Orioles fans should have been excited about last night’s series finale against New York on Sunday Night Baseball. The last time the city of Baltimore was showcased on that stage was in 2005 in a loss to the ChiSox. Just to put things in perspective, four days after that Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for steroids. But I digress. I’m not going to lie; Sunday Night Baseball is “must see TV” in my house. I love watching Baseball Tonight so as to see the highlights of all the other games around the league, which leads into the national game of the week. And this week all of those TV”s that are normally watching that national game of the week got to see the Orioles and Camden Yards.
Chris Tillman didn’t have his top notch stuff last night, but he was pretty good. Tillman’s line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Manny Machado proved that he belonged under the lights on a national stage early on in the game, smacking a solo homer to left field. It was a no doubter as soon as it left the bat, meaning that it was only a matter of how far it went. NY tied it up in the second inning when Tillman walked Brett Gardener with the bases loaded. It would have been interesting to see what MASN’s pitch-track technology would have said about some of the pitches in the second inning, as my interpretation of the strike zone told me that Tillman got squeezed. However to his credit, he induced Ichiro Suzuki to pop out, ending the inning.
Chris Davis led off the last of the second, and just as ESPN’s Sunday night crew was talking about how he led the league in homers, he smacked another one. The interesting thing to me is that it went opposite field; several of Davis’ homers have gone to left this year, which is a sign of just how well he sees the ball and how strong he really is. Incidentally, national viewers on ESPN were treated to the replay of that Davis home run several times throughout the course of the rest of the evening. Brian Roberts led off the last of the third, with his first at-bat since April. Roberts, who DH’d in last nights game, was greeted with a standing ovation from the Camden faithful (which was classy and well-deserved). While Roberts struck out, he did figure prominently into the end of the game later on. But with Machado and Davis already having gone yard, Nate McLouth decided to get into the act with one of his own following the Roberts strike out. McLouth’s homer hit off the railing of the flag court in right field, and it gave the O’s a 3-1 lead.
New York came to within one run at 3-2 after Robinson Cano greeted Tillman with a lead off homer in the sixth. They also put runners at first and second against reliever Darren O’Day in the seventh, however O’Day pitched out of the jam after a visit from pitching coach Rick Adair. The O’s had runners at second and third in the last of the inning, and Brian Roberts’ sacrifice fly scored Matt Wieters from third and put the Orioles ahead 4-2. I found it interesting that third base coach Bobby Dickerson sent Wieters on a medium-depth fly ball. Wieters is a notoriously slow runner, but Dickerson ran the risk and it paid off. (It didn’t help that Brett Gardener didn’t make a good throw.) Jim Johnson added a slight bit of drama in the ninth in putting two runners on, however he recorded the final out and the Orioles had a 4-2 win and a series sweep of New York at home.
From the perspective of the Orioles, the series sweep of a division foe is always a good thing. But it’s worth mentioning that the team, the city, and the fans all represented this weekend on a national stage (Saturday on FOX and Sunday on ESPN). I feel that America got to see the best of Baltimore this weekend in that the games were packed (with Orioles fans) and the fans were loud. ESPN’s Dan Shulman mentioned the boisterousness of the fans on numerous occasions last night, even saying that it was the loudest park they had visited this year. While many Orioles fans feel ESPN is at times a NY Yankee infomercial, I feel that both them and the FOX crew went out of their way to be complimentary of the Orioles and the Orioles fans.
However most importantly a national audience saw the best of the Baltimore Orioles themselves. Manny Machado and Chris Davis both homering on a national stage, one of the best young talents in the Orioles’ rotation pitched fairly well, and the team looked like a unit. However the thing that speaks louder than anything to me is the standing ovation the fans gave to Brian Roberts. Let’s not forget that Roberts suffered through some very lean years along with the fans, and he was the one guy on whom the franchise could hang their hats. And despite all of the injury problems and missing so many games, a national audience saw Orioles fans give him a standing ovation. Do we not think that a few potential free agents might not have been watching and think to themselves…gee, I’d love to play for those people! Ultimately however, the thing that matters is the outcome, and that outcome (of the game and the series) was shaded with an orangish hue.