The Baltimore Orioles entered the finale of what ended up being a two-game series (truncated from three games by rain) having already taken the first game. However as wacky as Tampa can often do things and as on you toes as you have to be to defeat Joe Maddon, there was next-to-no-chance that the Birds could do it again…was there? Perhaps the best part of the Orioles’ 3-0 victory yesterday (from their perspective that is) was the fact that they beat Tampa the exact same way that Tampa seems to take pleasure in beating them. Tampa often uses small ball, and then some to defeat their opponents. While big-swinging teams flail in the wind, Tampa calmly defeats them 2-0 with their small ball and stellar pitching. Quite frankly, it has to be maddening.
Miguel Gonzalez struggled a bit in the game, but the fact is that he pitched five scoreless innings. Gonzalez’s line: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K. We saw a bit of Tampa’s patience at the plate during Gonzalez’s time in the game, as there were a few times when they fouled off pitch after pitch. However Gonzalez never really waivered under pressure. Some people might question my terminology in that I said above that Gonzalez struggled a bit. This is still due in large part to pitch count, which ended up being fairly high yesterday. Gonzalez threw 98 pitches over five innings; luckily it wasn’t a big deal for the Orioles in this case with yesterday’s impromptu day off, and tomorrow’s scheduled one. The bullpen will be rested one way or the other as the Orioles head to Fenway Park on Friday. Zach Britton pitched three stellar innings of relief (although he loaded the bases and pitched out of it), and Tommy Hunter of course closed out the ninth.
Following a Nelson Cruz walk and a Chris Davis single in the fifth, Adam Jones drew a bunt base hit down the third base line to load up
the bases in the fourth. Matt Wieters would give the Orioles the lead with a sac fly-RBI, and J.J. Hardy would ground out with a runner still at third to give the O’s a 2-0 lead. Again, this is how Tampa normally scores runs in their games. For teams like the Orioles who try to outslug you, it can be infuriating. Basically a team that doesn’t have the same power as you is defeating you by putting runners on base and literally getting runners in one at a time. It’s kind of like saying that if you think too big you’ll miss out on the smaller details underneath the big stuff.
One inning later the Orioles loaded the bases again, with Adam Jones coming to the plate. Jones connected on a swinging bunt down the third base line, which Evan Longoria seemed content to watch run foul. However the ball died on the infield dirt, allowing Ryan Flaherty to score from third and putting the Birds up 3-0. Incidentally, this illustrates why players should always hustle down the line. Many players would have assumed that the ball was going to roll foul and perhaps pulled up. Instead Jones ran hard and was safe at first, prompting a third run to cross the plate for the O’s.
This was a big win for the Orioles for a few reasons, one being that Tampa had their number last year. However it also puts the Orioles back at .500 for the first time since the first week of the season. More importantly in the here and now, the O’s ended up having the aforementioned impromptu day off yesterday, along with one that was previously scheduled tomorrow. That’s a decent amount of rest as they head into a weekend series in Boston in which they’ll find themselves playing a day game after a night game on Saturday, a prime time ESPN game on Sunday night, and then an 11 AM game on Patriot’s Day in Boston on Monday morning.
The flu that’s ravaging it’s way through the clubhouse also had a chance to work it’s way out of Adam Jones and Evan Meek yesterday, both of whom were sent home. Buck Showalter said yesterday morning before the game that a few other players had already started to show symptoms of the bug, prompting the Birds to sanitize their entire clubhouse. The hope is that a day off tomorrow will allow everyone to get well and for this bug to leave the clubhouse entirely.