Yesterday’s game with Boston was about as big of a game as you’re going to get in June for the Baltimore Orioles. A loss would have produced a series split with the BoSox, and the Birds probably wouldn’t be any more worse off for it. (Most teams secretly expect to split these four-game sets, especially against division foes.) However a victory would go a long way towards cementing the O’s as one of the best teams in the American League. The Birds got a great outing by Miguel Gonzalez for starters; that combined with the fact that the bats stayed hot equaled a 6-3 victory over Boston. Gonzalez’s line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K.
The Orioles defeated Boston’s Jon Lester for only the second time in his career. I found it interesting that Boston manager John Farrell opted to vehemently argue a fair/foul call on a Manny Machado one-out double in the first inning. The replays were as conclusive as they could be to the tune that the ball went over the bag at third. Yet Farrell and third base umpire Jeff Nelson went at it for quite awhile, prompting the Camden faithful to call for Farrell’s ejection. The game was scoreless until the last of the third when the O’s broke through. Adam Jones‘ RBI-double scored Nick Markakis, and Jones himself was plated on Chris Davis‘ two-run homer. It was Davis’ major league-leading 23rd homer of the season, and just like that the Birds led 3-0. The O’s would put two more across in the fifth on a Machado RBI-single, and a Chris Davis RBI-double.
Gonzalez started to tire in the seventh, as Boston put two runners in scoring position with one down. Will Middlebrooks followed that up with a homer to right field to bring Boston to within 5-3. Buck Showalter immediately popped out of the dugout to remove Gonzalez, who got a standing ovation from the Orioles fans. Brian Matusz recorded the final two outs of the inning, and the Birds put one more on the board on Hardy’s RBI-single in the last of the inning. The Orioles bullpen was strong once again, surrendering only one more hit in the game. Jim Johnson quickly retired Boston 1-2-3 in the ninth and the Orioles ended up with three-of-four from Boston.
By virtue of Boston’s win on Saturday, they’re still in first place. However I think that folks would be remiss if they didn’t at least throw the Orioles into the conversation as the best team in the AL East. If not for a phantom foul tip that got a pitcher off-kilter on Saturday, the O’s might well have swept the series. The Orioles took two-of-three from Boston at Fenway earlier in the year, and now three-of-four at the yard. The win capped off a seven-game homestand in which the Orioles went 5-2. What we also saw on this homestand was the re-emergence of the Oriole bullpen as a dominant force. Granted in the finale with Anaheim they kind of screwed the pooch, however they were integral in all of the wins (especially the extra-inning win against Boston). If the ‘pen’s dealing and the bats are hot, the Orioles are going to be in games down the stretch.
The Orioles will now head out on the road for a three-game set in Detroit. Jason Hammel was scratched from starting tonight’s game and pushed back to Tuesday after he came down with a flu bug late last week. Buck Showalter sent him home on Saturday so as not to have the bug ravage the entire team, however he announced after yesterday’s game that Jake Arrieta will get the
start tonight in Detroit. Hammel is scheduled to go tomorrow night, however that’s still pending his health. The Orioles asked triple-A Norfolk not to use Zach Britton this past weekend so as to potentially call him up if Hammel can’t go. According to Buck Showalter, reliever T.J. McFarland might also be an option to make a spot start if he isn’t used in relief tonight. A lot of things are happening at once for the Orioles with Hammel’s health combined with Miguel Gonzalez about to go on the paternity list at any time.
This is a big game for Arrieta, who is going to get another chance to prove he belongs at the big league level. His results at Norfolk of late were less-than-stellar, however everyone knows he can be a bulldog on the mound if his mind’s in the game. He’ll be opposed by Max Scherzer of Detroit in tonight’s game.