Remember in Rocky when he’s a young kid working out at Mickey’s neighborhood boxing “center” and he’s ready to give up after being beaten? Mickey’s line to him was “I didn’t hear no bell!”, meaning that the match wasn’t over until it was over (signified by the bell). That’s the attitude that the Orioles seemed to take after the first inning last night. With the fan base already grousing and some even throwing in the towel until spring training 2013, the Orioles spotted New York a 5-0 lead in the first inning. TV’s all over Baltimore turned off, and the countdown began to next week’s Ravens’ preseason opener in Atlanta…
Chris Tillman was less than stellar in that first inning, allowing New York to bat around. Afterwards manager Buck Showalter said that Tillman had been dealing with flu-like symptoms for a few days, and there was some question as to whether or not he’d be able to make the start last night at all. That aside, after being down 5-0 something clicked behind the seams for the Orioles. Mark Reynolds doubled home Adam Jones in the second, and then scored (along with Matt Wieters) on Omar Quintanilla’s single to center field. (On a side note, how good of an addition has Quintanilla been for this team?) So at the very least the Birds were back in the game at 5-3. Following a Markakis single and a Hardy walk, the bases were juiced with two outs and Chris Davis at the plate. Davis put an exclamation point on the game with his first ever grand slam, putting the Orioles ahead 7-5.
From the perspective of Oriole fans, there couldn’t have been anything louder than the sullen silence of Yankee Stadium at that moment and for the rest of the game. Aside from the occasional boo directed at a New York player, there wasn’t much noise in the ballpark. The pink elephant in the room at that point was whether or not Chris Tillman could hold the lead with how he pitched in the first inning. As can sometimes be the case in all walks of life, someone standing up behind you (in this case all of his teammates and manager Buck Showalter) gives you some confidence. Tillman was probably one batter shy of being pulled from the game in the first inning. Yet Showalter left him in, and his teammates not only got him back in the game but they got him a lead. Tillman pitched a total of five innings in the game, which might not seem like a lot (even though he got the win). Showalter probably yanked him after those five innings due in part to the 35 pitches he threw in the first, however moreso because of the fact that he was ill to begin with. However his stats over the final four innings of his outing speak for themselves: two hits. I think those seven runs gave him a shot in the arm!
The Orioles would add runs in the third and the fifth to make it 9-5. Nick Markakis put the finishing touches on the game with a two-run homer in the eighth, as the Birds polished off New York by the final of 11-5. The O’s have now taken two-of-three from New York at a minimum in this series, and in the process they’ve worked their way back into the outer fringes of contention for the AL East pennant. (With Oakland’s loss last night, they also picked up a game in the wild card race.) However putting that aside for a moment, the Orioles are continuing to teach a lesson in humility in that they’re playing to the final out. So often in all walks of life people kind of go into cruise control in various circumstances. Down 5-0 early on, they didn’t give up. If anything, New York was the one that looked like they were playing out a game that wasn’t close, and they were winning! I’m reminded of the late N.C. State basketball coach, Jim Valvano’s line when faced with his own imminent death as he suffered with cancer…“Don’t give up; don’t ever give up!”
Boston learned that lesson from the O’s last year at the end of the season, and perhaps they taught it to New York last night. Nevertheless, the O’s will go for the series sweep this afternoon in a 1 PM matinee at Yankee Stadium. Zach Britton will go to the mound, in hopes that some of that run support comes his way as well this afternoon. Britton is coming off of a shaky start against Oakland in which he got a no-decision, however similar to Tillman he settled down after a rough first inning. He’ll be opposed by New York’s Phil Hughes, who held Boston to three solo homers his last time out. Runs are tough to come by on Hughes, however he’ll be facing a lineup that’s put some runs on the board the past couple of days. Was someone saying something about football starting sometime soon?…“Hey Rocco, I DIDN’T HEAR NO BELL!”
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