Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not the Same Olsen You Saw Before

Garrett Olson may not have made a statement in his first start against New York, but he used his Memorial Day outing to issue a fitting rebuttal. Olson shut down the Yankees for seven innings on Monday, leading the Orioles to a 6-1 win and waving aside the suspicion that he can't pitch against the league's better batting orders.

Olson had stumbled mightily against the Yankees on Wednesday, when he was knocked out before the end of the third inning. The southpaw seemed like a different pitcher on Monday, holding the road team to just three hits.

"Last time against the Yankees, I thought we let the game get a little out of control for him," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "Maybe it was pitching in Yankee Stadium in front of 50,000 people, but he certainly showed a lot more poise today. In the first three innings, he had guys on base every inning. He had to come up with some good pitches."

Olson (4-1) never got a chance to rebound in his last start, thanks to some relentless pressure from New York's offense. The Yankees (25-26) scored three runs in the second inning and three more in the third last week, chasing Olson early. This time, he used that experience to recast his mind-set and to better tailor his approach to fit his opponent.

"Last game, it was kind of unfortunate, the outcome," said Olson of his previous start. "Nobody likes to have that kind of an outing when you don't even get out of the third inning. But you just try to shake it and forget it and try to learn from your mistakes. Just go out there and try to make pitches the next time. You just try to rebound from that."

"I think the last start helped him pitch better today," added Trembley. "The last time he pitched, he was throwing mostly breaking balls and changeups. He didn't use his fastball. Today, he pitched with his fastball [and] he needed to do it."

Olson stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, setting the tone for an eventful day. New York's best scoring chance came with two outs in the third, but right fielder Nick Markakis doused the rally with a strong throw to the plate. That relay represented his eighth assist, a total that leads all American League outfielders.

"With the way both pitchers were pitching early, it definitely was a big play in the game," Markakis said. "It was just a ground ball hit to me. I charged it as hard as I could, and I just tried to make a good, accurate throw. That's all you can do."

"We've been having such a tough time scoring runs," said Trembley of the throw to the plate. "The one run they get to open the game up is probably going to get them going, and their offense has really been running on all cylinders."

Markakis came back for a bigger role in the sixth, when he broke open a twin shutout with a home run. The former first-round Draft pick took Yankees starter Darrell Rasner to straightaway center field, snapping the right-hander's scoreless streak at 12 1/3 innings. Markakis went into the game with an 0-for-12 slump and is now 9-for-11 in his career against Rasner.

"It's about equal," he said of his two-sided effort. "It always feels good to hit the ball out of the park, but it's not all about hitting. You have to play defense, too. Good teams play good defense. That's what I try to do -- both."

"I think it gave the team a lift," said Olson. "We kept going out there and battling every inning, and also his home run late in the game, I think that jump-started the offense. I think the guys just battled behind me the whole game."

Rasner (3-1) had shut out the Orioles (25-25) for seven innings on Wednesday and added another five scoreless frames on Monday. The right-hander got one out in the sixth before Markakis gave the home team a lead. Baltimore added five insurance runs in the seventh off New York's bullpen, and a three-run blast from Aubrey Huff stood as the back-breaking blow.

"I was looking fastball, and I got one," Huff said of his eighth homer. "We needed to start off on a good note at home. We definitely didn't play well on the road at all. To come here in the first game of the series, this was big."

Baltimore had lost five straight games prior to Monday's skid-snapper, a victory that pushed the Orioles back to the break-even mark. The Yankees, meanwhile, broke a five-game winning streak, and they only pushed one runner to scoring position after the third inning. Baltimore's bullpen locked down the eighth and ninth to seal the one-sided win.

"From where they've come, it's kind of like a 'Tale of Two Cities,'" Trembley said. "They'd won five in a row coming in, and we'd lost five in a row coming in. It's almost like the first team that's going to score, it might get you going. If they score first and throw a whole lot of numbers on the board, you're probably going to be saying to yourself, 'Here we go again.'"


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