For the Baltimore Orioles’ sake I don’t want to say that Boston rolled over last night because I don’t necessarily think that was the case. I do believe that all athletes play to win when they put on a uniform on and get ready to play, regardless of the stakes. To say that a team just rolled over might even cause some negative mojo to hit a team like the Orioles. However the fact is that the Birds totally had their way with Boston last night. Chris Tillman pitched perhaps one of his best outings as a big league pitcher. Tillman’s line: 8 IP, 1 H, 1 R (unearned), 2 BB, 4 K. With the magic number to clinch a playoff spot at three, you have to wonder if Buck Showalter might consider skipping Tillman (if his next turn in the rotation would come in a meaningless game of course) to save him for a one-game playoff. If Showalter heard me say that, he’d probably say “one game at a time.” But he’d also whisper “we think we can win the division.”
From the outset Boston looked like they were going to put up a fight. Scott Podsednik led off the game and reached second base on an infield single and a Ryan Flaherty error. Podsednik would later score, and the O’s were in a hole. That didn’t last long; remember the home run barrage from the other night…it continued. Chris Davis hit a two-run homer to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Jim Thome came to the plate which prompted Boston manager Bobby Valentine to go into a shift towards right. Thome showed a lot of grit in muscling a base lick to left…talk about hitting it where they ain’t! After a Reynolds walk and a Machado single, the bases were juiced. That brought rule 5 draft pick Ryan Flaherty (who had already committed an error that led to Boston’s run) to the plate. Flaherty atoned for his earlier mistake and sent a grand salami into the bleachers. There could be potential drama in a 2-1 game; not so much in a game with a 6-1 score.
While the Orioles manufactured three more runs on the night, from that point on it was all Chris Tillman. Regarding what I said above about Tillman being skipped in the rotation (if his next start would potentially be rendered meaningless), his next turn would be Tuesday if we’re keeping to a five-man rotation. IF the Orioles end up one of the American League Wild Card teams they would play in an “automatic game seven” on Friday. Most Sunday starters (Joe Saunders in this case) will line up and pitch Friday. I suppose that my point is that if the Orioles have clinched everything that they could possibly clinch by next Tuesday I wouldn’t mind seeing Tillman sent to pitch a simulated game of some sort at the Orioles’ spring training facility in Sarasota (just down the road from Tampa) so that he could potentially go on Friday. Is there anyone that’s been as consistent as Tillman of late? There’s a high probability that the O’s might clinch a playoff spot before Tuesday, however whether or not the division or even home-field advantage in the wild card game is settled is another story.
As I said above, the magic number now stands at three for the Orioles to reach the “promised land.” These are emotional days in Birdland. If people are anything like me they’re remembering where they were in life and what they were doing the last time these kinds of scenarios came up for the Orioles. Perhaps they’re also remembering friends and relatives that are no longer with us who loved the O’s, and who they wish were here to see this. Speaking of the past, the Brooks Robinson statue unveiling ceremony will take place tonight at Camden Yards prior to the game against Boston. Gates open at 5 PM, and the ceremony starts at 5:15. My hero as a kid was Cal Ripken Jr. as I’ve said before, however I would submit that Brooks Robinson is probably the greatest Oriole. (All of the gentlemen that have had statues unveiled could have had that title as well keep in mind; it’s tough to pick just one.) I want to make something clear; Brooks Robinson is the greatest third baseman of all time. A lot of people like to say Mike Schmidt, who in fact is a very deserving player (him and Chipper Jones are probably the best third basemen in my lifetime). People point to Schmidt because of his power numbers, which in fact were better than Brooks’. However if the discussion is “greatest third baseman ever,” it seems to me that defensive prowess should come before offensive numbers. (If you want to make it “greatest power-hitting third baseman ever,” go with Schmidt.) Having said that, Robinson has 16 straight gold gloves (he won the award from 1960-1976 every year). Schmidt has an admirable nine in his career (not consecutive), but 16?…that ends the discussion so far as I’m concerned!
After the Robinson ceremony the Orioles will try to get that magic number even lower as Steve Johnson gets the ball against Boston’s Felix Doubront. Keep in mind that NY plays Toronto at 1 PM this afternoon, and Texas plays Anaheim at 4 PM. So the Orioles will know where they potentially stand as their game against Boston is beginning. Let’s make this as simple as possible; an Anaheim loss and an Oriole win sets up a potential playoff clincher at home tomorrow against Boston. For fans that have sat through numerous Red Sox heroics over the years, numerous “Let’s Go Red Sox” chants at the yard, and have watched that franchise dominate the Orioles over the years, that would be the game.