Baltimore Orioles: The day that “Who” was pitching


I’m not really going to talk too much about the Orioles sweeping the Boston Red Sox for the first time (at Fenway Park) since June of 1994. The result speaks for itself quite frankly. I’m not even overly focused on the Orioles blowing a 5-0 lead today, or Tommy Hunter only going 4.1 innings this afternoon. It’s really not overly important. With that said, remember Abbot & Costello’s classic slapstick routine “Who’s on First?” We all know the first baseman’s name was “Who,” and that in the latter part of the routine we find out that the pitcher’s name is “Tomorrow.” Costello asks “who’s pitching,” and Abbot angrily responds “who’s NOT pitching!”

In a game that started in the afternoon sun and finished in the twilight of evening, “Who” actually found a way to pitch. With the score knotted at six, the O’s and Red Sox went to extra innings. Without going into unecessary details, the Orioles ran out of pitchers. Closer Jim Johnson pitched the 14th and 15th innings, giving Buck Showalter a decision to make. He could either put Johnson back out there for another inning, utilize a starting pitcher, or bring in a position player to pitch. At the time, my opinion was to go ahead and burn a starting pitcher. As MASN’s Gary Thorne said at one point, the O’s had an off day on Thursday so if they utilized Brian Matusz (Monday’s scheduled starter) as a reliever, Jake Arrieta would in theory pitch tomorrow on normal rest (depending upon when he threw his side session.) In fact, MASN cameras caught Matusz hanging out in the ‘pen at one point. However come the last of the 16th, it was…Chris Davis (a position player) who came in to pitch.

Davis was the DH today, however he’s the Orioles’ everyday first baseman. (So for my money, “Who” pitched!) One might look at that as Buck Showalter in effect waving the white flag. It’s certainly something that one would think would not be conducive to winning a game, however it was a necessary evil today. From my perspective, I saw it as being willing to do anything to win a game. And here’s the best part: Davis was good! He struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and got Middlebrooks to fly out before Marlon Byrd reached base on a Wilson Betemit error. After Aviles sent a deep ball to the wall in left, Endy Chavez got the ball in to J.J. Hardy, who relayed the ball home to Matt Wieters to nail Byrd at the plate.

Boston was really hoping that they would win the game on that play, because they had pitching problems of their own. Bobby Valentine tapped outfielder Darnell McDonald to pitch in the 17th. If Chris Davis was the Egg McMuffin of position players pitching, McDonald was everything but. (Yeah that was corny, but it’s been a crazy day!) With two on and one out, Adam Jones sent a McDonald meatball (or McNugget) over the monster in left to give the Birds a 9-6 lead. (There is a certain “our position player pitcher is better than your position player pitcher” factor to this.) The Orioles had killed Red Sox pitching all weekend, why not continue the trend with the newest addition to the staff?

As good as Davis was, the concern of course is that he still has to get three outs before Boston scored three or four runs. (And don’t get me started on what could have happened had Boston just tied the score and not won it outright!) Some of those fears seemed to be coming true as Mike Sweeney hit an infield single and Dustin Pedroia walked to lead off the inning. However Adrian Gonzalez struck out on a pretty solid Chris Davis slider, and Davis’ counterpart Darnell McDonald grounded into a double-play to end the game.

First off…wow; pretty unbelievable set of circumstances! In an interview with MASN after the game, Davis said that he “didn’t really know what he was doing” out there. That has to make the Red Sox feel good. Davis said that he had briefly pitched in college, which I suppose is why in the back of Buck Showalter’s head he was the guy he wanted to tap to pitch. Davis appeared to have a certain “deer in the headlights” look to him on the mound, and one really can’t blame him. In getting the win, Davis became the first position player to earn a victory in an American League game since Rocky Colavito did it for the Yankees in 1968.

The only thing of concern for the O’s of course is that they don’t have a day off in sight, and they have to be dead tired going home to play the Texas Rangers. You have to hope that this doesn’t turn into a “won the battle but lost the war” situation whereby the O’s go into a bit of a funk due to fatigue. However they appear to be playing on sheer momentum to a certain point, because any team that can come back and win a game like that with a position player ending up as the winning pitcher has a certain moxie about them. The pressure of course is now on Brian Matusz to go deep into tomorrow’s game with Texas at Camden Yards so as to save the bullpen a bit. But in the spirit of taking one game at a time, the O’s had to do what they had to do in order to win. Incidentally did I mention that the O’s swept the BoSox at Fenway this weekend, and are in first place in the AL East?!

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala