Orioles walk off in “grand” style


When Adam Jones singled off the right field scoreboard at Camden Yards last night, many people rightfully assumed that the Baltimore Orioles had won. However Nick Markakis was held up at third, putting the O’s in a bases loaded situation with nobody out in the last of the 10th. Tampa manager Joe Maddon decided to appeal to pretty much every base thinking that someone had missed one at some point. Replays indicated that he may have been right. However when the likes of Matt Wieters hits a walk off home run on the next pitch, it turns into a moot issue. Certainly had either Jones or Manny Machado been called out the walk off homer wouldn’t have been a walk off grand slam, however in extra innings all the home team needs is one.

Miguel Gonzalez became the latest Orioles starter to struggle, however as manager Buck Showalter pointed out afterward Gonzalez fought through his command issues. Gonzalez’s line: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 earned), 2 BB, 1 K. Gonzalez  also became the third Orioles pitcher in a row to give up a first inning solo home run, this one to Dan Jennings. He also gave one up to Evan Longoria in that first inning, putting the Orioles down 2-0 early on. However Tampa starter David Price wasn’t exactly in control either, although he was given the early lead.

With Tampa leading 3-1 in the last of the second Nolan Reimold’s two-run homer tied the game at three, also acting as a harbinger of things to come. Tampa would reclaim the lead in the third on a J.J. Hardy throwing error, only to have Alexi Casilla score on Manny Machado’s RBI-double in the fifth. In this game just when you thought one team had the lead for good, the other one struck back. A Molina solo homer in the sixth inning gave Tampa the lead back again at 5-4. Again, we’re talking about two teams here that typify the whole “play ’till the final out” mentality. Last year we talked about that so often to the point to where fans started to almost pick fun at it. However would fans rather that the team gave up being down 3-0 early?

Steve Pearce picked a great time to get his first hit of 2013, breaking out of an 0-for-15 slump. Following a J.J. Hardy double in the last of the seventh, Pearce hit an elevated fastball over the left field fence for a home run, giving the Orioles their first lead of the night at 6-5. However immediately following that in the top of the eighth, Oriole-killer James Loney decided to deposit a pitch in the seats as well, tying the game at 6. And there we stood, tied. It’s worth mentioning that relievers Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day (despite giving up the Loney homer), Jim Johnson, and Troy Patton got some key outs for the Orioles late in the game. It’s also worth mentioning that the O’s left what ended up being a key run on base in a fairly sloppy manner. On Manny Machado’s RBI-double back in the fifth Nick Markakis ended up in a two-out rundown at third base. Replays were inconclusive as to whether or not Markakis was actually watching third base coach Bobby Dickerson, but what was clear was that Dickerson was waving Markakis home…until the very last moment when he put up the stop sign. But by that time Markakis had made his turn and was caught in no-man’s land.

Courtesy of Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The issue isn’t quite as magnified in the wake of this game because the Orioles won it, however they’re still having problems with starters going deep into games. Miguel Gonzalez, to his credit, is the first one to admit that 5.2 innings probably won’t cut it once we get into the grind of the summer. However Showalter also pointed out in his post game presser that part of that is also Tampa’s doing. Again like the Orioles, they don’t give up; they’re also very good at fouling pitches off and working counts, which drives up pitch counts. (Remember Tuesday night when Chris Tillman was forced into a 12-pitch at-bat on the second hitter?) It’s also worth mentioning that most AL East teams are good at working counts in that manner, and as I said yesterday 12 of the Orioles’ first 15 games have been division games.

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The victory gave the Orioles a series win, as they took two-of-three from Tampa. The Orioles intended to play some small-ball in that last of the tenth when Manny Machado bunted following a Markakis lead off single. However Machado’s bunt hugged the first base line, and by the time Tampa realized it wasn’t going foul Machado was safe at first. Obviously people will remember the Wieters walk off grand slam more than anything else (and rightfully so), however that bunt turned the inning and the game into what it ended up being. That’s one huge advantage to being the home team in an extra inning game; you have the option of playing small-ball because all you need is that one run to win the game.

The LA Dodgers make only their second visit to Oriole Park in it’s history, and their third overall visit to Baltimore if you count the 1966 World Series. These interleague series’ are supposed to be for the fans, but this one is really intriguing given the fact that these two teams rarely see each other. Los Angeles comes in struggling, having just been swept at home by San Diego. They’ll face Jason Hammel of the Orioles tonight, who’ll be opposed by Hyun-Jin Ryu. It’s the old Oriole Way against Dodger Blue this weekend at the yard.