I’m the first one to tell you that I’m kind of big on things such as symbolism and numerology. So when Toronto tacked on a two-run homer in the ninth inning last night and Jim Johnson closed the door on Toronto, it wasn’t lost on me that the Orioles won the game 4-6. This on a game that was played one year to the day that former Oriole Mike Flanagan (#46) tragically took his own life. Speaking for myself, that’s not lost on me and I would hope that it’s not lost on the Orioles’ fans.
Zach Britton honored the late #46 with his pitching more so than anything else. There were moments in this game where I felt that Britton was “effectively wild” in the strike zone, as Jim Palmer likes to say. Especially towards the beginning there were times when Britton would end up going deep into counts, however he’d find a way to battle back after being down early. Britton’s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. One thing that impressed me was that Britton seemed to change speeds in this start with ease, which is something with which he’s struggled in the past. If the O’s can have Britton pitching like this throughout the rest of the way, they’ll be in excellent shape as they go through a push to the postseason.
Back in Mike Flanagan’s day Earl Weaver patrolled the Baltimore Orioles’ dugout, and of course the “Earl of Baltimore’s vision of winning baseball games included the three-run homer. Nobody slugged a three-run homer last night, however first baseman Chris Davis bopped three home runs instead! Davis tied the game in the second and gave the O’s the lead in the fourth with solo homers, and then padded that lead in the sixth with one of the two-run variety. Davis became the 19th Oriole to homer three times in a game, and the first since Nick Markakis in 2006. He also became the fourth Oriole to homer three times at Camden Yards (Markakis, Albert Belle, and Robert Alomar being the others).
It’s also fair to point out that Davis was the very definition of clutch in this game. Toronto had taken a 1-0 lead on a solo homer by Raja Davis, and Davis brought the Orioles right back and tied it. He later gave them the lead with another solo homer, and his third gave them some insurance. After the third homer fans were able to coax a very shy Davis out of the dugout for a quick curtain call; this is the second time we’ve seen an Oriole do that in the last few weeks (Manny Machado did it after his first and second career homers in the same game a few weeks ago). We haven’t seen that kind of moxie from Orioles in quite some time, however I suppose my concern is that it in a way shows up the other side. I know, it’s a small concern, however the last thing you want to do is give someone bulletin board material.
Toronto’s Brandon Morrow is scheduled to make his first start since June 11th tonight against the Birds; Morrow’s been out for two months with a strained oblique, and he’s expected to be limited to somewhere in the 80-90 pitch range. In a way that’s good news for the O’s because Morrow’s always pitched well against them. However if there’s one thing that we know, it’s to throw statistics and tendencies out the window with regard to this season. We’re in uncharted territory! The Orioles will counter with Steve Johnson, who’s 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA. Tonight’s game will also be the Orioles’ annual Hall of Fame induction game, where they’ll induct Rich Dauer and Mike Mussina into the team’s Hall of Fame. Mussina of course is a somewhat controversial choice given the fact that he bolted for the NY Yankees after the 2000 season. While I understand how some people felt jilted at the altar when he left and they don’t feel he should have a place in the hall, I would submit that Mussina was the Orioles’ ace of his generation. So for what this writer’s opinion is worth, I say put him in.
As I said yesterday, the current Orioles are honoring the late Mike Flanagan by playing a brand of baseball that would have made him and his contemporaries proud. Granted it’s a brand of baseball that they played day in and day out for a very long time, but it’s also something that hasn’t been seen in these parts in quite some time. So I do feel that it was no coincidence last night when Toronto hit that two-run homer to set the final score at 4-6. (Keep in mind that Flanagan also spent two years pitching in Toronto as well.) Furthermore after that homer Buck Showalter summoned closer Jim Johnson from the ‘pen. Johnson came in and closed the door on Toronto, much in the fashion that #46 did against Detroit in the ninth inning on that last day at Memorial Stadium.