When you go down 6-0 in any baseball game I suppose it would be normal for feelings of doubt to creep into one’s head. Incidentally that’s how teams get their name dragged through the mud. Granted it doesn’t matter if you lose a ballgame 1-0, 6-0, or 12-0; you still lose. However when teams begin to entertain those feelings of doubt that’s how things go from bad to worse, and you go from being down 6-0 to 10 or 12-0. On that note, I’m happy to report that the Orioles evidently didn’t allow those ideas to creep into their heads when they were down 6-0 last night; they just kept grinding.
Starter Jason Hammel only lasted four innings plus three batters, and all six Minnesota runs were charged to him. Hammel’s line: 4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 6 K. The six strikeouts is a positive spin on things, however Hammel was pitching from behind in the count for most of the night. First-pitch strikes has been a bit of a theme for Orioles’ starters thus far in 2013, and even as far back as 2012. The idea is that you want to be able to get ahead in the count so that you can dictate what pitches you’re throwing to the hitter later on. Hammel couldn’t do it last night, and he struggled with command for most of his outing. Fans shouldn’t worry too much about Hammel, because his stuff is good and he’ll shake this outing in his next start. T.J. McFarland followed Hammel into the game, and was probably the unsung hero of the night. McFarland held Minnesota scoreless for two innings, just as Tommy Hunter (who got credited with the win) did following McFarland. Comebacks aren’t possible unless you start scoring and the other team is made to stop.
With Minnesota winning 1-0 in the second inning, Joe Mauer plated two runs with a two-RBI single with the bases loaded. Minnesota would add one in the third, and then two more in the fifth on an RBI-single by Plouffe and an RBI-ground out by Hicks. So come the top of the sixth the O’s trailed 6-0; enter those feelings of doubt for most teams, right? Not the Baltimore Orioles. Not the “comeback kids.” Suddenly they went from famine to having the sky raining doubles. Markakis doubled to lead off the inning, and he was plated by a Chris Davis RBI-double. Davis in turn scored on an RBI-double by Hardy, who scored on an RBI-double by Chris Dickerson. By the end of the inning the “comeback kids” had cut the Minnesota lead in half, and served notice to the home team that they’d be in a dog fight for the rest of the night…
…and with that said, Minnesota apparently wasn’t ready for a dog fight. You have to be of a certain mindset to play with a big lead as well, because often times what can happen is that they go into a coast-type mindset. Nate McLouth continued the doubles-parade in the top of the seventh, but Manny Machado bucked that trend with a measly infield single on which McLouth scored on an error by Plouffe. Machado ended up at second base on that error, and he scored on an RBI-single by Nick Markakis that brought the Birds to within two. And thus the doubles began again, as Markakis scored on an RBI-double by Chris Davis, and suddenly we had a tie game.
The home team has a big advantage in any extra-inning game because in having the last at-bat they can end the game with one swing. Furthermore, they can utilize their closer in the top of the ninth and not have to worry about not having him to close out the game. However that aside, this game would have only been another one out of 162 had the Orioles allowed Minnesota to beat them with the last at-bat. Luckily for Orioles’ fans, they took care of business in the 10th inning. Chris Dickerson scored from second base on Manny Machado’s RBI-single, and Nick Markakis scored Nate McLouth with a sac fly. Adam Jones’ RBI-single scored Machado; in the backs of everyone’s minds had to be thoughts of not having to use closer Jim Johnson if the Orioles could put another run across, however Minnesota recorded the final out and we went to the last of the inning.
This wasn’t just any save for Jim Johnson; by recording his 35th save in a row, he broke a team record previously set by Randy Myers. Last season the O’s had a huge win on May 6th in Boston that included Chris Davis getting the win in relief. That was our first indication that this team could be something special. This win probably wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, however it serves to show us what this team is capable of doing. This was the Orioles’ first comeback win of six runs or more since 2010. Certainly Jason Hammel’s performance had much to be desired, however Hammel isn’t the type of player to sit and accept his outing. He’ll work in his next bullpen session to improve his command and hit his spots so that he isn’t working from behind in the count as much. However this was a great team win from the Orioles’ standpoint, and one in which they’re very deserving of that “comeback kids” term.
The Orioles will make a roster move before tonight’s game and formally call up Steve Johnson to make his first start of 2013 in place of the injured Miguel Gonzalez. No word of what the corresponding roster move will be, however I suspect that the O’s will probably option Alex Burnett back to Norfolk. Johnson will be opposed by Vance Worley of Minneosta, who’s still looking for his first win of 2013.