Early in last night’s 4-2 win over Houston I thought that it might be a bit of a struggle for Chris Tillman. Some of his off speed pitches were up in the zone in the first inning, which I knew could spell trouble for the Baltimore Orioles. Luckily no damage was done, and Tillman righted himself big time. Tillman’s line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K. While Houston’s season has been a struggle thus far, they still have major league players in their lineup which means that they’re as capable of anyone of winning a game. In fact, they swept Anaheim over the weekend on the road, and they came into the game winners of four straight. So Tillman put some impressive pitching out there last night, and he induced some key strikeouts to end innings.
Offensively, the O’s seemed to be feeling out Houston’s starter, Lucas Harrell, the first time through the order. That isn’t overly surprising seeing that he was a pitcher (and in fact this was a team) with which the Orioles were not familiar in the least. However the fact was that Harrell was throwing strikes early in the game, and Oriole bats caught on quickly. Danny Valencia led off the third inning with a home run to give the Birds a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning Manny Machado smacked himself yet another double, and later advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Adam Jones would follow by reaching base on a Chris Carter error, which scored Machado and gave the O’s a 2-0 lead after three.
Tillman struggled a bit in the sixth, as Brandon Barnes hit a solo homer that might not have landed yet, cutting the Orioles’ lead to 2-1. That was followed with a single, however Tillman pitched out of it and was able to minimize the damage. Nate McLouth led off the eighth with a single, promptly stole second AND third base, and went home on a throwing error by catcher Juan Castro. It’s easy to look at the box score and say that in reality the game was tied after nine but the Birds got two unearned runs. The sequence in which Jones reached on a error (scoring Machado) is a pretty “routine error,” if such a thing exists. At some point the O’s will give up a run in that fashion as well; it happens. However while that third run is in fact unearned, the error was committed as a result of Nate McLouth’s aggressiveness on the base paths.
The O’s were able to tack on one of those all-important insurance runs in the top of the ninth with J.J. Hardy shooting a double to left field, and later scoring on a Ryan Flaherty RBI-single. Jim Johnson allowed one hit in the last of the ninth but ultimately closed Houston down as the Orioles took game one of three at Minute Maid Park. Speaking of which, one thing I love about baseball is that each park has it’s own distinguishing characteristic that makes it stand out. (The B & O Warehouse at Camden Yards would most certainly qualify.) Houston’s Minute Maid Park features an area called Tal’s Hill, which is an actual incline in dead center field. Adam Jones made two spectacular catches there last night to save base hits, one of which would have come with a runner on base. Navigating the outfield is difficult enough as it is, but certainly more so when you add a hill with a flagpole (which is in play for the record) smack in the middle.
Freddy Garcia gets the ball again tonight in Houston, which leaves me wondering if he’ll be able to live up to his nickname of “Sweaty Freddy” with the roof closed! Garcia of course is coming off of a great start last week against Washington, and he’ll be opposed by Dallas Keuchel of Houston. Yes you read that correctly; a pitcher named Dallas starting for Houston! The Birds will be without Nick Markakis tonight and tomorrow, as he’ll be away from the team and with his family following the death of his grandmother. On my behalf as well as on that of our Birds Watcher staff and the Fansided Network, I offer my most sincere of condolences to Nick and his family.