More than any other sport, records are of supreme importance in baseball. Furthermore baseball has a record for literally everything. For the most part I’m not big on picking small statistics out of context and turning them into baseball records, however when you’re Manny Machado and you equal something that only Ty Cobb has done that says something. With his seventh-inning single, Machado became the second player (Cobb being the other) in the history of baseball to record three plus hits in five straight road games before reaching age 21. Again, you can pull a stat or a record out of thin air for anything, but saying that Ty Cobb is the only other guy to have done that puts Machado in rare company.
Chris Tillman battled through five tough innings to put himself in position to win the game. Tillman’s line: 5 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 7 K. Surrendering ten hits and only giving up three runs stands out to me, as even though Tillman didn’t have his best stuff last night he was still able to minimize the damage when guys got on base. Many of his pitches were up in the strike zone, but it was just that kind of night all-around at Rogers Centre. As I’ve discussed ad hoc in this column, if a pitcher has 30 starts over the course of the season he’ll have 10 really good ones, 10 really bad ones, and 10 somewhere in between. That was Tillman last night. The ten hits are a lot, however he didn’t walk anyone. Regardless of where his pitches were in the strike zone (elevated or not), Tillman was pitching to contact (which is what Buck Showalter and Rick Adair want).
So when a starting pitcher is in that somewhere in between type of game, it falls on the defense behind him and the bats to win the game. (Incidentally when I say somewhere in between I mean that the guy doesn’t have his “A game,” but he isn’t getting run out of the place by any means either.) The Baltimore Orioles jumped out to a 3-0 lead on J.J. Hardy‘s three-run homer in the first inning off of Toronto starter Sean Nolin, who was making his major league debut. Nolin lasted just 1.1 innings before manager John Gibbons lifted him, which quite frankly I felt was too quick of a hook. Nolin was struggling for sure, but when a guy’s making his big league debut you have to have patience with him and understand that he might get hit hard at first. However I’ll leave that to Toronto fans to sift through.
Melky Cabrera homered off of Tillman to lead off the last of the first, which was the first indication that the O’s would be able to put up a lot of runs in this game, but that it might still be a dog fight. However Nick Markakis‘ three-RBI double in the second cleared the bases and gave the O’s a big cushion for their lead before Toronto closed to within 6-3 in the last of the inning. Chris Davis followed with his major league-leading 16th homer, followed by Danny Valencia‘s two-run shot and we had a wild game going at 9-3. And this was still in the third inning! As the inning ended Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie was ejected for tossing his equipment after a called third strike to end the inning (manager John Gibbons was close behind in being run). I will say that the strike zone on Lawrie seemed incredibly large, and while that helped Tillman I did feel that Lawrie might have had a legitimate argument.
Adam Jones would add a solo home run in the sixth and Toronto would put three more across as the Orioles evened the series with a 10-6 victory. There’s some speculation that the Orioles might be recalling Steve Johnson as an extra bullpen arm prior to this afternoon’s 1 PM game. First off if they’re doing that, Johnson’s already on his way to Toronto. However unless they’re swapping out relievers (and/or sending a reliever to the DL) I would think it’s probably not a good possibility. The O’s have two National League games coming up on Monday and Tuesday in Washington, and they’ll want to have an extra bench player given that they’ll need pinch hitters later in the games. I wouldn’t totally dismiss the idea of them making a roster move and adding Johnson (and again someone in the bullpen might be DL-bound for all I know), but it would stand to reason that the O’s would want to keep an extra bench player as they transition into a National League park.
As I said above, today brings us afternoon baseball in Toronto as the O’s will turn around and play at 1 PM. The big concern is that they’ll face knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, and it’s often said that many teams require a week’s worth of games to recover after facing a knuckler. However the good news is that the Orioles already defeated Dickey once is year, and while he’s pitched better of late he currently has an ERA of 4.50. He’s also surrendered nine homers on the year, and has found Rogers Centre to be the hitters’ paradise it’s advertised to be. So while he presents a challenge for the Orioles, he can be hit. Freddy Garcia will start for the Orioles, and will really have to hunker down to keep the ball in the ballpark. Jose Bautista‘s 5-for-11 with two homers against Garcia, and Adam Lind is 4-for-8 with two homers.