How cliche` is it to reference a “Journey” song such as Don’t Stop Believing with regard to a sports season?! However if there’s anything that the past few days have taught Orioles’ fans, it’s that. Many people felt that this team was in fact done some time ago. But there was perhaps a certain nadir that was reached after they dropped three-of-four at home to New York. However then they took two-of-three in Toronto before going onto Boston. After winning game one against the BoSox on Tuesday, they went into last night’s game with a chance to win a series against the team that’s running away with the division. A steep hill for sure, but one that was necessary to climb if the Baltimore Orioles were to have a shot at returning to the post season.
Wei-Yin Chen had some shaky moments, but ultimately he put his team in a position to win the game. Chen’s line: 5.2 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K. Chen settled down quickly after giving up a two-run homer in the first inning to David Ortiz, however in the third he found himself in a bases-loaded, nobody out situation. That would provide the first of many Harry Houdini-like escapes for Orioles’ pitching on the night. Chen induced Mike Napoli to line out to Hardy at short, and Gomes proceeded to ground into a 1-2-3 double-play. (If anything, Chen used the bases being loaded to his advantage because there was a force out at home plate.)
Danny Valencia led off the fifth inning with a single, and he promptly scored on Matt Wieters‘ RBI-double. Wieters himself would later score on Brian Roberts‘ RBI-double, and suddenly we had a tie game. However it was the Orioles who broke that tie, on another Matt Wieters RBI-double in the sixth inning. Buck Showalter sent Chen back out in the last of the inning, however Mike Napoli led off and promptly greeted Chen with a solo homer to tie the game. An out and two singles later, Showalter lifted Chen for KRod, who induced Ross to ground into a fielder’s choice.
Perhaps one of the takeaways from this game are the number of times the Orioles were able to pitch out of sticky situations. They recorded four double-plays on the night, many of which came in crucial situations. As for Chen, he did in fact find himself in trouble at various times in the game. However he also found ways out of trouble, and that’s what often separates the winners from the losers. (As I’ve said previously, the nature of the position is such that you’re going to get in trouble during games.)
As the game went to extra innings most everyone started thinking back to last year’s marathon games at various points in the season, including the game in May when Chris Davis got the win (in 17 innings). However speaking for myself, I recalled more vividly the 18 and 11 inning wins in Seattle more so because they were in September. Nevertheless, after the Orioles got two runners in scoring position (off of a Morales wild pitch) Boston intentionally walked pinch hitter Steve Pearce to load the bases. Manny Machado fouled out to first base, which brought the aforementioned Chris Davis to the plate. Davis of course had already left his mark on this series by hitting his Orioles’ record 51st homer of the season on Tuesday, and odds are that win in relief last May was probably still in the minds of BoSox fans someplace. Nevertheless, on a two-strike count Davis sent a bouncing single up the middle and into center field, which scored Hardy and Roberts to give the Orioles a 5-3 lead.
Like Tuesday, Jim Johnson allowed one hit and then was able to get the Orioles out of the inning and thus out of the game with a 5-3 victory. They now set themselves up for the potential of a series sweep in tonight’s series finale, which will have the potential to happen on “Tillman Island” as Chris Tillman will get the ball. However that’s easier said than done, as he’ll be opposed by John Lackey.
So yes, with all of this said, the theme of the day is Don’t Stop Believing. It might be cliche`, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. (As big of an ’80’s music fan as Nate McLouth is, I’m sure he doesn’t mind the reference!) Furthermore as I tweeted last night after the game, this was the Orioles’ 81st win of the season, guaranteeing at the very least that they won’t finish with a sub-.500 record for the second consecutive year. That may well be a formality, however it’s noteworthy for a franchise that still stings from 14 straight losing seasons. More importantly to the urgency and immediacy of today, the Birds now stand one game back of Texas for the final wild card spot (with Cleveland only a half game back). It ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings, right? So BUCKle Back Up and…Don’t Stop Believing, because these Birds ain’t through quite yet.