If you follow my twitter feed (@DomenicVadala) during the games, you’ll notice that whenever Matt Wieters throws someone out on the base paths I post the same tweet. And I’m not the only one; the “Don’t. Run. Ever.” post is one that many “tweeps” are into writing. However it was probably more relevant last night than ever before, as Matt Wieters threw out three Toronto Blue Jays runners on the base paths. Ironically Mickey Tettleton was the last Oriole catcher to do that, and it came in the 1988 season which was one of the worst in franchise history (the O’s started 0-21). This season might largely be thought of as one of the best when all is said and done.
MASN analyst and former Oriole Rick Dempsey made a great point during the broadcast and on O’s Xtra postgame when he said that those three “caught stealing’s” potentially saved starter Steve Johnson 20-25 pitches. Obviously you don’t know quite how the innings would have shaken down without Wieters throwing those runners out, however there’s no doubt that Johnson was able to go deeper into the game as a result. Johnson in his own right had a great start, albeit a suspect beginning. Following a Jose Bautista walk, Juan Encarnacion sent a Steve Johnson change up high and deep…and over the wall. But Johnson battled back nicely; Johnson’s final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K. As Dempsey and his father (Dave Johnson) pointed out on O’s Xtra, the kid made one bad pitch. Speaking for myself, I’m willing to pitchers – particularly young ones – a bad pitch or a missed spot here and there in games. Nobody’s perfect, right? However in the past the Orioles as a team would allow that one mistake the stand up and defeat them as a team (just ask Jeremy Guthrie). Now they seem to be armed with the tools to overcome that one mistake. Furthermore and perhaps more importantly in this case, Steve Johnson pitched out of that mistake and ended up with a very successful outing.
After the Orioles tied the score at two in the third following an Escobar error, they took the lead in the last of the fifth when Adam Jones‘ two RBI-single plated Markakis and Hardy. As we know Jones is currently on his quest for his 25th homer this year, and also his 100th career homer. However while that seems to be slow-coming, Jones is obviously making a huge contribution both in the field and at the plate. Your team is in a pennant race with a tie score against a division rival at home; and you hit a two-RBI single? That’s clutch if I’ve ever seen it! Furthermore had Jones homered in that situation we might start to hear whispers that the O’s can’t score runs without the long ball again, and I’m not sure we really want to start that up again!
Having said that there’s a little more here than meets the eye; if the long ball is your modus operandi, you only had to wait one inning longer. J.J. Hardy‘s shot to left field barely made it over the outstretched glove of the Toronto outfielder and into a fan’s hands in the first row. (And kudos to that fan for allowing the Toronto fielder an ample opportunity to catch the ball; the fan didn’t reach out or interfere with the fielder in any way. He allowed the ball to just fall into his lap.) Nate McClouth would later score on Matt Wieters’ RBI-single, and Manny Machado singled Mark Reynolds home an inning later to close out the scoring for the night.
The 8-2 win gave the Orioles their 23rd series victory of the season, after winning only 16 series’ in 2011. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve equaled last season’s win total with their 69th victory (which keep in mind didn’t come until game 162 in 2011). Buck Showalter downplayed that after the game, however that in itself might have been a bit of gamesmanship. You always want to show improvement year-over-year, and the Orioles are most certainly doing that. The way I see things, hitting 69 -and later 70 – wins is the first plateau of sorts for the Orioles this year. (I would also point out that my own personal prediction was 74 wins for the Orioles on the year, so I was just as wrong as everyone else!) The second one is hitting 81 which would guarantee a .500 or better season, thus officially ending the (14) consecutive losing seasons. Obviously the plateau after that is whatever win total they would need to get into the playoffs. The first two are pretty good bets at this point; the third remains to be seen.
The Orioles have an opportunity to sweep Toronto this afternoon at the yard as Chris Tillman heads to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Henderson Alvarez, who hasn’t recorded a win since July 28th. In his last start against Texas Alvarez surrendered eight runs over 4.2 IP, so this could be a guy against whom the Birds could continue to put up runs. Obviously the pressure is off this Baltimore Orioles team in a sense today because they’ve already won the series. However with the Chicago White Sox coming to town behind Toronto, this would be a game the Orioles might like to grab for a series sweep. But one way or the other, the O’s are proving their point.
Update (12:00 PM): The Orioles have traded reliever Matt Lindstrom, cash considerations, and a PTBNL to Arizona for RHP Joe Saunders. Jake Arrieta was recalled from triple-A Norfolk and will replace Saunders in the bullpen.