Chris Waters, a last-minute emergency replacement for the unfortunate Hayden Penn, shined in his Major League debut Tuesday night, when he easily handled the best team in baseball. Waters fired eight innings of one-hit ball, brushing aside questions about whether this was a one-start situation and leading the Orioles to a 3-0 win over the Angels.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the best debut for a Baltimore starter since Bob Milacki allowed one hit over eight scoreless innings on Sept. 18, 1988 -- when Waters was just an 8-year-old with a dream.
"Gosh, we didn't expect it, [but] we'll take it. This was a great performance," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, before fielding a question as to whether Waters would start again. "That's like asking if on Halloween they're going to have trick-or-treating. That's about it, that correlation right there. Are they going to trick-or-treat on Halloween?"
They're going to trick-or-treat on Halloween, and Waters is going to start next week against Cleveland.
The southpaw, who had pitched to a 3-6 record and a 5.70 ERA for Triple-A Norfolk, was tabbed to start after Penn got hit by the shard of a broken bat in his last outing. And he made it look like an inspired choice, getting 14 outs on ground balls and holding the Angels to two runners in scoring position -- both in the third inning and both stranded on grounders.
Waters (1-0) walked one batter in the fourth inning and one in the sixth, but he managed to wriggle out of jeopardy without much duress. The 27-year-old got ground balls to end five of the first seven innings and retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced. And afterwards, he did the postgame interviews and endured some hazing from his teammates.
"They stayed away from me," said Waters, who spent eight-plus years in the Minors. "I felt secluded."
First, Waters was on the receiving end of a shaving-cream pie from third baseman Melvin Mora. And then, as he spoke to the print reporters, he did so over the din of an electronic novelty device that delivered some ear-splitting harmonics.
"Wonderful. A great, great feeling," he said, savoring the awkward moment. "I came in knowing that they were probably going to take on me because a rookie coming into a big stadium, I was just focusing in on really trying to find the zone."
Afterwards, it was hard to find a teammate who wasn't seriously impressed. Catcher Ramon Hernandez said it was the best game pitched by any Oriole this year, and Mora said that Waters had earned his stripes the hard way.
"I didn't say hello all day. I wanted to see what he got," said Mora, whose greeting of choice was the shaving-cream pie. "If he goes four innings [or] five innings, I didn't want to say anything. Just catch the ground ball and that's it. I wanted to wait until the end of the game. He's lucky I didn't throw the cooler on him. I didn't hit him hard. I just rubbed it in."
"You have somebody's career in your hands. I was trying to make it a success so he can be in the big leagues for the rest of his career," added Hernandez, who ushered Waters through his start. "He was throwing strikes no matter what. It didn't matter who was hitting. He wasn't scared to get hit. That's the main thing about young guys coming in like that."
Baltimore (54-58) gave the southpaw all the offense he'd need in the first inning, taking a two-run lead just three batters into the game. Nick Markakis doubled in Brian Roberts to score the first run, and he scored on a single by Mora. The Orioles didn't score again until the seventh, when Luke Scott crushed a homer far beyond the right-field fence.
The Angels (70-43) never got a runner into scoring position after the third inning, and closer George Sherrill locked down the ninth inning for his 31st save of the season. Trembley was asked after the game if it was a hard decision to hook Waters and go to his relief ace, but he replied that he didn't really see any other way to get it done.
"You've got a guy that most people would've said, 'If you got five innings out of him, everybody would've been happy,'" said Trembley of Waters. "He takes you past the eighth against the team that's got the best record in baseball, playing on the road [in front of] 40,000 people. You've got a guy who's got 30 saves in the big leagues [and] you've got the middle of the lineup coming up against him for the fourth time. I think it's an easy call."
And finally, when given a moment to reflect, Trembley picked a pitch-perfect anecdote to describe the moment.
"We're trying to hide him in the hotel yesterday," he said. "I talked to him early in the day and I said, 'Just stay in the hotel. Don't come to the game because I've got to make a move after the game and I really don't want people to start looking over their shoulders.' ... Sure enough, I was over here yesterday at 1:30 p.m. doing some work in my office and he shows up.
"He says, 'Dave, I've got to play catch before tomorrow. I've got to play catch and do some running.' I said, 'Well, you're a ghost. Don't let anybody see you.' I sent [pitching coach Rick] Kranitz out on the field before they opened the clubhouse ... to play catch and do some running. And I said, 'Go back to your room, have a nice dinner. I'll congratulate you tomorrow.'"
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less