Baltimore Orioles: Fighting Showalters go to Wisconsin


Unfortunately, this column still starts the way I was planning on starting it prior to yesterday’s ninth inning; many Baltimore Orioles fans are now asking what’s going on with Chris Tillman. If you compare yesterday’s game to his last start, you could say that there was marked improvement. Tillman’s line: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 7 K. However Tillman still struggled with his fastball command, and he struggled to find the strike zone for much of his outing. In fairness, he held Milwaukee scoreless in the second and pitched a clean fifth. However the question remains, why is Tillman struggling? Is he injured? Is there a mechanical problem?

Unfortunately I don’t have those answers for readers – right now. But it’ll be interesting to see how Tillman adjusts in his next start, which is Saturday in Houston. While Houston might come across as a “get well” type of game (and I say that keeping in mind that the Orioles cannot underestimate any opponent), if Tillman struggles again might the Orioles skip him in the rotation with an off day coming next Monday?

The O’s found themselves down 1-0 early as Jean Segura led off with a triple and he was doubled home by Ryan Braun. However in what would become a theme for the day, the Baltimore Orioles battled back. Adam Jones‘ two-RBI triple in the top of the third gave the Fighting Showalters the lead. Nelson Cruz‘s RBI-double would score Jones, and the Birds led 3-1.

Milwaukee began chipping away, and they cut the lead to 3-2 on former Oriole Mark Reynolds‘ sac fly-RBI in the last of the aforementioned third inning. However Jean Segura would haunt Tillman yet again with a two-RBI double to seize the lead back for Milwaukee, who would also chase Tillman in the last of the sixth on back-to-back solo homers by Kris Davis and Lyle Overbay.

However the Orioles – the Fighting Showalters, that is – weren’t quite done. Jonathan Schoop‘s bat came alive with a solo homer in the seventh to bring the Birds to within one. And the score remained 6-4 as the game went to the top of the ninth. Former Oriole Francisco Rodriguez came in to close things out for Milwaukee. To further infuriate Orioles fans, Rodriguez (who struggled after being traded to the O’s last year – from Milwaukee no less) came in as the hottest closer in baseball. He was 17-for-18 in save opportunities. Sure thing, right? Not so fast…

I said that this column started out in the same manner it would have otherwise begun prior to the ninth inning. I didn’t say it ended the same way I had planned up to that point. After two quick outs, the Orioles’ chances appeared to be dimming. However Jonathan Schoop picked a good time to net his second homer of the game, as he hit the first pitch he saw over the left field fence. Delmon Young followed that up with a pinch-hit single, and Buck Showalter promptly inserted David Lough as a pinch-runner. With his lightning speed, Lough scored without a throw on Nick Markakis‘ RBI-double, and the game was suddenly tied at six.

As was written earlier on Birds Watcher, David Lough might be best utilized as a pinch-runner.

Milwaukee put two runners on base with one out in the last of the ninth, however former Oriole Mark Reynolds came up big in a sense for his former team. He lined out to J.J. Hardy at short, who doubled the runner up at third base to end the threat. The O’s may well have gotten some luck on that play, however a slight amount of luck is a big part of any comeback win.

Courtesy of Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Incidentally, J.J. Hardy began his career in Milwaukee. He received a nice ovation from the Miller Park crowd during pregame introductions. However what the fans probably didn’t expect was that he would smack a clutch double with two outs in the tenth inning against his former team. That brought catcher Nick Hundley to the plate, who was making his Oriole debut after being traded to the Birds on Saturday from San Diego. Hundley sent an RBI-single to left field, and the O’s suddenly had grabbed a 7-6 lead.

Buck Showalter brought his left hand up to begin the last of the tenth, and Zach Britton emerged once again from the Orioles’ pen to close out the game. Britton recorded out number one on a ground out, but then proceeded to allow runners to reach first and second on a base hit and a walk. Milwaukee sent up Irving Falu as a pinch-hitter in hopes of him at least tying the game. However Britton induced a 4-3 double-play, ending the game and winning it for the Fighting Showalters.

For a team that’s had a few games get away from them which they should have won, this was a huge victory. Perhaps it wasn’t the biggest comeback of all time in terms of the number of runs made up, however I would submit it was the best comeback of the season thus far. Against great odds and a closer that had been clutch to that point, the Orioles typified the concept of playing until the final out.  What happens from here remains to be seen, but this is the type of game one might point back to as one where things really got rolling.

Wei-Yin Chen gets the ball in tonight’s game two in Milwaukee, and he finds the Orioles in dire need of a long outing from a starter. Part of that is due to Tillman not going deep into yesterday’s game, however in truth it was also an extra inning game so that’s certainly not on Tillman. (In fact he found himself as the beneficiary of that.) Chen will be opposed by Matt Garza, with whom the Orioles are familiar based on his time in Tampa.