As cliche` as it sounds, every game is big the rest of the way for the Baltimore Orioles. So when they can grind out a victory in a game against a team where they were probably expected to lose, they’re doing pretty well. The Birds got fairly decent starting pitching last night from Scott Feldman, who in my opinion fell victim to home plate umpire Mike Winters’ inconsistent strike zone early on. Feldman’s line: 5 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 earned), 6 BB, 3 K. Those six walks were a new career-high for Feldman, although again I would submit that some pitches that were called balls weren’t doing him any favors. In fairness it appeared that most of the pitches in question were borderline calls, however the perception was that the borderline calls were all going one way early in the game.
Dustin Pedroia led off the game for Boston, and ran the count to 3-1; Feldman got no help in terms of the bottom quadrant of the strike zone, so he had to elevate the ball. Unfortunately that worked to Pedroia’s favor, and he hit it over the green monster. Boston held onto that 1-0 lead, and Mike Winters at home plate was victim to several cold stares on the part of Buck Showalter for the first three innings or so. However to the Orioles’ credit, they minimized the damage whenever they got in trouble. Saltalamacchia reached base with one out in the fourth when the Orioles played a shift and the ball went under Manny Machado‘s glove. Machado was playing in shallow right field, and just missed the ball when it was hit to him. Following a walk to Stephen Drew, Boston put on a double-steal which somehow managed to work. Wieters’ throw beat Saltalamacchia to the bag at third, but umpire Tim Timmons ruled him safe (claiming – perhaps justifiably – that Machado didn’t get the tag down). Bogaerts proceeded to hit a sinking liner to Nate McLouth in left, which he dropped as it sunk to the ground. Boston held a 2-0 lead, but the Orioles got out of the inning when Brian Roberts turned a big league 4-5-3 double-play.
The Orioles seemed to surprise Boston a bit the following inning when they sent two runners into scoring position and Brian Roberts recorded an RBI-groundout. If anything, Boston could point back to that fourth inning when they stranded Drew at third base as a missed opportunity. Chris Davis ran the count to 2-1 in his at-bat in the sixth, before teeing off a shot towards right center field. When the ball cleared the fence and landed in the stands the game was tied at two, and Davis had set a new team record with 51 homers in a season (breaking Brady Anderson‘s record of 50 set in 1996). After the game Davis of course tried to play up the homer being more important for the team in terms of tying the game and helping them to win, however this is a noteworthy feat for Davis given the history of the Orioles and the number of great sluggers they’ve had.
Former Oriole Koji Uehara entered the game in the top of the ninth for Boston, and promptly allowed a Danny Valencia triple. Alexi Casilla pinch-ran for Valencia, and later scored on Matt Wietres’ sac fly to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead. Perhaps the best part of the game from the Orioles’ standpoint is that this is one they were probably destined to lose. We’ve seen this story’s ending before; Jim Johnson comes on, allows a base runner, and someone else hits a two-run homer to give the home team a walk off win, right? Johnson did allow one hit, however that runner was erased on a fielder’s choice, and Bogaerts struck out to end the game.
Given the fact that several other teams lost last night, this was a huge win for the Orioles. They now sit two games out of the final wild card, and a game-and-a-half behind Cleveland. The Birds also overcame a rare three-error game (two by Manny Machado) to win, and they awarded their former teammate (Uehara) his first loss of the year. Having said that, the Orioles need to put the good feelings from this win behind them and focus on doing it again tonight. Wei-Yin Chen will get the ball for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Jake Peavy.