It’s almost to the point now to where when a Baltimore Orioles game goes to extra innings the opposition rolls over and plays dead. In this afternoon’s 9-6 win at Fenway Park over Boston, the Orioles extended their consecutive wins streak in extra inning games to 16. Let’s not kid ourselves; at some point the O’s are going to lose in extra frames. However yesterday wasn’t the day; the likes of Luis Ayala, Brian Matusz, Adam Jones, and Jim Thome saw to that. This team seemingly wills itself to win against all odds when the stakes get high and the game’s on the line. Either that, or they’re incredibly lucky…I’ll take the first option.
Randy Wolf made the start out of the bullpen, and in pitching five innings of three-run ball he in theory put the team in a position to win the game. When he didn’t come back out in the last of the 6th he had a 5-3 lead, however the game was far from over. The Orioles took an early lead by manufacturing a run right away following a Nate McLouth walk and a stolen base. J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones each grounded out, advancing McLouth a base each time (scoring on Jones’ ground out). Isn’t this the team that can’t score aside from hitting home runs?! Boston would tie the game in the last of the first, only to have the O’s take the lead right back in the second. On went a see-saw battle at “the Fens.”
Mark Reynolds seemed to open the game up in the fourth with a solo homer over the green monster to give the Birds a 3-1 lead. However Danny Valencia’s two-run homer in the last of the inning tied the game again. Are we sensing a trend here? In the sixth the O’s got two runners in scoring position, and New England native Ryan Flaherty’s bases clearing triple put the Orioles back in the driver’s seat. Ultimately they pushed it to 6-3…only to see that lead evaporate. Boston has always used the dimensions of their home yard to their advantage, and this team is no exception. Scott Podsednik hit a shot off the monster in left which scored Daniel Nava, tying the game. Annnnd, we played on!
With runners at first and second in the 10th, Brian Matusz came on and struck out Scott Podsednik for the final out of the inning to preserve the tie. This of course after Luis Ayala came out of the bullpen in the ninth and tenth and all but shut Boston down (save for two base runners). After an uneventful eleventh, we moved to the twelfth inning. Jones led off with a double, but was unable to advance on Wiethers’ fly out. Jim Thome stepped to the plate, playing in his first game since injuring his neck in July. Thome sent a ground rule double over the right field wall on a bounce, scoring Adam Jones and giving the Orioles the lead. Buck Showalter inserted the speedy Xavier Avery to run for Thome, which paid off as Endy Chavez’s single allowed Avery to score due to his speed. Chavez would later score as well, finishing Boston off.
This team has learned to believe in itself over the course of the year, which is why it’s able to win games in these situations. Even still, winning 16 consecutive extra-innings games is darned impressive. I would submit that winning these close games during the regular season is something that will help the Orioles if they make it to the post season, as most of the games are close in October. That bodes well for the Birds, as when the “games are close and the O’s are hot, the thundering roar from 34″ tends to come raining down on opponents!
The series in Boston concludes this afternoon as Chris Tillman takes his next turn in the rotation. Tillman of course pitched masterfully in Seattle on Monday night in Seattle. Tillman was actually the only starter to get a decision in that series, as the other two games of course went 18 and 11 innings respectively! He’ll be opposed by Felix Doubront, who has a 5.71 ERA in 14 starts at Fenway this year. After this the Orioles will head home for the final homestand of the 2012 regular season. It’s been quite a journey to this point, and somehow I don’t think the home stretch will be any different.