Make It 7 In A Row, Athletics 6 – Orioles 2

Associated Press – Ben Sheets pounded the strike zone like his old aggressive self and finally commanded his fastball, winning for the first time since September 2008 in the Oakland Athletics’ 6-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.

Sheets (1-0), who missed all of 2009 recovering from elbow surgery, pitched six scoreless innings and made good for the first time on general manager Billy Beane’s bold offseason move of giving him $10 million to be the A’s new ace. Beane believed Sheets could return to the form that has made him a four-time All-Star.

The 31-year-old right-hander gave up five hits, struck out four and walked three to win for the first time since a five-hit shutout of San Diego on Sept. 6, 2008, while with Milwaukee.

Oakland gave Sheets a one-year contract in January, 11 months after his elbow surgery.

Ryan Sweeney had an RBI groundout and a fifth-inning double to give him a 10-game hitting streak to start the season and Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Chavez each hit sacrifice flies for the A’s, who got back on track offensively. Cliff Pennington drove in a pair of runs.

Another tough loss to swallow. Although the birds had eight hits, including four doubles, their scoring continued to be a major cause for concern. The team went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. I’ll continue to post these numbers in my blogs because I feel that until Baltimore can improve them, they are going to continue to suffer defeats similar to Thursday night’s.

Of the eight hits, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones had half of them. The two were also responsible for driving in the only Oriole runs of the night.

There were two fielding errors, one by Jones and one by Ty Wigginton. Jones could have easily been charged with a second. In the bottom of the fifth Eric Chavez hit a line drive to shallow center and Jones caught it running at full speed. When he reached to take it out of his glove, the ball came out. The out was still recorded, but Oakland’s Ryan Sweeney was easily able to tag up and score the A’s fifth run.

At 24, David Hernandez is expected to go through some growing pains in 2010. Thursday’s outing was a prime example. He was able to strike out six batters in 5 innings pitched, but that was about all it did well. He gave up five runs on seven hits. Surely that was not the type of performance he would have liked, and this isn’t to make excuses for him, but it has got to be hard for him go out there and do well when in the back of his head he knows the offense isn’t going to give him run support.

The O’s will try to reverse their bad fortune tomorrow night two of this four game series against Oakland. Kevin Millwood takes the mound for Baltimore while Dallas Braden takes the hill for the A’s. First pitch is 10:05.

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