Hitting three homers in a game is a pretty special thing, and fans at Camden Yards were treated to seeing someone do that last night…against the Baltimore Orioles that is. Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman smacked homers in his first three at-bats last night, giving his team the lead against the O’s. If three homers is rare, what are the odds that you hit three home runs in a losing effort? Proving once again that you always have to play until the final out, the Orioles used a six-run seventh inning to come back and defeat Washington 9-6.
Chris Tillman was knocked around a bit in this start; Tillman’s line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 4 K. Tillman surrendered four home runs in the game, three of which came off the bat of Zimmerman. However as any baseball player will tell you, last night was just one of those nights. Before the game the Orioles made a move to shore-up their infield defense by optioning Yamaico Navarro back to Norfolk and recalling Ryan Flaherty. Ironically, Flaherty contributed offensively right away by sending an RBI-double down the line and tying the game at one. However Washington’s Roger Bernadina and of course Ryan Zimmerman would hit solo home runs in the top of the fourth and suddenly the Orioles trailed again 3-1. An inning later Zimmerman would homer again during Washington’s four-run fifth, giving them a 6-2 lead.
So Camden Yards had to have been dead, right? The Birds trailed 6-2 against a regional rival, who’s star player had taken Oriole pitching to the woodshed thus far in the game…? Let’s not forget who we’re talking about here: The Fighting Showalters. Nick Markakis provided a harbinger of what was to come in the last of the sixth with a solo homer to bring the Orioles to within three. Flaherty led off an inning later with a single, followed up by a Steve Pearce home run to left which totally ignited the crowd. Suddenly the O’s only trailed 6-5, Washington’s starter Jordan Zimmerman was tiring quickly, and the “Seven Nation Army” song was starting to swirl around the yard. Nate McLouth was able to score from first base on a Manny Machado double, and we had a tie score (at which point Washington manager Davey Johnson lifted Zimmerman in favor of reliever Tyler Clippard.) Nick Markakis greeted Clippard with and RBI-single to give the Birds their first lead of the night at 7-6.
As if the yard wasn’t already buzzing enough, Chris Davis decided to leave his mark on this game as well by launching a “no-doubter” into the stands to give the Birds a 9-6 lead. Perhaps the best news of the night (after winning the game of course) was that Jim Johnson was able to come into the game to close out the ninth inning and sent Washington’s suddenly potent bats down 1-2-3. Johnson was right on top of his stuff from the get-go, and he retired the side in 11 pitches, ending the game.
Baseball isn’t a sport whereby we often think of home field advantage being a huge thing. It matters – don’t get me wrong – but it’s not like football or college basketball where crowd noise can often affect the opposition. This particular game goes against that grain, as Orioles fans really came through for the team last night. It seemed like a perfect storm type of situation with the bats and the fans coming to life right at the same time. From Washington’s standpoint I’m not sure if they were beaten by the Orioles or by Baltimore, but the players looked like they didn’t know what hit them come the end of the seventh inning. With that said, Orioles fans also took note of Ryan Zimmerman’s performance, which was historic from the standpoint that he had never hit three homers in a game. It obviously gets overshadowed a bit in the wake of Chris Davis and the Orioles’ anything you can do I can do better act in the seventh inning, however
Zimmerman had probably the best offensive game of his career.
Steve Johnson qualified for the win, and enough can’t be said for the job he did in keeping Washington at bay while the Orioles came back. I’ve noticed that the O’s have had several games where they’ve found themselves leading only to have their starting pitcher suddenly fall apart in an inning such as the sixth or seventh inning. Obviously there was no sign that the guy was getting tired or anything along those lines, so nobody would have been up in the pen. That’s exactly what happened to Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman last night, as he suddenly found his arm tired and unable to hit his spots in the seventh inning. And the Orioles took advantage – big time.
This short two-game home series as well as the season series with Washington will conclude tonight at CamdenYards. The O’s can win the series with a win, and Washington of course needs a win to salvage a split (for the series and the season). Freddy Garcia will take to the mound for the Orioles, coming off of his first win of the season last Saturday in Toronto. He’ll be opposed by Washington’s Dan Harren. If the ball flies as well as it did at the yard last night, both managers might be well-advised to have their bullpens warm from the beginning tonight!