Losing streaks are never easy to deal with in sports, but they’re awfully sweet to close out. And that’s exactly what the Baltimore Orioles did last night, in defeating the New York Yankees 3-2 in ten innings on Nate McLouth’s walk off home run. The Orioles used three solo home runs to win this game, however when you’ve lost six straight games you’ll take runs anyway you can get them.
Starter Miguel Gonzalez came off the DL for tonight’s game, and appeared to be no worse for the wear after suffering with a blister on his pitching thumb. Gonzalez’s line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K. Gonzalez was locating his fastball early, and recorded outs at will. However Travis Hafner continued his hot series against the Orioles with an RBI-single in the top of the first as New York took an early lead. However Chris Dickerson, playing in center field in place of Adam Jones (who was DHing due to soreness), recorded his second big league home run in the last of the third to tie the game at one. Yet part of the Orioles’ problem of late has been that once they respond it seems that the opposition is allowed to re-take the lead in the immediate aftermath. And that’s what NY did, with Vernon Wells leading off the fourth with a double and then scoring on another Hafner RBI-single.
This game was somewhat of a coming out party for Chris Dickerson however, and he single-handedly kept the Orioles in the game. Following NY taking the lead. However after the Orioles’ second run, the pace of the game slowed to a sloth-like trot. Tommy Hunter pitched two flawless innings, which as I’ve said before is something that might go unnoticed in the final game story. However Hunter has been lights out for the Orioles when he’s been called upon, and I also feel like he’s saved quite a few of his fellow bullpen pitchers as the past couple of weeks have progressed. That’s been huge in terms of guys not being incredibly tired as time has gone on.
In using the term “buh-bye” in the title of this column, there are a couple of references there. First and foremost, McLouth’s walk off home won it for the Birds. That ended a six-game losing streak, that was almost embarrassing at times for this team. This win got the monkey off of the Orioles’ backs, and now they can come back to the park tomorrow without the pressure of the losing streak hanging over their heads and just play. However the “buh-bye” is also for the fact that Jim Johnson was able to have a positive outing, bidding adieu at least to struggle after struggle. Johnson pitched a 1-2-3 tenth inning, and thus picked up the win in the game.
The fact that Johnson was in the game in that situation spoke volumes about Buck Showalter and how much he trusts his players. You’d be remiss not to at least acknowledge Johnson’s struggles of late, and the fact that Showalter sent him out there in that situation should tell us something. It should also send a message to the most fickle of fickle fans in that we have to have patience with players and with teams. There’s going to be adversity over the course of 162 games, just as there’s adversity in life. But you have to have faith in people’s overall record, and thus have faith in the fact that people will revert to their normal form at some point. Showalter showed a lot of confidence in his beleaguered closer, and it paid off. As a reliever you aren’t overly concerned with your win/loss record because the idea is that you want to hold the score where it is. However the fact that Johnson was credited with the win has to give him some confidence.
The Orioles will culminate their three-game series with New York tonight at Camden Yards with Jason Hammel on the mound. Hammel of course is coming off of a lackluster outing against Tampa last week, but is 5-2 overall on the season. He’ll be opposed by Hiroki Kuroda of New York. Obviously the big news following tonight’s game was that the O’s will recall pitcher Kevin Gausman from double-A Bowie to make tomorrow’s start in Toronto. This is an interesting turn of events to say the least, as Gausman will be making his first big league start (and his major league debut at that). For more on that, read the column that was posted early this morning by Birds Watcher staff writer Margaret Hooper.