Perhaps the Baltimore Orioles set the tone for the night in the last of the first when Toronto tried to be slick and sent Melky Cabrera from third on Edwin Encarnacion‘s long single. David Lough relayed the ball to J.J. Hardy, who threw Encarnacion out at the plate (with Matt Wieters applying then tag). Or maybe it was Bud Norris settling down after a rough second inning, which included a solo homer by Dioneer Navarro and a two-run homer by Colby Rasmus. However either way the Birds were able to settle things down after a rough second inning, and came on late to claim a key AL East division victory.
The second inning was similar to Wednesday’s second inning in that Toronto got ahead and seemingly appeared ready to bury the Orioles. Norris’ pitches started to miss, although he quickly regained his composure. Norris’ line: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K. Norris also appeared to experience some discomfort in his hamstring in the fourth inning, however he was able to stay in the game. However one key to this win for the O’s was that Norris was able to adjust and right himself, all of course while knowing that with the potent bats up and down the lineup he was never out of the game. Jonathan Schoop began the comeback in the fifth with a solo homer to left that hopped out of the park, which was followed later in the inning by a Chris Davis RBI-single.
So with that the Baltimore Orioles found themselves down by only one, and in the process they picked up their bats where they had left off the night before. Chris Davis gave the O’s the lead for good in the top of the seventh with his two-RBI single in the top of the seventh. However the fact is that in a park such as Rogers Centre, a one-run lead isn’t necessarily safe. (For the record, a one-run lead is NEVER safe in ANY park.) So in the spirit of insurance Adam Jones and Matt Wieters each added RBI-singles, and the Orioles led 7-3 after seven.
However the Baltimore Orioles weren’t done – yet. With the bases loaded in the top of the eighth once again, Nelson Cruz‘s two-RBI single put nine runs on the board for the Birds. Adam Jones would add a second two-RBI single in the inning, and Toronto would tack one on in the last of the eighth to run the final score to 11-4. However as great as the offense was, make no mistake about the fact that Bud Norris was the partial reason that the O’s won this game.
Similar to Chris Tillman the night before, Norris didn’t panic following an inning in which he struggled. And ultimately he ended up tossing a quality start for the Birds, something that they sorely needed. Many other pitchers would have hit the panic button and ended up making things worse, and furthermore many other managers would have probably yanked Norris before he had a shot at righting himself.
Obviously Oriole bats came alive in the last two games of the series, which stands in a complimentary light to the starting pitcher struggling and then later finding himself. The O’s seemed destined to be run out of the park last night, but they strung together good at-bats to come back and take the lead late in the two games they won in Toronto. The one that crops up into my mind right away is Chris Davis’ aforementioned RBI-single, in which he placed the ball right between the Toronto infielders who were playing a shift. If the Birds can start hitting against the shift, they’ll really start becoming a potent team.
The Orioles now stand at 11-10, and in second place in the AL East (leap-frogging Toronto in the standings). They’ve gone through perhaps the toughest part of their schedule, in which they played 19 of their first 21 games in the division. This is not to say that playing teams such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh is going to be easy, but…it could in theory be a bit easier than playing Boston, NY, et al, on a nightly basis. The Baltimore Orioles now return home tonight to open up a five-game homestand. They’ll open up by hosting the Royals at Camden Yards for the weekend, with Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound tonight for the Birds – who’s coming off of a very decent start on Sunday night in Boston. Jimenez will be opposed by Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura.