Night of firsts for the O’s as they pull into 1st place in the AL East
The Orioles are now 5-1, sitting atop the AL East, in which the Yankees and Blue Jays are tied for second at 4-2 and the Rays and Red Sox (yes you read that right, the Red Sox) are tied for last place at 0-6 (don’t feel guilty for smiling at that one!). In the rubber match against the Tigers, the O’s win big 9-5 as they have their best showing of the season so far.
Every aspect of the team was completely on their game tonight. Although Chris Tillman only lasted 4 2/3 innings, he was not terrible. The first inning was very tough for him, he gave up 2 runs and threw a ton of pitches (13 for one at-bat), but he got out of it eventually. He settled down for the next few innings and really seemed to be going back to the pitcher he was for his first outing against the Rays (6 hitless innings). In the 4th, he had thrown 75 pitches and gave up a home run to Avila, who had a 5 RBI night last night, to allow the Tigers to go up 4-2. Though he wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t in for long. The Orioles cannot afford their starting pitchers to only go a few innings (Bergesen 3 2/3, Tillman 4 2/3). Starting pitching is SO important and we need more quality starts like we had against the Rays.
On that note, the bullpen did pretty well. Accardo came in for 1 2/3 and gave up a hit and a run, but most surprising to me was Jim Johnson. I’ve let on that I really do not like him. He scares me every time he comes out and usually for good reason. But not tonight. He was on fire tonight, striking out 3 and only giving up one hit in 1 2/3 innings. That’s not a long outing, but he delivered. Finally, Koji Uehara came in giving up no hits and striking out one in the ninth (by this time the O’s were up by 4).
Onto the defense, I just want to point out one really interesting play that happened in the outfield. I don’t remember who hit it for the Tigers, but a long pop fly was hit into right center field. Adam Jones ran to it, a long run for him, and (luckily) Nick Markakis followed as well. Jones tried to catch it but it bounced off the heel of his glove, so he tried to catch it again, but it bounced off again, another time he tried to get control of the ball when it bounced off again. But there was Markakis to make the catch against the wall for the out. It was a great play and great teamwork on Jones’ and Markakis’ parts. It did look like the ball bounced off the back wall in the slow motion replay shown on TV and the Tigers argued this; however, the umpire made the call that it was an out and that’s that.
The offense wowed me! In the second, Vladimir Guerrero hit a solo home run, his first as an Oriole. Following this, Adam Jones made a perfect bunt down the left field line and then Mark Reynolds singled to score Jones to tie it up at 2-2. In the 6th inning, Luuuuke gets his first hit of the season, a double. Following him, Adam Jones hits his first home run of the season to again tie the score at 4. The 7th inning rolls around and so do the hits! Guerrero gets another RBI off a single followed by Jones hitting a sac fly RBI. Then, on a 3-2 pitch with 2 outs, Mark Reynolds hits a 2 RBI double (I thought for sure he was striking out). Finally, the last first I want to point out, Cesar Izturis got his first RBI of the season.
That’s a lot of offense! The O’s showed tonight that every batter, 1 through 9, can get on base and do damage. The only batters not getting on base tonight was Matt Wieters, but he’s been excellent so far so it’s ok for him to have an off night, and Derrek Lee, who hit a home run last night. In addition, the middle of the order has finally heated up. Guerrero was 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs. Scott was 1 for 3 with a walk and a run. And Jones had a huge night going 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored and 3 RBIs. At the 7 spot, Reynolds went 2 for 3 with with a run and 3 RBIs. The top of the order still performed as well, with Roberts going 2 for 5 with a run scored and Markakis getting 2 walks and scoring a run.
I know that’s a lot of statistical info for you BUT I feel it’s important in order to get my point across. In the first few innings, I was worried that the Orioles were going back to their old ways. That the pitching was only superb for that first week for some unknown reason and that they were going to be moving back to be cellar dwellers in the division. But, as the game went on, my optimism and confidence in the team this year is at its highest point so far. Tonight’s game was the best they’ve played to date this season because, like I said, it was the most well-rounded game to date.
Coming off a high note, the O’s take on the red-hot and undefeated Texas Rangers tomorrow night in a weekend series at Camden Yards. I have to say I’ll be happy with 1 win out of this series but obviously winning it is ideal. This team has shown to be the best so far, so the O’s definitely need to show that they can beat the best. Look for a series preview coming tomorrow.
Sorry for the long post, I just had a lot to say about this one! Oh and let me remind you: the Red Sox are 0-6. The Orioles are 5-1. The world is finally right again 🙂