The run of consecutive quality starts for the Baltimore Orioles has now run to six after Bud Norris turned in yet another one in yesterday’s 3-2 win over Toronto. Norris’ line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. Norris has very quietly become a stalwart out on the mound for the Birds, who are starting to do just enough to win although they’re still missing the big hit in many situations. Many skeptics are quick to point out that Oriole pitchers are barely qualifying for quality starts – Norris only pitched two outs past the necessary six innings. However throwing a quality start and then turning it over to the bullpen is how this game is supposed to work.
Bud Norris did run into a bit of trouble in the second inning, however he minimized the damage and pitched out of it. Following two singles and a strikeout to start the inning (leaving runners at the corners) Norris loaded the bases by hitting Brett Lawrie with a pitch. He then walked in a run when Josh Thole drew a walk, and the Birds trailed 1-0. However Norris struck the next batter out and induced a ground out to end the threat. If you’re Norris in that situation certainly the bases were loaded and a run scored due to you, however you were also able to pitch out of the situation and minimize the damage.
The Orioles continued to get runners on base, however they couldn’t bring them home. Then in the last of the fourth Delmon Young and Ryan Flaherty hit back-to-back singles, putting runners at the corners. Nick Hundley hit a sacrifice fly to center, which allowed Young to tag up at third base and score to tie the game at one.
With one out an inning later, Adam Jones reached second base on a Juan Francisco error. He also in effect shoved first base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt onto his backside when he blocked Jones’ path between first and second. The replays of the “collision” didn’t look very becoming of Jones, however the umpire was definitely in the way and probably in a spot he shouldn’t have been. (And for the record Jones also apologized to Wendelstedt, who didn’t seem to bear any sort of grudge towards Jones or the Orioles.) That aside, Chris Davis came to the plate following Jones, and he promptly and soundly gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead with a two-run
homer into the Orioles’ bullpen.
With one out and Bautista on second base in the eighth, Toronto appeared to have brought themselves to within one on Juan Encarnacion‘s double. However Nelson Cruz relayed the ball quickly into J.J. Hardy, who threw home; catcher Nick Hundley applied the tag on Bautista, who was called out at home plate. Bautista immediately called for manager John Gibbons to challenge the play, however the umpires independently decided to review it. It was definitely a bang-bang play, and in my opinion one in which the call on the field should not have been overturned (regardless of whether it was safe or out).
And that’s exactly how it went down, with the umpires upholding the out call. However as we found out moments after the call was confirmed, the umpires were actually reviewing the collision rule, ensuring that Hundley wasn’t blocking the plate (which is now not allowed unless he has the ball). Replays seemed to back up the fact that he was not, and as I said above whether or not Bautista beat the throw or not was too close to overturn the call.
Toronto would push a run across anyways later in the inning as Lawrie’s RBI-single would score Encarnacion. That really shows what a key moment that play involving Bautista was, as all things being the same the game would have been tied. J.J. Hardy was the unsung hero of the day in that sense, as he knew Bautista wasn’t the best runner in the world and he called for the ball from Nelson Cruz because he knew he had a shot of nailing Bautista at home plate. Hardy threw a perfect strike home, and the O’s were able to take a lead into the ninth inning.
Zach Britton was credited with the save, as he recorded a strikeout, a walk, and a double-play to end the game. With the win and the New York loss last night in Oakland, the Birds moved back into second place and within 3.5 games of Toronto. If they’re able to win today, they would only be 2.5 games back. However that’s largely contingent on Chris Tillman continuing the trend of quality starts this afternoon. Tillman was a hard-luck loser in his previous start, a 1-0 loss to Boston. He’s hoping for a bit more run support this afternoon, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s J.A. Happ.