about two hours prior to yesterday afternoon’s series finale with Tampa, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that the curfew that had hung over the city every evening would be lifted – effective immediately. That signaled to locals that perhaps the situation at home was getting back to normal, or as normal as it could be in the wake of rioting. So all that was left was for the Baltimore Orioles to potentially go out and take two-of-three from Tampa, to hopefully help the city become more whole again.
Be they the home or road team, the Tampa Rays seem to be conditioned to playing in Tropicana Field. They seemingly force their opponents to play their style of baseball, which in effect is small ball and pitching. And the O’s this weekend proved that they could do that.
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Wei-Yin Chen wasn’t totally in the zone, but he certainly put his team in a position to win the game. Chen’s line: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K. One thing that was a bit of an issue was that Chen seemed to struggle with two strikes. Tampa took a 1-0 lead in the second on a James Loney homer, on an 0-2 count. Chen probably caught just a bit too much of the plate on the pitch. Logan Forsythe followed that up in the top of the fifth on another two-strike count with an RBI-single, and the Orioles were in a 2-0 hole halfway through.
With runners at first and second and two outs in the last of the sixth, Buck Showalter was forced to insert Rey Navarro as a pinch hitter for Steve Pearce – who had to leave the game with an upset stomach. (Sounds like a strange reason to leave a game, but I can sympathize – I’ve been there, during a basketball game once.) Navarro swung on the first pitch and lined an RBI-single to left field, cutting the Tampa lead to 2-1.
Travis Snider would open up the seventh with a single, and later in the inning Manny Machado would draw a two-out walk. With David Lough running for Snider, Jimmy Paredes came through in the clutch with an RBI-double which tied the game and left runners at the corners. That brought Adam Jones to the plate, who was already 3-for-3 on the day. As I’ve said many times over the past few years, great players come through in the clutch when they’re needed the most…
…and Jones is no exception. I tweeted this during the game, but Adam Jones is
Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
one of the best two-strike hitters in baseball. So with two strikes he lined a base hit to center field, which scored both Machado and Paredes. Suddenly the O’s had a 4-2 lead, which was preserved by the likes of Darren O’Day and Zach Britton.
The win put the Orioles one game above .500, and the fact is that they’re playing good baseball right now. However the story of the day was Adam Jones. There’s nobody who’s consistently put this team on his back as often or as well as Jones. And the fact is that today it mean a heck of a lot more than just winning a game or a series. By putting the team on his shoulders, he put the hopes and dreams of an entire city on his back.
As I said last week, the Orioles are very much in a position to “own” the situation in Baltimore, much in the tradition of the New Orleans Saints and Boston Red Sox in situations in their cities. And Adam Jones is exactly the type of player to be the face of that effort. Last night we saw Jones make a mistake in casually getting to a ball after a base hit, and he followed that up with this effort yesterday. Great players have short memories and come through in the clutch.
The O’s of course are off today before heading off for a true road trip in New York. They did however return to Baltimore yesterday evening following the game, and will board a train up to New York later this afternoon. The good news for the Birds is that once they get to New York they’ll be in one place (meaning one hotel) until Sunday afternoon’s game at Yankee Stadium. They’ll have two games against the NY Mets in Queens, and then four against the NY Yankees in the Bronx. Staying in one hotel for the better part of a week isn’t exactly par for the course in MLB, but needless to say it’s shaping up to be a much more run-of-the-mill week than last week was for the Orioles.