Let me start by saying that Nate McClouth is only on the Orioles’ roster today because he had a clause in his contract which stated he had to be in the big leagues by a certain date or he’d have the option to opt out of the contract. So the Orioles brought him up on August 4th in Tampa, sending Endy Chavez down to Norfolk. McClouth’s only hitting .255 in the few weeks since then, but he’s come up big in several situations when the O’s have needed someone to come through in the clutch. Last night in Texas he showed the eye of the tiger in slugging his first homer since July of 2011. With the Orioles already leading 3-0 in the fifth, McClouth’s two-run homer put a five-spot on the board which ended up standing up for the team’s 67th win on the season (two shy of last year’s win total of 69).
As I said yesterday, Chris Tillman has always found a way to bounce back from poor outings with a great one. Last night was no exception. Tillman’s line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K. The key there for me is the on walk. Tillman’s had a bit of trouble when it comes to walking people, and to go through almost seven innings and only walk one is impressive. The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first without even recording a hit; after McClouth walked, he was able to steal second base. He advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Geovanny Soto, and then later scored on Scott Feldman’s wild pitch. People might be somewhat quick to say that’s a fluky run due to the fact that it came on so many mistakes by the defense. However that’s what can sometimes happen when you put people on base. Furthermore, baseball is a game based on failure; if the pitcher fails to hit his mark, the ball’s going to go a long way.
Throughout his outing, Tillman made one bad pitch; he served up a home run ball to Ian Kinsler, which tied the score at 1 in the third. This game was looking very much like your typical pitcher’s duel…until the fifth when the Orioles came to life and Feldman was dwarfed under the pressure. Before McClouth even came to bat, Manny Machado’s RBI-triple scored Omar Quintanilla as the Orioles seized the lead again. J.J. Hardy’s double scored Machado, and suddenly the Orioles appeared in the driver’s seat in the game. However Geovanny Soto’s two-run homer in the 7th shows how huge the McClouth home run was. If not for McClouth, the game would have been knotted at three (everything else being equal of course). Part of winning is getting the right hits at the right time, especially by your role players.
Pedro Strop had two out and two on in the 7th before getting Josh Hamilton to strike out with three consecutive sliders. That in itself was almost as big as McClouth’s homer because Texas had just added on with a two-run homer of their own, and they had some wind in their sails at that point. And let us not forget that this is the same Josh Hamilton who hit four homers in a game at Camden Yards against Oriole pitching back in May; striking the guy out isn’t exactly easy! Jim Johnson sent Texas down 1-2-3 in the ninth to tie the major league lead for saves this year (38). The Orioles also gained a game in the standings, as both Tampa and New York fell to defeat last night.
This sets up a huge game tonight in the rubber match with Texas. Many people say that Texas is the most well-rounded team in the American League, and if the O’s go to the playoffs they might see them again along the line. So while they dropped three-of-four at the yard earlier in the season, proving that they can play with Texas would be huge. Furthermore, I would tend to think that last night was an anamoly in the sense that both Tampa and NY lost. While the Orioles are playing very well, somehow there’s a sense that both of those teams are going to win the rest of their games. (We all know that’s not true, however it just seems like they never lose!) The Orioles will send Tommy Hunter to the mound tonight against the team that drafted him. While Hunter will give up the long ball, he is accustomed to pitching in the Texas heat so that could play to the Orioles’ advantage. Hunter will be opposed by Derek Holland, against whom they could potentially put up some runs given his 4.98 ERA. As I’ve said before, all of the games the rest of the way are going to have this “big game feel” for these Baltimore Orioles. And for the record, that’s not a bad thing!
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