There was a decidedly different look in the eyes of the Baltimore Orioles last night than there had been the first two nights against Tampa. They appeared more determined, and even a bit more calm. In contrast, this seemed to affect Tampa a bit; they appeared used to keeping their opponents on their heels with their quirky movements and their ability to respond to almost anything. While the road did become tougher for the Birds with Tampa taking two-of-three, make no mistake about the fact that winning last night’s game was an important step for the Orioles. It gives them a bit of momentum going into this weekend’s equally as important series with Oakland, and it gives them a blueprint on how to defeat Tampa when they head to Tropicana Field next month.
Wei-Yin Chen finally got a game in which he pitched well and the offense put up enough runs to win. Chen’s line: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K. The two runs that Chen gave up were solo homers, and you’ll take your chances in general giving up two runs in that manner. That in and of itself seemed to throw Tampa off their game; they’re used to manufacturing runs and in effect jumping on teams when they make mistakes. The mistakes that the Orioles made last night which yielded base runners were easily covered up by the Birds, who played the part of the more determined club as opposed to Tampa this time around. I do intend to look at this Tampa Rays team in the off season and try to determine how they’ve been able to be so successful, however in short the fact is that they don’t have the power of other AL East teams. They win games by throwing together walks, singles, doubles, sacrifices, etc. When you don’t allow them to do that, they seem to struggle given that they don’t have too much power.
The O’s jumped on Tampa starter Jeremy Hellickson early on by loading the bases with nobody out. Adam Jones reached base on a force out at third that scored Nate McLouth and the Orioles had an early lead. Buck Showalter then surprised Tampa by calling for a double steal that successfully sent Chris Davis to third and Adam Jones to second, allowing Matt Wieters to sacrifice Davis home on a long fly ball out to center. Many fans will grouse about this given that they had the bags juiced and they only scored two runs in that sequence. Keep in mind first off that the effect may not be quite as dramatic however it’s in effect the same as a two-RBI single. Had that occurred we’d be talking about how “clutch” of a hit that was. Instead, we’re talking about how they only put across two runs. As I said, the effect is exactly the same. That still means that the opponent has to score at least three to beat you.
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As always seems to be the case, Tampa had an answer for everything the Orioles did. Jason Bourgeois sent a line drive homer to left field to cut the Orioles’ lead in half at 2-1. However it was Adam Jones who had a response in turn for Tampa, as his deep shot to center ended up in the Camden Yards sod farm and gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead. Again however, Tampa responded; this time Sean Rodriguez homered – another line drive that cleared the wall. However the Birds were not to be denied this time. Part of how teams like Tampa “get you” is by creeping back into the games and then suddenly it all snowballs on you. The Orioles never really allowed those homers to get to them. They also ran through Tampa relievers left and right, never allowing them to get into a rythmn. However Chris Davis sent a deep shot to right field that I felt at first had a chance to hit the warehouse. The ball merely landed on Eutaw St, but it gave the O’s 4-2 lead.
Tampa tried every trick in the book to win this game, but the O’s would have none of it. With two outs in the ninth, Joe Maddon mortgaged the entire game in a sense when Kelly Johnson attempted a steal of second base. However we all know the moniker with Wieters behind the plate…”Don’t. Run. Ever.” Wieters threw Johnson out with pin point precision, and the game was over.
Again, the Orioles can’t be dropping two-of-three to fellow contenders such as Tampa moving forward. However this was a big win for the Orioles, as it reversed some of the negative momentum that they had seen the first two games. The O’s will have today off before Oakland comes to town for the weekend to continue the push towards the post season.