With yesterday’s 10-inning walk-off win against Philadelphia, the Orioles are now a league-best 9-2 in extra-inning games. A big reason for that is the bullpen, which is looking stronger than it has in years. Granted on Saturday the ‘pen gave up the tying run to the Phillies late in the game. However they also employed the “bend but don’t break” mentality, and ultimately gave the Birds a chance to win these games in extra frames. That’s really all you can ask of any pitcher, be them a starter or reliever. What we saw in this series was a team in the Orioles who thinks they’re on the way up in terms of being competitive again. They faced off against a Philadelphia team that might be starting a bit of a descent in the standings, as they’re getting old and banged up.
Orioles’ starter Jason Hammel loaded the bases three times in the first two innings, yet it was the Orioles taking an early 1-0 lead in the last of the first. Ronny Paulino’s single scored Adam Jones, putting the Birds on the board under the hot blonde Baltimore sunshine. However loading the bases too often will eventually catch up with you, and that’s what happened to Hammel. Hunter Pence’s single scored Hector Luna and Jimmy Rollins, which was followed by another RBI from Jim Thome which scored Juan Pierre. Suddenly Philadelphia led 3-1, changing the whole scope of the game and the series.
However Hammel settled down; in what’s become the mark of Oriole pitchers this year, he had the one tough inning and shut the opposition down for the rest of his outing. The one exception was Carlos Ruiz scoring on a wild pitch by Hammel in the fourth to make the score 4-1. Hammel wasn’t exactly on the mark, however he was able to muscle his way through the innings and minimize the damage. As I’ve said in the past, a pitcher’s going to be spot on for 10 starts, really bad for 10, and in the middle for 10. That “in the middle” category is where I’d classify Hammel’s performance yesterday. Luckily for him he didn’t leave the game trailing…
…following a Mark Reynolds walk in the fourthSteve Pearce smacked a double to center field. That seemed to foreshadow Steve Tolleson’s at-bat, in which the ball landed in the left field grandstand. This tied the game at four, and swung momentum back to the Orioles. Hammel ended up pitching 6 innings and giving up four runs over six hits. Both teams were held scoreless as we moved into the ninth, and the game progressed into extra innings. Michael Schwimer pitched three solid innings for the Phillies, however he was removed after the ninth inning by manager Charlie Manuel. Obviously teams don’t want to tax their bullpens too much in games, however one has to wonder if he second-guessed that decision at all following the game.
Adam Jones led off the 10th by reaching base on a Ty Wiggington error at the hot corner. This entire series consisted of both sides taking advantage of the other’s mistakes, however that’s sports for you. That brought Matt Wieters to the plate, who sent a deep shot towards the scoreboard in right field. Hunter Pence leaped to try to catch it, but it was over his head. Jones, who had taken off on first contact, was rounding third base as Pence started to get the ball back in, and scored standing up to end the game.
This was a huge win for the Orioles. The Yankees and Rays both swept their opponents this weekend, so the Orioles needed to win in order to keep pace in the AL East. While the Phillies seem to be in a bit of a malaise, they’re still a potent team (as the Birds found out on Friday). Yet somehow the Orioles found a way to win this game, and thus take two-of-three in the series. I found it interesting how I saw a lot of posts on message boards from Phillies’ fans regarding how their team “lost the games” as opposed to the Orioles “winning them.” The box score indicates otherwise.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala