It always feels good to be home after coming back from a long road trip; but if results mean anything the Baltimore Orioles are really stressing that point. The Birds ended up exorcising the demons of being swept in Chicago over the weekend in one fatal swoop with a 9-1 victory over Tampa at home. Chris Tillman was dominant from the beginning, and Oriole pitching overall allowed only four hits. Tillman’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K.
Ironically, at first it appeared that the Orioles’ struggles might continue. With one on in the third, Jonathan Schoop bobbled a potential double-play ball to allow runners to go to first and third with nobody down. The Orioles would later record a double-play, but that also allowed the run to score putting the Birds in a 1-0 hole. But that’s where the competitive portion of the game from Tampa’s standpoint ended.
Schoop led off the last of the inning with a base hit, and Nick Markakis broke out of an 0-for-21 slump with a two-run homer to give the Orioles the lead. Steve Pearce would immediately follow suit with a solo homer, and the Birds suddenly led 3-1. But that was only an appetizer. Nelson Cruz would reach on an error in the fifth, which also allowed Steve Pearce to score which ran the tally to 4-1. At that point you figure the game’s still manageable from Tampa’s standpoint – that is until Delmon Young all but ended it with a three-run homer to give the O’s a 7-1 lead.
J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis would both follow suit with solo shots in succession, giving the Orioles back-to-back-to-back homers for the first time since May of 2012. When the smoke cleared at the end of the inning, Tampa looked shell-shocked to say the least. Keep in mind that they’re a team that’s fairly skilled at making opponents play their game, which is tacking on a run here and there. And generally, they’re pretty good about scoring just as they did in the third inning – off of someone’s mistake. But what they aren’t used to is their opponent coming out and bludgeoning them like that in one fatal swoop. For one night at least, the Orioles made Tampa play their game on their terms.Ironically, this blowout win will be remembered for a defensive play more than anything else. Adam Jones turned in perhaps the defensive play of the year in the sixth inning. With two on and nobody out Evan Longoria sent a deep shot to center field.
Adam Jones tracked the ball, lept, and…climbed the wall to bring the ball back into the ballpark. On top of that, he managed to throw the ball back into second base to double up Matt Joyce who thought the ball was over the fence. So what probably should have been a three-run home run turned into a double-play and a gold glove caliber catch. That was the highlight of the game, and it might well have been the defensive highlight of the year for the Orioles.
The series will continue tonight with Wei-Yin Chen taking the ball for the Orioles. He’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Alex Cobb. Runs could be at a premium tonight, however one could have also said that going into last night’s game. I suppose it’s really a matter of whether or not Oriole bats stay hot. Game time is just after 7 PM.