Baltimore Orioles: I walk the line


As I said yesterday following Friday night’s loss in Houston, teams go through stretches where they lose a few games and absolutely nothing seems to be going right. However that’s not when you have to worry; you have to get concerned when things are going so amazingly that you can barely think straight (ie-Toronto’s nine-game winning streak). Because either way the law of averages says that the pendulum swings back in the other direction.

And that’s exactly what we saw yesterday, as the Baltimore Orioles ended their four-game losing streak by defeating Houston 4-1. Starter Chris Tillman had a nice bounce back start after two fairly poor ones (in which he was non-decisioned). Tillman’s line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K. What we saw was a pitcher who did have a few control problems early on, but also one who was good enough to get himself out of trouble.

The nature of the position is such that pitchers will get themselves into some trouble in games. The good ones are good enough to get themselves out of it.

Nelson Cruz hit a sacrifice fly following Nick Markakis‘ lead off double in the first inning, and the O’s had an early 1-0 lead. Tillman needed nine pitches to get out of the first inning, but the second inning was a bit of a struggle. With one out and the bases loaded, Grossman dribbled a swinging bunt up the first base line. Tillman thought better of fielding it and in effect taking a sure out at first – and the ball died on the chalk. So not only did a run score (which was a given unless the ball had gone foul), but everyone was safe. In retrospect that was probably a poor decision on Tillman’s part, however following a pop out Nick Markakis made a great catch on a ball that could have cleared the bases (off the bat of Jose Altuve) to end the inning.

Courtesy of Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This game had the feel of one where an Oriole starter had a decent outing only to stay in for one or two hitters too many – similar to Friday’s game. However that changed in the fifth inning when the Orioles loaded the bases after two singles and a walk. That brought Steve Pearce to the play, who also drew a walk and suddenly the O’s were back in the lead. To add insult to injury (from Houston’s perspective that is), Nelson Cruz also drew a walk and the inning ended with the Birds leading 3-1.

Tillman seemed to get stronger as the game went on, and he overcame a few base runners here and there over time before leaving the game. Nelson Cruz would hit his big league-leading 20th homer of the season in the eighth inning to give the Orioles some extra padding on the scoreboard. Come the last of the ninth those bullpen doors swung open again and Buck Showalter‘s left hand came up, summoning Zach Britton from the ‘pen to close the game. And close the game he did, ending the four-game losing streak.

I suppose you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the bats came alive, however the fact is that the O’s won this game by working counts and drawing walks. For a team that’s last in the big leagues in walks, I do find it interesting that they in effect won the game due in large part to two bases-loaded walks.

As Buck Showalter‘s said on numerous occasions, “you never know what the boys are going to have in mind for you today – in baseball.”

The O’s will have a shot to walk the line into a series split with this afternoon’s game. (For the record, I’m a huge fan of the great Man in Black and I’ve waited years to be able to use that title.) Wei-Yin Chen will get the starting nod for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by former Oriole Scott Feldman.