Make no mistake about the fact that there’s a very fine line between winning and losing, and Manny Machado along with his Baltimore Orioles teammates would be the first one to tell you that. By virtue of last night’s 8-6 victory over Oakland, Orioles fans are probably thinking to themselves wow what a huge win this morning. However from Oakland’s standpoint they’re thinking to themselves that’s a devastating loss. And I’m not even talking about the standings – just the ebb and flow of the game.
Ubaldo Jimenez failed to produce a quality start last night. However he did have zip on his fastball and he put his team in a position to win. Jimenez’s line: 5 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Coco Crisp gave Oakland a 1-0 lead in the second with a bloop RBI-single, and Billy Burns followed suit with an infield RBI-single in the fourth (which came with two outs, and a second run was gunned down at the plate to end the inning).
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At that point you had to feel like it was last year’s ALCS all over again; Oakland hadn’t hit the ball hard in the least, and they had two runs on two fluky plays. And here the Orioles are trying to tear the cover off of the ball, and to use a fisherman’s term they were getting stones. But baseball has a way of humbling people at times, and the Birds have certainly found that out this past week. But for good measure, Stephen Vogt‘s two-run homer in the fifth gave Oakland a 4-0 lead.
The Orioles have very little margin for error, and here they are down by four to a team that’s going nowhere. To top it off, they looked like they might have some life in the fifth after Junior Lake‘s lead off double. However while he advanced to third on a sacrifice, the O’s recorded two quick outs. Gerardo Parra was then hit by a pitch to put runners at the corners. That’s when things began to swing back in the right direction for the Orioles. Adam Jones took a strike, and then he proceeded to smack a deep shot into the Baltimore night. When it landed it the grandstand, the O’s had cut the lead to 4-3 and were right back in the game.
Jones would also add a sac fly-RBI in the last of the seventh, which brought Chris Davis up to bat with a runner on second. On a 2-2 count, Davis was sitting on a fastball – and he got it. You know the old sayin…if it’s high, let it fly! That’s exactly what Davis did, and his homer landed on Eutwaw Street and gave the O’s a 6-4 lead. So…game over, right?
Let’s be very clear; Zach Britton got credit with a blown save, but in reality he didn’t blow the save. The Orioles’ inability to defend against fluky plays reared it’s ugly head once again, as the first two Oakland hitters got on base due to infield hits. Pinch-hitter Josh Phegley‘s fielder’s choice-RBI allowed one run to score to cut the lead to 6-5. With two outs, a two-strike count, and a runner at third former Oriole Danny Valencia‘s soft RBI-single tied the game at six.
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With the exception of Vogt’s two-run homer, all of Oakland’s runs came off of bloops, soft hits, or infield singles. You can chalk that blown save up to bad luck for Zach Britton. It’s almost as if teams know that they can get away with scoring runs in that manner against the O’s. But it’s unclear how they’re able to induce bloops or anything else. That’s why I use the term fluky plays. And incidentally, the Orioles traded Valencia for David Lough – who was DFA’d yesterday. Go figure.
But the one good thing for the O’s was that they didn’t have to play catch-up in the last of the ninth or in extras. Bear in mind, Oakland was playing with a shortened bullpen already. And as much as I wrote about the Birds being at a disadvantage during the west coast trip in terms of being so far away from their affiliates, the same is now true of Oakland. While both teams had base runners, nobody was able to score as the game became a teenager and went to the thirteenth…
…and with one out in the last of the inning Caleb Joseph‘s double put him in scoring position. The Oakland trainer immediately came out and pitcher Drew Pomeranz was lifted due to an apparent injury. He
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was replaced by starter Aaron Brooks – I’m not sure when these extra inning games go into the “twilight zone phase,” but when a starting pitcher has to come out of the bullpen that’s a pretty good indication. And he already had a runner in scoring position at that.
And perhaps it was fitting that the “Mucho Man,” Manny Machado, would then just decide to end the game with a two-run homer on a 1-1 count. I mean, what the heck – right?! While it took longer than one would have expected, this was a game that the Orioles couldn’t lost. And they didn’t. The Birds now find themselves five games out of first, and only two back for the wild card.
Bear in mind that Oakland’s bullpen was already at a disadvantage coming into the game last night, and now after being taxed in a game like that things look even worse for them – and they’re a world away from their minor league affiliates. The series continues tonight, as Miguel Gonzalez heads to the mound for the Orioles. He’ll be opposed by Oakland’s Chris Bassitt. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.