Baltimore Orioles: Cruz’n on a prayer


The Baltimore Orioles had almost no prayer of winning yesterday; when the lineup came out and it didn’t include the names of various regulars such as Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and J.J. Hardy (who had been bothered by some back spasms and is expected to play tonight). Buck Showalter of course remembers well how tired some of the guys became at this point last season, and he’s evidently trying to ensure that we don’t see a repeat of that in 2014. Chalk that up to sacrificing a battle for the greater good of a war once again, however from the outset it appeared that the O’s might be punting this game.

Bud Norris gave a solid, albeit struggling effort to the O’s in yesterday’s game, but he got the O’s through the sixth inning. Norris’ line: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K. As I’ve said in the past, Tampa wears out your pitching with their anything you can do I can do better attitude. And that’s what we saw happen with Norris yesterday. Tampa takes a lot of pitches, and as I said that wears out your pitching staff.

Tampa got to Norris early on with Evan Longoria and James Loney smacking back-to-back homers in the first inning. DeJesus added a homer – an inside-the-parker at that -in the fourth, and it appeared that the O’s were destined to be swept in Tampa this weekend. However sometimes you have to live on a prayer and attempt to force destiny to adapt to you. (Oriole opponents have been doing it for years so it seems – until now, that is.) Following a lead off single by David Lough, Nelson Cruz cut the Tampa lead to 3-2 with a two-run homer in the sixth. We weren’t done yet…not by a long shot.

Kiermaier, in typical Tampa anything you can do I can do better fashion, led off the last of the inning with a homer to run the score to 4-2. While this was far from a must-win for the O’s, you’d rather not go on after being swept. Especially when you’re going to play a very dangerous team that’s out of the race in Boston. So with two runners on in the ninth Buck Showalter sent Adam Jones up as a pinch hitter. Jones dropped a bloop single into left field, which loaded the bases. That brought Cruz to the plate, with the Baltimore Orioles just hanging on by a prayer…and he sent a bases-clearing triple to right field which gave the O’s a 5-4 lead.

But we still weren’t done – remember, anything you can do I can do better? Evan Longoria scored on Sean Rodriguez‘s sacrifice ground out, and we went to extra innings.

The interesting thing about this game was that it was played simultaneously to Opening Day in the NFL. Thus Baltimore fans were forced

Courtesy of Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

to do a juggling act between the Ravens and O’s, which naturally wasn’t unlike fans in numerous other cities. So bearing that in mind, Nelson Cruz’s next at-bat came with the score still tied at seven in the top of the 11th. Following a one-out walk by Nick Hundley, Cruz came to the plate and played the role of a wide receiver running a go route as the Birds dialed up a Hail Mary.

Cruz finished off his seven-RBI game with a two-run homer that gave the Orioles a lead, which ended up as a 7-5 victory. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Baltimore Orioles won this game to salvage one in Tampa. However we also saw the flair for the dramatic that’s forced Baltimore to fall in love with her Orioles once again. And that’s exactly the type of intangible that could carry a team not only out of Tampa, but through October.

The Orioles will now head to Boston where they’ll open up a three-game set at Fenway with the BoSox tonight. Miguel Gonzalez will head to the hill for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Joe Kelly with game time set for just after 7 PM. The Orioles’ magic number now stands at 12 by virtue of the victory and NY’s loss.