Admittedly I’m not a huge fan of the ChiSox’s play-by-play announcer Hawk Harrelson, who shamelessly roots for Chicago during every broadcast. And when I say shamelessly, I mean that he uses words such as we and us to refer to the ChiSox. Big no-no in broadcast sports or in columns such as Birds Watcher. Nevertheless, one of Harrelson’s other rituals is to refer to the ChiSox as the good guys. Quite honestly, that’s somewhat tame in my book given that it’s probably no different than Chuck Thompson saying ain’t the beer cold! after an Orioles’ win. However my point here is not to pick Hawk Harrelson apart per se, although I suppose nobody told him that the real “good guys” bat last.
The Baltimore Orioles got a decent start out of Wei-Yin Chen yesterday afternoon, although he was unable to leave the game with the lead. Chen’s line: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K. However keep in mind that one goal of a starting pitcher is to put his team in a position to win the game. Chen did that yesterday, rebounding from a couple of lackluster starts. The Birds took an early 1-0 lead in the last of the first when Chris Davis doubled Manny Machado home from first base. This could have been a game whereby we were talking again this morning about missed opportunities, because the only other hit the Birds got with a runner in scoring position wasn’t until the 10th inning. At the end of the day, the Orioles went 2-for-18 with RISP, which is barely even noteworthy when you win (and when your opponent puts up a 1-for-6 spot).
Chicago tied the score in the fourth inning when Paul Konerko sent an RBI-single up the middle. They would take the lead in the fifth when Dayan Viciedo hit a homer to center field, and suddenly the Birds trailed 2-1. However regardless of the struggles on the year, these Orioles are a resilient bunch; Brian Roberts led off the last of the inning by homering to left field on the first pitch. Suddenly we had a new ballgame once again, with the score tied at two. Incidentally, how often have we seen things in the last few weeks and said this is what happens when things aren’t going well for you? While the O’s have had their struggles (and yet have always managed to remain in the playoff race) they’ve never struggled to the point that their opponent this weekend is struggling. Chicago has now lost nine straight games. So yes, when things aren’t going well for you and you’re struggling to that extent, your opponent manages to tie the game back up on the first pitch after you take the lead. Incidentally, that was merely a harbinger of what was to come.
As the late innings wore on it became increasingly obvious that the game was destined to go to extra innings. Going back one night, this shows how important it was for Scott Feldman to have pitched a complete game on Friday. The Orioles’ pen was totally rested; in an extra inning game, that makes a huge difference. However it was actually the ChiSox that struck first, with Conor Gillaspie hitting a pinch-hit homer off of Tommy Hunter in the top of the 10th. So here’s Chicago thinking that their eight-game losing streak is over; but what did was say above? Good guys bat last, right? Well, we said that also…but remember the part about what happens when things aren’t going well for you?
When you’re the visiting team and you take the lead in extra innings, you do so knowing that you still have to play the first in the last of the inning since the home team gets it’s last at-bat. With one out in the last of the 10th, Buck Showalter sent Henry Urrutia up as a pinch hitter for Alexi Casilla. Urrutia promptly got on with a base hit, and was then lifted for a pinch runner (Chris Dickerson). Nick Markakis singled to left field, and Dickerson went to third. Following a Markakis steal of second base (and a McLouth strike out), the O’s had the winning run in scoring position. So when Matt Wieters singled to right field, both runners came home to score and the Orioles had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
With Tampa’s loss last night, the Birds are now only one game out of the second wild card slot (tied with Cleveland). If the Orioles win today and Tampa ends up losing, the Birds and Tampa will finish the day tied for that spot. The Birds will send Bud Norris to the mound this afternoon as they look for the four-game sweep of the ChiSox, and he’ll be opposed by Andre Rienzo. Baseball is the only sport that gives the advantage of the potential for a walk-off win to only the home team. So turning again to Mr. Harrelson, in this particular case the ChiSox aren’t necessarily given the moniker of the good guys. Because as we all know, good guys bat last.