Friday, April 4, 2008

Luis Hernandez is Winning Me Back

Tonight the Orioles won the first of four games against the Seattle Mariners, 7-4. A quick look at the box score would make you think that the game was decided by an offensive barrage by the Orioles with 3 homeruns - one each by Kevin Millar, Melvin Mora and Ramon Hernandez. Those were important, but what stood out to me was good defense and Luis Hernandez.

The Orioles were able to make several plays defensively to keep the Mariners from gaining any momentum. There were two double plays, one of the 4-6-3 variety and a strike ‘em out throw ‘em out double play.

Mora showed great reactions at third, making several diving stops, and Luis Hernandez showed why he’s the starting shortstop. It looks like he’s recovered from his case of the yips and ditched the moniker Luis “Throw-Away” Hernandez. How fickle am I? He showed good range and a strong arm tonight, and has been solid defensively so far in this young season.

Defense is the reason Luis has a job. I was more impressed with him at the plate. He went 0 for 1 with 2 sacrifice flies, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The first sacrifice fly was a wonderful at bat, taking it to a full count and fouling off several pitches before getting a pitch that he can elevate. His second sacrifice fly was an “at’em” ball. He squared it up real nice and it looked great off the bat, but was hit right at left fielder Raul Ibanez. He still needs to be more consistent – on one swing in his first at bat against starter Jarrod Washburn he looked overmatched with his 88 mph fastball – but if Luis Hernandez can keep battling pitchers and not throw away at bats, it’ll go a long way towards silencing the questions of why the Orioles put up with his lack of a bat. A slick glove can only do so much.

One unrelated note: you know things have changed when the Orioles’ post-game show also gives updates on the minor league games that day. There was some great news tonight, like 2007 1st round pick C Matt Wieters hitting homeruns in his first two official at bats of the season, and 2007 5th round pick RHP Jake Arrieta striking out 9 through his first 4 innings pitched. Both are playing for the Single-A Advanced Frederick Keys.

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