The Baltimore Orioles were the first team to face Masahiro Tanaka at Yankee Stadium in the finale of their three-game set in the Bronx last night. Oriole bats greeted Tanaka in an inauspicious manner, as Nick Markakis lined a ball off his shin in the first at-bat of the game. However it wasn’t until the second inning that Tanaka was formerly “welcomed” to the park, as Matt Wieters and Steve Lombardozzi got aboard with singles. That brought rookie Jonathan Schoop to the plate, who proceeded to deposit a ball almost over the foul pole in left field to give the Birds a 3-0 lead.
But aging team or not, these are still the Bronx Bombers. Miguel Gonzalex had a rough second inning in which he seemed to be battling himself more than anything else, giving up solo homers to Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson, cutting the Orioles’ lead to 3-2. When I say that Gonzalez struggled, he struggled mightily in terms of finding the strike zone. MASN commentators Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick even mentioned that Bud Norris was spending the evening down in the Orioles’ bullpen in case Gonzalez had to hit the showers early and the Orioles needed a long man. However Gonzalez adjusted, and pitched a very successful bounceback inning in the third.
Gonzalez would allow a lead off double to Carlos Beltran in the fourth, and Beltran would later tie the game at three on an RBI-groundout by Alfonso Soriano. However while that erased the lead that the Orioles had to that point, it was also a great piece of pitching by Miguel Gonzalez, as he was able to minimize the damage and keep his team in a position to potentially win.
Speaking for myself, you really have to tip your cap to Miguel Gonzalez. I think that a lot of Orioles fans were probably expecting Gonzalez to be sent out at some point following the game after that second inning. But you can’t say enough about the in-game adjustments that were made, which also means it’s very possible that the issues last week were mainly weather-related. Gonzalez’s final line: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K. This also says something about the resiliency of Miguel Gonalez, who while battling himself and his tendencies, basically refused to fail.
The O’s would put two runners on with one out in the eighth, but were unable to drive in a run. Perhaps a key moment in that sequence was a ball trickling away from New York catcher Brian McCann, however Adam Jones was unable to advance to third base. Jones made the right decision in holding up because he couldn’t see where the ball was; better to be safe than sorry, right? Furthermore it’s unclear whether or not a runner could have scored from third base on Nelson Cruz‘s subsequent pop up, however the opportunity would have been there.
two consecutive outs, keeping the game knotted at three. The stat line may well eat up that small fact, however what Matusz was able to come into the game and do in that situation should not be lost on Orioles fans. New York putting a run across at that point would have been demoralizing to the O’s, but Matusz was having none of that.
Ryan Flaherty led off the ninth inning with a double, and he was able to take third on Steve Lombardozzi’s single. Nick Markakis promptly came to the plate, and his RBI-single gave the O’s a late 4-3 lead. The Orioles would also add on a sac fly-RBI by Chris Davis with the bases loaded. However it was almost not enough; NY put runners at the corners in the last of the ninth and former Oriole Brian Roberts at the plate. Roberts’ sac fly got a run home, however Hunter induced the next hitter into a double-play, ending the game in a 5-4 Orioles win.
This game comes down to Gonzalez’s adjustments during the game, Matusz’s clutch pitching in the eighth, and of course the clutch hitting in the ninth. If any of those don’t happen, New York wins this game. In all honesty if I had to put one of those things above the other, it would be Matusz’s performance. You don’t get much more clutch than that for a reliever. For that, he was rewarded with a victory in his tally. For what it’s worth, five years ago this game would have played out in exactly the same manner – however in reverse. Times change. The Orioles will enjoy a day off at home today before Toronto comes into the yard for the weekend.