“Fighting Showalters” strike Orioles’ Magic once again


It’s amazing to me how often we forget life lessons that we learned as kids. We were all taught at a young age never to give up, and that it’s not over until it’s over. So admit it…how many people turned off last night’s game when the O’s were down 5-0 or 7-2? Let’s put it this way; I suspect that Thrasher’s fries in Ocean City had long lines because people that were previously watching the game decided to head out to the boardwalk instead! Keep in mind however that not every game is going to end up like this…just because the Orioles get beaten by someone doesn’t mean that they didn’t play to the final out. But in a case like last night’s game, it’s just so glaringly obvious.

Zach Britton struggled from the beginning of the game, allowing a base runner by committing an error on the first batter. Britton’s line: 5 IP, 8 H,  7 R (4 earned), 2 BB, 6 K. The one positive point for Britton was those six strikeouts, as he did settle down a bit after the first two innings before losing it in the fifth again. Britton was having a difficult time locating his two-seamer, which is what led to the Orioles optioning him back to Norfolk after the game. The likes of Matusz and Arrieta were probably given longer leashes than Britton earlier in the year; however at this point the Orioles don’t have the liberty of having that kind of patience given that they’re in a full-fledged pennant race.

Matt Wieters smacked two solo homers to keep the Orioles close, but ultimately they trailed 7-2 going into the last of the 7th. But these are the “Fighting Showalters” folks, they don’t give up. And incidentally, that’s why Buck Showalter should be manager of the year. Previous installments of the Orioles would have thrown in the towel after being down 5-0 in the second inning. Not the Fighting Showalters. Mark Reynolds led off the 7th with a double, and later scored on Omar Quintanilla’s infield single (bringing the Orioles to within 7-4. After a Nick Markakis single J.J. Hardy officially cajoled the Fighting Showalters back into the ballgame with a three-run homer, tying the game at seven.

Obviously the O’s didn’t get deep into the game with their starter to begin with, however one issue with a game that gets as far as 14 innings is that teams could run out of pitchers. In the 13th inning Jim Johnson was the only guy left in the Orioles’ bullpen, and he actually had to go out there to begin with. Johnson was only available to pitch in an emergency last night after pitching in three straight games, and he spent most of the game in the dugout. As the extra frames progressed Buck Showalter was forced to send tonight’s scheduled starter, Tommy Hunter, out to the ‘pen to warm up. (Presumably Hunter would have entered the game before they would have wanted to use Johnson.) The good news for the Fighting Showalters was that in the last of the 14th that Oriole Magic started to manifest itself again. With two runners on and nobody out, J.J. Hardy sacrificed bunted both runners into scoring position. Chris Davis was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing Adam Jones to the plate…

…prime time players make prime time plays, as I said the other day. Adam Jones is a prime time player, and thus he didn’t disappoint. Remember that big contract he was given earlier in the year? He showed he was worth the money last night, as he sent a line drive to right field which got in for a base hit, scoring Omar Quintanilla, and sending Baltimore into a midnight frenzy with a dramatic walk off win.

Going back to the personnel situation again, Britton was optioned afterwards and Steve Johnson was called back up. He’ll make his first big league start tonight in the series finale against Seattle because Tommy Hunter was forced to warm up in the bullpen last night (Hunter will be available in relief). According to Roch Kubatko of masnsports.com, Ryan Flaherty will possibly head to the DL as well with – get this – tonsillitis. So the Birds might need to make a second roster move prior to tonight’s game. Given that Flaherty hasn’t seen the field in quite some time, I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought up a reliever since the bullpen was taxed so hard last night. As we already know, Johnson is the son of former Oriole and current MASN/WBAL analyst Dave Johnson. He’ll be taxed with giving the Orioles a quality start as they go for a series sweep of Seattle. He’ll be opposed by former Oriole Kevin Millwood, who’s 4-9 on the season with a 4.01 ERA. Similar to his year in Baltimore, he’s been a hard-luck loser on several occasions.

There’s really not much more that can be said about this game short of using every cliche’ in the book. This Baltimore Oriole team doesn’t give up, and there’s no question that’s due to the influence of Buck Showalter. As we get deeper and deeper into the playoff push, that skill will do them well. Let us not forget that this team played playoff caliber baseball at the end of last season. They also showed they could do it last night by overcoming huge odds. Does this charade end with the Orioles playing into October? We’re still a long ways away from answering that question, but it is worth mentioning that the Fighting Showalters picked up a game on NY (who lost at Detroit) last night, and they now trail in the AL East by 4.5 games. That means they’re the first loser, right? Well…not really; if the season ended today the Fighting Showalters would be the final wild card team.

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