You can put me in the category of people who have no idea how players and coaches from Tampa and Baltimore Orioles are going to be in place at 1 PM this afternoon for game two of a four-game set. Quite frankly I have no idea how they’re even going to play the rest of the season after Tampa’s 5-4 victory last night. There’s no way under any circumstances that last night’s 18-inning game didn’t defy logic in some manner. Checking in a six hours and fifty-four minutes, it was the longest game in Orioles’ history (in terms of time). Unfortunately it came in the middle of a playoff race whereby wins and losses are supreme; otherwise (even in a losing effort) fans and players alike might be able to sit back and appreciate the sheer majesty of the spectacle a bit more.
Jason Hammel struggled early for the Orioles, but he got it together. Hammel’s line: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R (two earned), 0 BB, 3 K. Ben Zobrist‘s RBI-double in the first inning gave Tampa a 1-0 lead, and later in the inning Zobrist himself scored on a Chris Davis error. David DeJesus would add a sac fly in the second, and the Birds trailed 3-0. While Hammel struggled in those innings, he also minimized the damage. The Orioles had a shot to do some damage in the fifth when they loaded the bases with nobody out, but they managed only one run on an Adam Jones‘ infield RBI-single.
However the Orioles were in this for the long haul, to their credit (and I mean the looooong haul!). Matt Wieters scored on a groundout in the sixth, and they tied it on Manny Machado‘s RBI-double in the seventh. Machado would later score on a Danny Valencia sac fly, and the Orioles took a 4-3 lead. However in their typical everything you can do I can do better routine, Tampa tied the game in the last of the seventh. With Kevin Gausman on the mound, Yunnel Escobar led off with a single and promptly went to second on a wild pitch. He would score on an RBI-single by Ben Zobrist, and on we went.
It’s tough to go to extra innings in any game, much less in a game and/or series of this magnitude. However even in a losing effort, it’s tough to hold anyone on the Orioles accountable in an 18-inning loss. Tommy Hunter provided two very solid innings, culminating with him almost having his head taken off to record the final out of the ninth. Darren O’Day and Brian Matusz were also clutch for the Orioles on the mound as we went deeper and deeper into extra innings. As each Oriole pitcher came in one was left wondering if this would be the guy to blow it. In fairness, the offense was having trouble getting on base also, as Tampa’s pitchers were mowing them down also. Josh Stinson served his few innings valiantly, and TJ McFarland pitched out of a bases-loaded situation in the last of the 15th to keep the game alive.
The Birds brought in starter Bud Norris in the 16th, and he lasted up until the end. As I said, it’s really a shame that someone has to lose a game like this. Tampa also brought in Jeremy Hellickson, who was scheduled as Sunday’s starter; I would submit that baseball games officially get “weird” when starters come out of the bullpen, or position players (such as Chris Davis) come in to pitch. Desmond Jennings hit a one-out double off of Norris in the last of the 18th, and he would later score on David DeJesus’ RBI-single to end the game.
Again, both teams are now taxed with coming back for a 1 PM afternoon start today. (The game will be shown on FOX, with MASN’s Gary Thorne sliding into the play-by-play chair with Tom Verducci doing color – so Orioles fans will have a familiar voice on the “neutral” telecast.) It probably goes without saying that Buck Showalter will sit catcher Matt Wieters after he caught 18 innings. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not any other starters sit this afternoon, at least early on. Buck Showalter used a bit of a different look in the lineup, which might have been a blessing in disguise given that some guys got some rest.
This loss puts a damper on things for the Orioles, but they’re still right in the thick of the playoff race at 2.5 games out. I would say that this is a loss that fans probably shouldn’t fret too much about; 18 innings should give you just a bit of perspective. According to Roch Kubatko of masnsports.com, Buck Showalter told players not to be at the Trop until 11 AM today (two hours before game time). The O’s are expected to add at least one pitcher before today’s game, possibly Zach Britton, from their spring training complex in nearby Sarasota. Miguel Gonzalez will get the ball for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Alex Cobb of Tampa.