Close, but the Baltimore Orioles will take the cigar


At so many points along the way, we’ve heard reasons why the Baltimore Orioles couldn’t win this year. They either had the toughest schedule in baseball, had to go through so much good pitching, didn’t have the horses, etc. There were times when one literally wondered if the team would finish with a record above .500 after listening to some people, much less have a shot at a division title and onward. This most recent series was another one where many people figured that Toronto was poised to make their move against the Orioles…

…and once again at the end of the day that’s not quite how it went. The O’s got a quality start out of Miguel Gonzalez, in a ballpark that hasn’t usually been kind to Oriole pitchers. Gonzalez’s line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K. From Gonzalez’s perspective, the biggest play of the game might have been Colby Rasmus‘ two-out double in the last of the fourth. Danny Valencia was on first base, and Rasmus sent a deep shot down the line. My personal opinion was that Valencia would have scored from first base on that play…had the ball not bounced up and into the stands for a ground rule double.

Those are the types of things which occur at Rogers Centre, and for once it seemed that it came at the detriment of the home team. But the fact is that Gonzalez was great in his six innings of work. He got key strikeouts when he needed them, and he was able to work around the few base runners that he allowed.

J.J. Hardy led off the fourth inning with a double, and following a Chris Davis strikeout

Courtesy of Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

catcher Caleb Joseph came to bat. And with one swing, Joseph wrote his name into Oriole history. Most importantly, his two-run homer gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead. However with that home run, Joseph tied a club record held by Ramon Hernandez and Gus Triandos as the only catchers in team history to homer in four consecutive games. (Note that Joseph hasn’t caught in four consecutive games, however in his last four games played he has four home runs.) Joseph and Jay Gibbons are also the only Oriole rookies to homer in four consecutive games in the history of the franchise.

When Anthony Gose hit his first home run of the season in the fifth inning and cut the Orioles’ lead to 2-1, you kind of thought that the O’s were in for a dog fight. This is the AL East after all. It may not be the AL East where NY and Boston bludgeon everyone to death, but it’s the AL East. And in the AL East among other places, pitching wins games. Andrew Miller and Darren O’Day were solid in the seventh and eighth innings. Miller especially – I think he mowed down the three batters he faced all during a timeout in the Ravens game!

While a 2-1 lead is far from safe at any time, when you have arguably the best bullpen in baseball you don’t worry as much. Zach Britton sent Toronto down 1-2-3 in the last of the ninth, and the O’s had a 2-1 victory. Incidentally, Britton recorded all three of those outs on ground balls; remember when his sinker wouldn’t sink?

With the win, the O’s took two-of-three in an all-important series with regard to the standings. They leave Toronto with a five game lead over the Blue Jays and New York. That’s the largest lead the Orioles have had in the division this late in the season since 1997. With the stakes which the Orioles now have, these close games can induce nerves among fans for sure. However at the end of the day you’ll take a win however you can get it.

The O’s now return home for a three-game interleague series with the St. Louis Cardinals. The O’s will of course celebrate the 60th anniversary of the franchise tonight, with Oriole hall of famers Cal Ripken Jr, Eddie Murray, Brady Anderson, Jim Palmer, and many others coming back for the festivities. For the record, it’s no coincidence that they picked this game or this series to conduct the formal celebration; the franchise relocated to Baltimore in 1954 from St. Louis, where they were known as the St. Louis Browns.

It’ll be a night on “Tillman Island” for the O’s as Chris Tillman will head to the hill, and he’ll be opposed by St. Louis’ Justin Masterson (for whom they just traded). The Birds will also have to make a roster move at some point tomorrow, as Buck Showalter said that Ubaldo Jimenez will be coming off the DL to make the start. I suspect that we’ll see either T.J. McFarland or Brad Brach sent back to Norfolk, that is unless something else is in play. I would presume that this is being done now so that whomever goes down will have been in the minors long enough to be called back up on September 1st when rosters expand.