Earlier this week after the Baltimore Orioles lost a game I threw out that classic line from Bull Durham: “…some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains.” Let’s take that a step further; some wins are grinding, and some are not. On Thursday the Birds defeated the BoSox 5-4 in a 13-inning affair that just seemed to not want to end. Last night they won a 2-0 pitchers duel that seemed destined to be over quick. To use another quote (this time from Buck Showalter), “…you never know what the boys are going to have in store for us today.” That’s baseball; you have to find ways to win in different types of games. Thus far in this all-important series with Boston, the O’s have done just that.
Chris Tillman struggled a bit with his command in this game, yet he never buckled. Tillman’s line: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 3 K. I’ve said on so many different occasions that a pitcher’s going to have 10 good starts, 10 poor, and 10 that lie somewhere in between. You can chalk this game into that last category for Tillman last night, however those are the ones that you really want to win. The four walks were a bit concerning, however Tillman pitched out of jams pretty consistently. Tillman began the fourth inning by walking Mike Carp, who went to second base on a ground out by Daniel Nava. After an infield single Boston had runners at the corners with one down. Keep in mind that pitchers are going to get themselves in trouble, as that’s almost the nature of the position. It’s how you handle “trouble” when it pops up that tells you who you are. Tillman responded by getting Will Middlebrooks to pop up to shallow right field (too shallow to score the runner from third), and getting Ross to strike out.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead when Chris Davis hit his MLB-leading 22nd home run in the last of the second inning. The Birds would tack on what ended up amounting to an insurance run an inning later when Adam Jones‘ infield single on a swinging bunt scored Manny Machado from third base. I jokingly call it an insurance run even given the fact that the Orioles never allowed a Boston runner to reach base. Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, and Jim Johnson combined to pitch three perfect innings in relief of Tillman to close out the game, and the Orioles’ 2-0 victory. Even though the Birds had to use three bullpen relievers in the game, I feel that they were able to rest certain guys that pitched longer (such as T.J. McFarland) in Thursday’s game.
Some people cringe when writers such as myself say that certain series’ or games are huge. Every game should be big, right? For sure, and I get that. However given the standings you’d be hard-pressed not to see this weekend’s Boston series as perhaps just a bit bigger than say the Anaheim series earlier in the week. The O’s have done themselves a huge favor by finding ways to win the first two games against the BoSox, which certainly relieves some of the pressure on them this afternoon and tomorrow. The worst they can do now is split; however while we’re still not at a point in the season where people should be watching the standings too much, it’s also worth mentioning that a series sweep would put the Orioles in first place.
Freddy Garcia will get the ball in this afternoon’s 4 PM start, coming off a decent game this past Monday against Anaheim. Of course his outing was limited due to the lengthy rain delay, however he qualified for the win. He’s been known to give up a few long balls, so he’ll want to be careful in pitching to the likes of Middlebrooks and Ortiz. Garcia will be opposed by John Lackey, who’s struggled away from Fenway Park this year. Lackey’s only won two out of seven road starts, a trend that the Orioles will look to continue this afternoon.
On a side note, Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to start tomorrow’s series finale with Boston, however his wife is due to give birth to their first child any day now. (And first thing’s first…congratulations to the Gonzalez family!) This is part of why Kevin Gausman was sent down to the minors in favor of Jake Arrieta, because when Gonzalez goes on the paternity list the Orioles can recall Gausman without him having to stay in the minors for ten days. If Gonzalez needs to leave the team prior to tomorrow’s game, I suspect that Arrieta would in fact come out of the bullpen to make a spot start. That’s not said in fact, however merely an opinion. Gausman would be the player that would be recalled as a corresponding roster move, and he just started Thursday. That combined with the fact that the Orioles neglected to use Arrieta (a fresh arm) last night tells me that they might set him up to be a starter in a pinch if needed. But time will tell if that’s even necessary, and obviously that’s something that’s totally out of Buck Showalter’s Jake Arrieta’s, or even Miguel Gonzalez’s hands.