Each and every game of the regular season is going to be big for the rest of the way for the Orioles. (The only exception might be if they were to clinch a playoff spot at the end and have a couple of “meaningless games” before the playoffs.) Having said that, yesterday’s game was a must-win in a sense that the Birds had lost some ground to Oakland, Tampa and New York on Saturday night, and the last thing they wanted to do was drop three-of-four at home to a Kansas City team that’s in effect looking towards 2013 (a position in which the Orioles have found themselves countless times). Kansas City is a team that seems to give the O’s some trouble, however these are teams that playoff teams beat.
Tommy Hunter posted a five-inning outing in which he gave up eight hits and three runs. Hunter continues to be haunted by the long ball, as Mike Moustakas knotted the game at two in the fourth inning. Moustakas’ shot hit the right field foul pole, and the Birds suddenly found themselves in another dog fight. The Orioles had a 2-0 lead as a result of the fact that Manny Machado hit his third big league homer in the second (with a man already on). The ball hit the top of the wall in center field, and then hit the front of the grandstand and bounced back onto the playing field. The play was originally ruled a double, however upon further review (at the behest of Buck Showalter) the umpiring crew awarded Machado with a home run.
After Kansas City took a brief lead in the fifth, Nick Markakis tied it right back up in the last of the inning with a “no-doubter” to right field. Again, this is the type of game that a playoff team will step up and win. In a way it was similar to last Sunday’s game at Tampa, won by the Orioles 1-0 in ten innings. While that game had no scoring until the extra frames, once again it was the kind of game that a playoff team would step up and take. In the last of the sixth Adam Jones and Lew Ford worked their respective counts and drew walks. Jones scored on Mark Reynolds’ RBI-single, giving the Orioles a 4-3 lead. Nate McClouth scored on a passed ball in the last of the eighth giving the O’s an insurance run, and “Dirty Jim” Johnson closed Kansas City out in the ninth to give the Orioles their 62nd win of 2012.
This one win doesn’t mean that the O’s are going to the postseason, or anywhere else. However I can’t stress enough that this is the kind of game that “good teams” win. In the last 14 years you can probably find several games similar to this that have been won by the Orioles, even against “good teams.” However have they won more of them in 2012 or in the past 14 years? There’s still a long way to go before this is all said and done, however this Oriole team has without a doubt shown that they have the eye of the tiger. Does that equate to them finishing 2012 in the postseason? That’s still unclear for the time being, and as I said it appears that the rest of their games will be “big games” from here on out. The fact that they’ve played and won close games all year definitely works in their favor. For the record, former pitcher and current ESPN analyst Curt Schilling said on Baseball Tonight last night that his prediction was that the O’s would end up in the playoffs…in 2012.
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