Baltimore Orioles: Our flag was still there
Baltimore is of course a city with a very special distinction in that our national anthem was written in our very own harbor by Francis Scott Key. What we now know as the “Star-Spangled Banner” began as a poem titled The Defense of Fort McHenry, and of course it was inspired by the United States defeating Great Britain in Baltimore during the War of 1812. This of course is represented by a line we hear before every Baltimore Orioles game: …that our flag was still there.
Last night’s game presented one of the most bizarre sets of circumstances in the history of Camden Yards. The O’s were getting ready to play Boston, all while people were taking to the streets and violently protesting the death of Freddie Gray in the city. And when I say violent, there were police in riot gear around the ballpark, a 7-11 in the neighborhood was looted (among other stores), windows at Dempsey’s Brew Pub were smashed in, cars were turned over, among other things. However through this, the O’s played on.
For starters, Wei-Yin Chen pitched possibly the best outing an Oriole starter has given this year. Chen’s line: 8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K. While when all was said and done the O’s used three relievers, Chen appeared to have done a great service for the bullpen at the time. And he had the lead early, after Jimmy Paredes‘ RBI-double and Chris Davis‘ sac fly-RBI in the last of the first.
However keep in mind that the O’s are being held to attest to every mishap that they make early this season. Hanley Ramirez drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the second, and Mike Napoli hit a shot to right that grazed off the foul pole for a home run which tied the game. It appeared that the ball was going to go foul, but it stayed just straight enough to touch the pole. However aside from that, Chen was cruising – while parts of the city figuratively burned.
Jimmy Paredes had a great night at the plate, and he’s quickly showing his worth to Buck Showalter and his coaching staff. The O’s took a 3-2 lead in the last of the fifth on Paredes’ solo homer, and for some time all was well in Birdland. As we went to the 9th inning, Zach Britton reliever Chen to close out the game. With the bases loaded and one out, we were reminded once again just how fine the line can be between winning and losing.
Pablo Sandoval hit a bouncer to Manny Machado at third. Machado stepped on the bag for one out, and threw across the diamond for what would have been the second out – which would have ended the game. However Machado’s throw was errant, allowing Dustin Pedroia (who reached on a lead off walk) to score and tie the game. Errors and walks…it’s the same story. The saving grace was that Hanley Ramirez (who was behind Pedroia on the base paths) thought the game was over and didn’t take home plate on the throwing error. So in fact, perhaps that’s a mistake on Boston’s side as well.
Xander Bogaerts jumped on the first pitch he saw in the tenth and sent it over the wall in left center, giving Boston a 4-3 lead. So not only was there destructive civil unrest around the ballpark, but the O’s were in the midst of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. To top it off, the mayor requested that anyone at the game stay in the ballpark “until further notice.” Baltimore City Police were literally blocking the exits of the stadium to prevent people from leaving. That order was lifted as we went to the last of the 10th…as was the pall that seemed to be over Baltimore and the Orioles.
Adam Jones sent a soft liner to right center field to lead off the tenth, that slipped under the glove of a diving Mookie Betts and rolled towards the wall. Jones ended up with a triple, and he would score a moment later on Chris Davis’ sac fly-RBI. So with David Lough coming to the plate with one down, the game appeared destined for the 11th inning…
…however Boston closer (former Oriole) Koji Uehara gave Lough a hanging
Courtesy of Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
fastball on 3-2. And Lough delivered…with a walk off homer onto the flag court. The win tied the series at one, setting up a rubber match this afternoon. Bud Norris will be on the bump for the Birds, in need of a win to set his season straight. He’ll be opposed by Boston’s Wade Miley.
Buck Showalter put this win in perspective with regard to what was happening outside the park after the game (quote courtesy of MLB.com’s Brittany Ghirol):
"There are so many things that can take your attention away from a baseball game, rightfully so. As important as we think this is, there are some things that are more important."
As unfortunate as the ninth inning was, make no mistake about the fact that Baltimore needed this win tonight – and exactly as it unfolded at that. And I’m not talking about the Orioles simply breaking a five-game losing streak. That plays a role also, however the city itself needed an uplift after so much destruction over the course of the evening.
This game was very much a “Baltimore story.” The team fought, and just when it looked to be over and done…a near unknown became a instant hero. And an instant hero when one was needed most at that. Baltimore is a resilent city with a proud past which includes the writing of our national anthem. And with this win, the Orioles showed that exact same type of character last night. Because when the day was done, our flag was still there.
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