Friday, May 16, 2008

Interleague Play Intrigues Trembley

BALTIMORE -- Pitchers hitting. Double switches. Late-inning strategical decisions. They'll all be coming to a ballpark near you pretty soon, as the Orioles kick off their Interleague schedule Friday against the Nationals. Baltimore's first Interleague series will be held at home, which means that the team will have to wait to employ some of the vaunted National League strategy.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley, a renowned fan of small ball, said he's looking forward to Interleague Play.

"I think it's great for the fans. That's what it's all about," he said. "I think it's great for the fans and it's a shot in the arm for baseball, because it gives baseball more water-cooler talk [and] more people to talk about and discuss the game."

Baltimore will have several milestones to look forward to during Interleague Play, including the first trips to Milwaukee's Miller Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field. The Pirates will make their first trip to Camden Yards, and Baltimore will play against Houston for just the third series and will play in Nationals Park for the first time during the regular season.

"You play your neighbor. You play your rival," said Trembley. "The Mets play the Yankees, we play the Nationals [and] the Angels play the Dodgers. Anything that promotes the game, I think is positive."

Trembley said that he wasn't worried about his pitchers taking at-bats, saying only that he hoped they'd get bunts down when called upon and head right back to the dugout. And designated hitter Aubrey Huff -- who will have to play the field in NL parks -- said he's not worried that Baltimore's hot streak will go out the window against unfamiliar opponents.

"I don't think it really matters, as long as we keep playing the way we've been playing," he said after Wednesday's 6-3 win over the Red Sox. "All the games have been close, and it seems like we're starting to win the close games we didn't win last year. Regardless of the opponent, that's what we're trying to do -- win those close ones.

"God forbid, I'd like to just go out there and beat somebody really big, so we don't have to battle back in all these one-run games. But in the end, they're all wins, and no matter who we're playing, it seems to be the formula."

Interleague by the numbers: 79-114 overall, 6-12 in 2007

Record vs. Nationals: 11-16, 2-4 in 2007

All-time club Interleague Play leaders
• Batting average: Nick Markakis, .360 (45-for-125)
• Home runs: Melvin Mora, 20
• RBIs: Melvin Mora, 56
• Wins: Mike Mussina and Sidney Ponson, 8
• ERA: Jeremy Guthrie, 1.50

2008 Interleague schedule
• May 16-18: Washington
• June 13-15: Pittsburgh
• June 17-19: Houston
• June 20-22: at Milwaukee
• June 23-25: at Chicago
• June 27-29: at Washington

Pitching matchup
BAL: LHP Garrett Olson (2-0, 2.95 ERA)
Olson has pitched into the sixth inning and allowed three runs or less in all of his starts.

WSH: RHP Shawn Hill (0-0, 3.56 ERA)
Hill, a former sixth-round Draft pick, has never pitched against the Orioles before.

Bird bites
Baltimore turned a season-high four double plays on Wednesday. ... The Orioles have come from behind in 11 of their 21 wins. They're 6-13 when trailing after six innings and 12-2 when leading at that point. ... Baltimore's starters have a 14-14 record. The team is 12-6 at home, 9-13 on the road and 8-7 against its rivals from the American League East.


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