The Baltimore Orioles were sputtering along in last night’s series finale against Houston. To top off a bizzare week in and of itself, newly-aquirred Orioles’ pitcher Bud Norris was on the mound in the home whites…against his former team. As I’ve said a couple of times already this week, the human side of these types of trades is often a bit strange. Nevertheless, Norris didn’t disappoint in his debut for the orange and black. Norris’ line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 8 K, 2 BB. Save for two solo homers that put Houston up 2-0, Norris was very solid throughout his entire outing. However you’ll take a starter allowing two solo homers in a game. Given that scenario if the team winds up losing 2-0 (or 2-1) you have to place that squarely on the shoulders of the offense.
The Orioles’ offense wasn’t doing Norris any favors last night – at first. Through the first few innings Houston starter Jordan Lyles was mowing the Birds down, and many folks seemed to be wondering if the Birds would be shut out for a second consecutive night. It was the youth movement that got Oriole bats untracked. Henry Urrutia provided an opposite-field single with one down in the fifth, which brought Brian Roberts to the plate. He sent a grounder to short that had double-play written all over it; however Jonathan Villar misplayed the ball (which had a lot of backspin), and everyone was safe. Whereas the previous night a J.J. Hardy error led to a Houston grand slam, the Birds took advantage. Nate McLouth‘s RBI-single scored Urrutia and the Orioles were on the board. Roberts would come in to score on a Machado RBI-single, and suddenly the game was tied. Nick Markakis chimed in as well with a sac fly-RBI, which gave the Orioles the lead.
Luckily for the Birds, they showed no sign of looking back or feeling pitty for Houston after putting up two unearned runs. In fact, the O’s added onto the lead in the sixth. J.J. Hardy and Nate McLouth provided RBI-singles, and suddenly it was 5-2. Throw in Chris Davis‘ 39th home run of the season in the last of the seventh, and suddenly that Orioles’ offense that was struggling threw six runs up on the board. That home run was also Davis’ 100th RBI of the season, making him the first American League player to reach that plateau in 2013. Houston did get one back in the eighth on an L.J. Hoes RBI-groundout, but this was the Orioles’ night. With the 6-3 victory, the Orioles took two-of-three from Houston. It certainly wasn’t as easy of a series as many thought it should have been, however ultimately the Birds are one game better than they were before Houston came to town. That’s all that’s important.
It’s worth mentioning that L.J. Hoes recorded his first major league hit in this game…in his hometown, but playing for Houston – against the pitcher for whom he had been traded! That RBI was also a career first for him. On my own behalf, I wish him the very best with Houston. This certainly was a strange and probably a very difficult week for him given that he was traded away from his hometown team, but that’s part of the game. If you’re lucky enough to play in your hometown, you know that’s a possibility when you sign up. On the flip side, if one outing means anything it appears that the Norris trade was a good move for the Orioles. I feel that this game also showcased the benefits of having a catcher like Matt Wieters, with whom Norris said he spent about 20 minutes going over signs and strategy yesterday afternoon. In a sense, Wieters went out totally cold given that he had never caught Norris and called a great game.
It appeared that the Birds were going to pick up a game on Boston given that they were trailing Seattle 7-1 at one point, however in the style of the “Mother’s Day Massacre” the BoSox put up six on Seattle in the last of the ninth to defeat them 8-7. The O’s did pick up a half game on idle Tampa, and they remain a half game back of Cleveland for the final wild card spot. Cleveland heads down to South Florida to play Miami this weekend, Tampa hosts San Francisco, and Boston hosts Arizona. The Orioles will play host to Seattle starting tonight, who of course is coming off a tragic loss in Boston last night. The O’s will want to keep their foot in the same spot on the gas pedal as the BoSox had theirs, and the good news is that it’s tough to bounce back from a loss like that. The bad news is that it makes a team hungry. Nevertheless, Chris Tillman will start for the O’s tonight, and he’ll be opposed by Aaron Harang of Seattle.