Baltimore Orioles: What a day for Darren O’Day!
The Baltimore Orioles and their fans got a stark reminder of why the team re-signed Darren O’Day yesterday afternoon in a 6-4 win at Cleveland.
Darren O’Day reminded the Baltimore Orioles yesterday afternoon why they brought him back on a new deal in 2016. You have to have a cool head in order to be a successful reliever, because often times you’re coming into games in big spots. And yes, you’re expected to deliver. And boy did O’Day do that yesterday.
Chris Tillman gave one of those “in between” starts yesterday. Tillman’s line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 K. His fastball had the usual zip, but some of his breaking pitches didn’t quite have the usual finish yesterday. However I’ve always said that it’s those starts where you aren’t necessarily on your A-game (but not a disaster either) where the success or failure of your season lie. Tillman battled through, and was able to qualify for the win.
The Birds jumped on Cleveland early, loading the bases in the first inning. Mark Trumbo came to the plate and promptly cleared the bases with a three-RBI double. That set the tone early that the O’s were looking to get out of Cleveland with a series win.
The Orioles would add an additional run on Flaherty’s sac fly-RBI in the fourth, however the last of that inning brought solo and two-run homers off the bats of Santana and Napoli. That cut the lead to 4-3, and the Birds went into “protect mode.” Cleveland tied the game and took control of the momentum in the last of the sixth with a solo homer by Kipnis.
However the O’s weren’t going to be out-slugged. All that talk in Houston about playing small ball and Houston then beating the Birds with experience? While Cleveland has some strong bats and they can certainly hit with the best of them, slugging is the Orioles’ game. And if you try to best them at it, the O’s will beat you with experience.
With two outs in the seventh Hyun-Soo Kim picked a great time to smack his first homer as a big leaguer and thus as an Oriole. That gave the Birds the lead back at 5-4. Nolan Reimold would add an additional solo homer in the ninth as insurance, and the Orioles won 6-4 – taking two of three from the Tribe.
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However it was O’Day’s heroics in the eighth inning that won the game for the Birds. He entered the game in a tough spot – runners at the corners with nobody out. The O’s played the infield in to try to cut a run down at home plate, however O’Day induced Napoli to ground out to third and the runner couldn’t score. He then IBB’d a hitter, and Cleveland brought up Chisenhall as a pinch-hitter…
…and what an epic at-bat that was. The count ran full and Chisenhall fouled pitches off left and right – the at-bat was nine pitches to be exact. O’Day threw everything he had at Chisenhall, however he always was able to nic or tap the ball. That is until he wasn’t, and O’Day froze him with a breaking ball for strike three. He then proceeded to strike out Gomes to end the threat and the inning.
You aren’t going to see a more clutch performance in such a big spot by a reliever than what you saw right there. And manager Buck Showalter said as much after the game (quote courtesy of Jordan Bastian, MLB.com):
"Chisenhall’s had some luck against him. I like Darren against anyone, but it was cat and mouse. That was a gutsy pitch to throw the back door breaking ball. It’s not easy to get hitters out, especially as good of an offense as they are. I’m glad we are not playing them again for a while."
So while the story of the day in some senses was Kim’s homer, in my view it’s Darren O’Day who rules the roost for this game. Kim’s homer was big for sure, but what O’Day did was huge. I suspect that if that’s any other reliever in baseball right now, he either walks in a run or gives up a base hit which ultiately surrenders the lead.
The Orioles now return home to open up a homestand with a Memorial Day matinee against Boston. Tyler Wilson will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Steven Wright. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM.
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