With last night’s 5-3 victory over Kansas City, the Baltimore Orioles have now won eight series’ (out of eleven) in 2013. That should vouch for a lot in terms of the attitude and skill of this team. Over time one of the main issues with which Orioles fans have had with this team has been that they’ve been unable to close out series sweeps; that’s a good problem to have. For what it’s worth (and nobody should be scoreboard/standings-watching at this point for the most part), the win last night put the Orioles in first place in the AL East. If you want to be technical I suppose they’re tied with Boston, but thus far the Orioles win head-to-head, thus they would in theory win the tie-breaker. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
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Chris Tillman pitched a fairly solid six innings, although he did give up two homers. Tillman’s line: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 2 K. Tillman was lifted after the sixth in favor of Troy Patton due to a bit of a high pitch count (93 pitches). Some might argue that he could have come back out to at least begin the seventh, however keep in mind that Buck Showalter‘s been caught a couple of times this year with a starter who’s suddenly lost it due to fatigue (in trying to extend them one more inning or so) and the bullpen’s had to scramble to get ready. Tillman surrendered a homer to Mike Moustakas and later a two-run shot to Alex Gordon. However overall it goes down as another quality start for Tillman and another quality start for the Orioles’ pitching staff.
Matt Wieters led off the last of the second with a single, and was followed by J.J. Hardy who promptly sent a 1-1 pitch curling around the left field foul pole for a two-run homer. Kansas City had a bit of a defensive meltdown in the fifth inning, which gift-wrapped the Orioles three extra runs. Following a Chris Dickerson double, Nate McLouth reached base on a fielder’s choice and an error (the latter of which allowed Dickerson to go to third). Manny Machado then singled Dickerson home, and promptly stole second base to move two runners into scoring position with McLouth at third. Two errors and a wild pitch later, and the Orioles had two more runs plated.
A lot of people might argue that the Orioles only won this game due to Kansas City’s sloppy play. First off, keep in mind that baseball’s a sport that’s based on failure; whomever fails the least is going to win. However many of those mistakes don’t occur if the Orioles don’t push the envelope. The O’s were very aggressive on the base paths in game one of this series as well as last night. That makes a difference in terms of how a team sets up it’s defense, and it also might well force them into mistakes because the defenders think that they absolutely have to make a perfectly timed throw. Two of those three fifth inning runs were in fact unearned, so if you take those two runs away it’s a tie game (all other things being equal of course). But if a good pitcher minimizes the damage when he gets in trouble (which incidentally is exactly what Chris Tillman did last night), a good team will also not let their opponent off the hook when they falter.
The O’s will go for the series sweep in the finale of this series with Kansas City as well as this brief homestand. (I’m sure the O’s are thrilled to have been on the west coast for eleven games only to get a token three home games before heading back out on the road, but luckily it’s only a three-game road swing in Minnesota.) Former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie will make his first start against the O’s since being traded to Colorado last year. In fact, it’s his first career start overall against the O’s. Freddy Garcia will make his Camden Yards debut for the O’s, of course coming off of his sparkling outing last Saturday in Anaheim that included a no-hit bid.
Buck Showalter also said yesterday that Miguel Gonzalez is penciled in to start Saturday in Minnesota, however that’s potentially in limbo depending on how his right hand is fairing after having a blister issue last week. If necessary, Gonzalez could be sent to the DL which would require the Birds to make a roster move and call someone up from the minors. They could also opt to use a pitcher already on the roster (out of the bullpen), but that all remains to be seen.