I feel like I’ve written this sentence a lot in recent pieces, but the Baltimore Orioles were once again carried to a series win on the back of their staggering lineup and rock-solid bullpen.
The birds took three out of four from the AL-East leading Boston Red Sox, chopping their lead down to 1.5 games in the process. Baltimore also regained control of the top Wild Card spot in the AL.
It started on Thursday night, when O’s SP Kevin Gausman was given a three-run cushion in the 3rd inning thanks to a Danny Valencia HR (his 4th) and RBI singles from Manny Machado and Chris Davis. Gausman would actually pitch fairly well, going 5+ solid innings of 2 run baseball, adding 5 strikeouts along the way. The game would eventually go to extra innings, where Davis’ bloop single to left scored Nick Markakis and gave Baltimore a 5-4 victory.
Game 2 was the outlier of this series, in that the O’s relied more on their pitching than their offense to pick up the win. Chris Tillman was phenomenal on the hill, going 6 scoreless while only allowing 3 hits. He did walk four Red Sox, but he scattered them throughout his performance, so they did not come back to haunt him. Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter and Jim Johnson finished off the last 3 innings with ease, as none of them allowed a single base runner. After some struggles early on in 2013, the O’s bullpen has figured it out, especially Johnson, whose sinker has returned to it’s fantastic 2012 form. He has now converted 25/29 saves on the year, and 10 saves in a row. Baltimore got it’s lone 2 runs from a Davis HR (at the time his 22nd) and an infield single from Adam Jones, but it was plenty behind Tillman’s strong outing.
It’s hard to beat a good team three games in a row, and the O’s found that out in game 3 of the series, as they fell to the Sox 5-4. Freddy Garcia got knocked around a good deal, having to watch homers by Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes sail over his head. The Orioles were down three runs in the ninth, but a 2-run bomb from Matt Wieters (9) cut Boston’s lead to one. Then, a single from J.J. Hardy put the tying run on base in the form of a pinch-running Alexi Casilla. Unfortunately for Baltimore, Casilla had what can only be described as an extreme brain cramp, forgetting that there was only one out when Ryan Flaherty hit a rope to right field that was caught by Shane Victorino. The Flyin’ Hawaiian simply tossed the ball back to first base to double up Casilla, who had kept on running to third base instead of staying at 1st. The play left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, but thankfully there was a positive to take from this game in the form of T.J. McFarland. The lefty reliever tossed 3.1 scoreless innings to hold the Red Sox to five runs and gave the birds a chance late in the game. It’s good to know that the former Rule 5 draftee can be counted on in situations like those, as the Orioles will need him to eat innings as the year goes on.
Game 4 of the series saw the offense take over once again, getting to Sox starter Jon Lester early and making him work for every out. Coming into the game Lester has absolutely owned the Orioles, having a 14-1 career record against them entering Sunday, including a 7-0 record at Camden Yards. Past history could not help him this time, however, as a double from Jones and another HR from Davis (a league leading 23rd) gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead after three. Later in the game, RBIs from Machado, Davis and Hardy gave the O’s 6 runs, all but one of them coming off of Lester. The Sox got all three of their runs from one swing by 3B Will Middlebrooks, a towing shot that came off of O’s starter Miguel Gonzales. Besides the one mistake pitch, though, Gonzales was brilliant for the Birds, going 6+ and only allowing 7 total baserunners. Brian Matusz, Hunter and Johnson finished the game off. The entire Orioles bullpen was spectacular all series, pitching 17 innings combined and giving up zero (yes, zero) runs. That’s astounding, and a huge part of the Orioles’ series win.
When you play baseball as well as the Orioles did in this series, you’re going to win a lot of games, and it shows when you look at the Orioles 40-30 record. If they keep up this level of play the rest of the way, they’ll find themselves back in the playoffs and maybe even on top of the AL-East.
The Orioles will now take on the Detroit Tigers in a three game set at Comerica Park before flying to Toronto to battle the Blue Jays. Monday’s game starts at 7:10, and recently recalled SP Jake Arrieta will face off against Detroit’s SP Max Scherzer. Boston will head back to Fenway park for a series with Tampa Bay.