know you feel they can get the job done."

Designated hitter Aubrey Huff accounted for the final margin with a two-run double in the seventh inning, giving the Orioles their fourth win this season of five runs or more. Reliever Jim Johnson helped keep the score where it was by throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Johnson has now thrown nine scoreless innings this season.

"I don't think you should be so caught up in the past," said Johnson, who had an 18.00 ERA coming into this season. "You can't really think about that when you're out on the mound. You have to just know you're in your comfort zone right there and just execute your pitches. It's almost like a tunnel, in that aspect. You're out there by yourself."

"What can you say about Johnson?" asked Trembley of the rookie, who recorded his first career save on Saturday night. "I probably underestimated him before when I said he was the most improved guy. I think we're past that. This guy has been very special for us. He's come up with movement on his fastball, very good poise, fields his position."


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