Nothing like a 7-4 road trip to fill Oriole Nation with a good feeling heading into the team’s first off day in 21 days.
It wasn’t without its flaws, its missed scoring chances, its blown leads, and its injury scare. The Baltimore Orioles were 0-for-10 with RISP during Saturday night’s game before winning. A blown call allowed Mike Trout to be safe at second on a steal in the first inning, forcing Jason Hammel to labor through a 3-run inning and not making the rest of his day any easier. He gutted out six wobbly innings and came out with the lead, thanks to home runs by JJ Hardy and Manny Machado.
The Orioles nearly botched a rundown in the 8th inning, erasing a runner between second and third but allowing the hitter to advance into scoring position by making too many throws. Pedro Strop put his stamp on another rollercoaster ride by walking the leadoff hitter and then balking him to second to set up that sequence. Chris Davis got them out of even more trouble with a scoop of Machado’s low throw to first for the final out.
Davis surprised most people by playing two days after an apparent knee injury, suffered Friday night when he crossed first base awkwardly running out a grounder. He avoided a dreaded trip to the disabled list and evidently had convinced Buck Showalter that playing did not risk worsening it, since he had a day off today to rest it. So what happened Saturday night? Steve Pearce, playing first in Davis’ place, got three hits in a 10-inning win, highlighted by Freddy Garcia‘s taking a no-hitter into the 7th.
Give that man a place in the rotation.
Adam Jones broke up a double play in the 10th, keeping the inning alive and paving the way for the go-ahead run to score. The four games against the Angels must have felt like a reprieve of sorts to Jones. His error-free series in the field went substantially unnoticed in light of his recently shaky glovework.
The team capped the long trip just a game and a half behind first-place Boston in third place. The Red Sox have ridden good pitching and the gift of a 4-game home sweep of Houston to stay in first for a while, yet thanks to Baltimore’s 7-4 Western swing, and a series win over Houston by the Yankees, have not put distance between themselves and any pursuer.
The Orioles get back in the swing with a oddly scheduled, 3-game homestand against Kansas City starting Tuesday, after which they visit Minnesota this weekend. The 17-11 Royals have surprised with good pitching of their own. James Shields, who shut out Chicago on two hits over eight innings today but eventually got a no-decision for his trouble, will miss the series.
Jeremy Guthrie, enjoying a resurgence since Colorado shipped him to Kansas City last summer, will be the opponent Thursday. He is working on an unbeaten streak of a club-record 17 starts, 9-0 over that stretch, and threw a 4-hit, complete-game shutout at the White Sox Saturday night.
The Orioles are a better team than he left two years ago, but so is he a better pitcher. When Dan Duquette traded him before the 2012 season started, neither Guthrie nor the Orioles had anywhere to go but up.