Orioles overcome themselves to pickup a key win


If first impressions mean anything, Freddy Garcia will probably be with the Baltimore Orioles as long as he wants to. Granted Buck Showalter pulled the plug on Garcia before he could truly get into any trouble (following a Mark Trumbo two-run homer), however Garcia was spectacular for six innings plus. Normally I try not to use such strong adjectives, however what more can you say about someone that flirted with a no-hitter for that span of time? Garcia’s line: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K. Garcia obviously is a 36-year old journeyman who’s trying to resurrect his career and the O’s are giving him a shot. Again if a first impression means anything, he seems to be soaking up that chance.

The Birds got what appears to be some good news about Chris Davis‘ knee just prior to the game, as GM Dan Duquette said that he doesn’t believe Davis will need to go to the DL. Orioles’ physicians will read the MRI (which was conducted yesterday morning) in full on tomorrow’s off day, however Davis was feeling much better yesterday morning. The got off to an early lead when Manny Machado launched a home run in the first inning of yesterday’s game. The Orioles seemed to have guys on base throughout starter Tommy Hanson‘s time in the game, and perhaps more embarrassingly (to Hanson) they seemed to run at will. As good as Garcia was, Hanson seemingly couldn’t find the strike zone. His pitches seemed to tail off to the third base side of home plate, and Oriole hitters were more than happy to take pitches (which is a good sign).

One of the underlying game stories was that through nine innings the O’s were 0-for-10 with runners-in-scoring-position, and they left eight men on base. They were getting guys on base against Hanson, they just couldn’t drive them home. J.J. Hardy added to the Orioles’ lead in the second with a solo home run, Nolan Reimold scored Manny Machado with a sac fly in the fifth, and then hit another solo homer in the seventh. The Orioles led 4-0, and Garcia was cruising…so quickly in fact that suddenly he was throwing a no-hitter in the sixth. The thing that struck me the most about Garcia’s outing was how he was getting his off-speed and breaking pitches over for strikes. The ball must really have been coming off his hand tightly given that those pitches were freezing the Anaheim hitters.

Alex Aybar broke up the no-hit bid in the seventh with a base hit, and then Trumbo’s aforementioned homer cut the Orioles’ lead to 4-2. However Anaheim rallied again in the last of the eighth, starting with a bunt single against the shift in by Hank Conger. That’s the best way to defend against the shift as a hitter, and Conger did it perfectly. Darren O’Day uncharacteristically struggled in the eighth, surrendering two runs (which tied the game at four) and at one point throwing eight consecutive balls. I was a little surprised that Buck Showalter left O’Day in to complete the eighth inning with his struggles, as Brian Matusz appeared to be ready in the Orioles’ pen. However after Mike Trout‘s RBI-single that tied the game (and non-decisioning Garcia who pitched his tail off), O’Day struck out Albert Pujols to end the threat.

Tommy Hunter pitched the last of the ninth, and he promptly walked Mark Trumbo. However with a 2-2 count on Alberto Callaspo Trumbo got greedy and tried to steal. While starting catcher Matt Wieters was on the bench yesterday, Chris Snyder did his best Wieters impression and gunned Trumbo down at second. That’s a play that will go largely unremembered in the overall game story, however make no mistake about the fact that it was huge. When you’re in the last of the ninth or in extras and you erase a base runner like that, you’ve potentially saved the game.

Courtesy of Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the top of the tenth we saw another big play that won’t be remembered. Following a lead off single by Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold grounded into what appeared to be a double-play. However Jones slid hard into second causing just a bit of hesitation on the part of the second baseman, turning a double-play into a fielder’s choice. Reimold would move to second on a ground out, and would then score on Steve Pearce‘s RBI-single. With Jim Johnson on for the save, Alex Aybar grounded out to record the final out in the tenth, and the O’s had a 5-4 extra-innings win in which they battled their own demons…and won.

This was a huge win for the Birds because one would have had to wonder where the team was psychologically had they lost after leading most of the way. It also showed that this team is about as resilient as they come; with Davis out of the lineup with an injury, it was his replacement at first base (Steve Pearce) who drove in the winning run. Perhaps had Davis been in the lineup he would have hit another homer earlier in the game off of Hanson (who was serving it up to everyone it seemed) and this wouldn’t have even been an issue, however the fact is that the Birds managed to fight themselves and the Angels off and find a way to win under adverse conditions. The 0-for-10 clip with RISP is concerning, however if they were only going to hit once with a runner in scoring position, Pearce picked the right time to do it.

The O’s have already guaranteed themselves a winning road trip by winning yesterday, however they’ll attempt to make it a winning road trip at 7-4 with a win this afternoon which would also give them three-of-four in LA. They’ll have Jason Hammel on the mound this afternoon, and he’ll be opposed by Jerome Williams (who’s making his first start of 2013).