It seems that in the past week we’ve seen numerous games where Oriole starters have pitched well enough to win games, only to have them blown late. There was Bud Norris and Ubaldo Jimenez in Boston, and then Miguel Gonzalez on Monday in Toronto. So it somehow stood to reason that on a night when Chris Tillman was struggling to keep the ball in the ballpark, the Baltimore Orioles would somehow find a way to win. Tillman’s line: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 7 K. Not only that, but Tillman somehow managed to get the win, despite looking like he was one base runner away from being run out of the ballpark in the second.
Chris Davis put the Orioles ahead 1-0 in the first with his second home run of the season, however Toronto seemed to bide it’s time until the last of the second. Brett Lawrie put a three-run homer on the board, and Jose Reyes followed with a two-run shot. It appeared that Toronto couldn’t miss the ball coming out of Tillman’s hand in the second inning, as he struggled to even record outs. Edwin Encarnacion would cap the inning off with a two-RBI single, and the Birds trailed early 6-1.
However these Fighting Showalters never give up until the final out is recorded. Furthermore as often as the starting pitching has bailed out the Orioles’ offense, it seemed that it was time for the likes of Tillman to get a helping hand waved his way. Following a Jonathan Schoop lead off double in the third, Nick Markakis came through with an RBI-single. Nelson Cruz would launch a homer to left field before the end of the inning, and the Birds had cut the lead in half at 6-3.
The best news for the Orioles at that point was that Tillman settled down. He recorded scoreless innings in the third, fourth, and fifth, keeping Toronto right where they were with regard to the scoreboard. If you’re going to come back from an early hole, that’s the first thing that has to happen. However Tillman was really picked up in the fifth. Ryan Flaherty drew a walk on four straight pitches from Toronto starter Darren McGowan, followed by a an infield single by Jonathan Schoop, and David Lough being hit by a pitch – loading the bases with nobody down. Following a Markakis infield fly, Nelson Cruz came back to the plate – this time
with the bases loaded. Cruz hit a shot that might have made it to Greenland had it not landed in one of the upper levels of Rogers Centre, and suddenly the O’s had gone from trailing big to have an 8-6 lead.
If Nelson Cruz hadn’t already “come out” as a member of the Orioles, this was his “coming out party.” However a three-run lead at Rogers Centre isn’t necessarily safe, as the ball can often take funny hops in the outfield. Ryan Goins got one back for Toronto in the last of the sixth with a home run, however Matt Wieters‘ solo homer put the lead back at three…only to have it go back down to two in the last of the seventh on a Josh Thole RBI-single. However…enough is enough, and ten runs was enough to lift the O’s to victory north of the border last night.
The main storyline here of course is Nelson Cruz’s night at the plate, but there were plenty of other newsworthy things as well. Matt Wieters had a three-hit night, and from the middle innings on the Orioles seemed to be very patient at the plate. The Orioles of course needed to use four different relievers to win this game, however as much as Tillman struggled early anytime you can come back and get a win of that magnitude for your starting pitcher is a good day. Jonathan Schoop has also turned into a doubles machine of sorts, as it seems that he’s finding himself at second base after various at-bats. That ends up being a fairly powerful tool to have at one’s disposal at the bottom of the lineup, which is where Buck Showalter‘s batting him
The series in Toronto culminates tonight, with Bud Norris on the mound for the Orioles. He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Drew Hutchinson. If the Orioles can win tonight, they’ll have concluded perhaps the most grueling part of their schedule with a .500-plus record, as the as all but three of the Orioles’ games thus far have been against AL East opponents.