The Baltimore Orioles evened the final home series of the regular season with last night’s 7-2 win over Boston. Chris Tillman struggled in the first inning, although he righted himself quickly. Tillman’s line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Tillman’s issue seemed to be fastball command and his release point, which in the first inning led to a David Ortiz two-run homer – his third home run of the series. The skinny on Tillman is that he sometimes struggles in the early innings, but often is able to right himself quickly and return to his dominant form.
The O’s righted themselves quickly after trailing 2-0 early on. Following a Delmon Young single, Adam Jones hit a straight bomb out of
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Camden Yards to dead center field to tie the game. One inning later the Orioles took the lead, in the msot unlikely of manners. First baseman Christian Walker hit his first career big league home run (on a ball that took an almost identical path to Jones’ shot) to give the O’s a 3-2 lead. Incidentally, kudos to the fan that caught the ball who immediately threw it into the Orioles’ bullpen for safe keeping. It was given to Walker following the game.
However in my personal opinion, the highlight of the inning came later, following Walker’s home run. Ryan Flaherty hit a double and then was sacrificed to third on Nick Hundley’s ground out. That brought Jonathan Schoop to the plate, and he laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Flaherty which gave the O’s a 4-2 lead.
However they weren’t done yet; an inning later Adam Jones smacked a second two-run homer, and Alejandro De Aza would cross the plate in the last of the seventh on Nelson Cruz’s RBI-single. Obviously Adam Jones and Christian Walker are what will be remembered from this semi-meaningless game. However for what it’s worth it was also Chris Tillman’s final home start of what’s been a dominant 2014. The Orioles haven’t announced a game one starter for the ALDS as of yet, but I can’t see anyone other than Tillman starting that game. But who knows.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the aforementioned suicide squeeze play. Jonathan Schoop is one of the better bunters on the Orioles, and quite frankly that play was about as well-executed as I’ve seen a bunt laid down all season. Perhaps more importantly, it caught Boston starter Ruby De La Rosa (and really the entire Boston team) totally off guard. That’s another weapon that the Orioles have now introduced into their offense, and it’s something of which opponents will now have to take notice in October.
Nick Markakis sat his third straight game after being hit in the back on Tuesday, and Steve Pearce was also a late scratch after feeling tendonitis in his wrists after batting practice. As a precaution he took x-rays, which came back negative. He was given a shot, and Buck Showalter said that he’ll get a couple of days off to let the medicine take effect. Normally he’d be out perhaps a day, but given the fact that the Orioles have already clinched Showalter isn’t taking any chances. The same is probably true of Markakis as well. Showalter also indicated that he was considering giving Adam Jones off today since it’s a day game after a night game.
This afternoon marks the final home game of the 2014 regular season, with all fans in attendance getting a Chris Tillman (“fan’s choice”) bobblehead. The 2014 Most Valuable Oriole will also be announced pre-game, my presumption being that the honor this year will go to Nelson Cruz. I would submit that it’s almost unfair to give it to one player, because there were so many players that were so valuable down the stretch to this franchise. Obviously the likes of Cruz, Jones, et al are always going to be in the mix. But Steve Pearce should also get some consideration, as should Darren O’Day, Zach Britton, and maybe even a few others. It’s just been that kind of year.
Miguel Gonzalez gets the starting assignment this afternoon, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Joe Kelly. Game time is set for just after 1:30 this afternoon. This coming week it’ll be interesting to see how Buck Showalter starts to line up his rotation, as it’ll potentially resemble the final week of spring training in that they’ll probably want to line things up as best they can so that Tillman pitches next Saturday in Toronto. That would give him normal rest in order to pitch the following Thursday in the ALDS.