Last season the Baltimore Orioles had several games that went back-and-forth and finally ended with the O’s being the last man standing. This year not so much. However we finally saw that type of effort from the Birds last night in their 9-7 win over Oakland. Bud Norris seemed to struggle from the start as Oakland took a 3-0 lead in the first two innings, on an RBI-single, and solo homers by Crisp and Moss. Norris’ line: 4.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 7 K. That type of line does come across as harsh, but keep in mind that Norris also had seven strikeouts – which drove up his pitch count. When Norris departed, he had thrown 109 pitches.
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Chris Davis led off the fourth inning with a walk for the Orioles, and he was promptly driven in by Adam Jones‘ two-run homer. As the inning progressed the Birds found themselves with the bases juiced and Brian Roberts striding to the plate. Part of the deal with Roberts has always been that he’s small but he packs a big punch. Last night was no exception, as he sent his first grand slam since 2009 out of Camden Yards and the Orioles took the lead.
However keep in mind that Oakland is a team that’s battling for a playoff spot also, thus they know how to come back in games and how to win games. They themselves put four runs on the board in the fifth, taking a 7-6 lead. Norris couldn’t seem to get out of his own way with Lowrie lining an RBI-double, Donaldson an RBI-single, and Sogard a two-RBI single. At one point Norris induced a bases-clearing double-play, which one would think might give a pitcher a bit of a shot in the arm. However he walked the next batter which began the “next phase” of the rally.
After Francisco Rodriguez came in to pitch the seventh, the Birds took the lead again for good. Nate McLouth scored after Chris Davis reached on an error, tying the game at seven. That sent Manny Machado to third base, and he later scored on Adam Jones’ RBI-ground out. With that, the Orioles took the lead back at 8-7. However they weren’t done yet; Nick Markakis‘ RBI-single scored Chris Davis from third to put the Orioles ahead by two at 9-7. The Camden faithful took deep breaths as Jim Johnson came in to pitch the ninth and close out the game, but there was no need to worry. Johnson not only retired Oakland, but he retired them 1-2-3 for his 40th save on the season.
Boston and Tampa now stand at a statistical draw for first place in the division (with Tampa percentage points ahead), and the Birds stand at 4.5 games back of first. They’re also two games back in the wild card race, still behind Oakland. Therefore if the Orioles can manage to sweep this weekend series they’d actually be in the playoffs as it would stand tomorrow afternoon. On one hand it’s very difficult to sweep a series, but on the other hand if the Orioles are going to throw together more than a three or four game winning streak they would in fact need to sweep Oakland.
The series continues late this afternoon in a 4 PM FOX game that will be televised regionally. Chris Tillman heads to the mound for the Orioles after a tough outing this past week against Tampa. Tillman’s pattern has been that when he does turn in a bit of a clunker, he usually does bounce back strong in his next stat. We’ll see today; he’ll be opposed by Jarrod Parker.