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  • Apr

    Jonesing for the series win Orioles 3, Red Sox 2

    Written by Mike Laws

    Jonesing for the series win

    Adam drives in a pair, Manny scores a pair, Davis homers again in rubber match at Fenway

    Orioles 3, Red Sox 2


    What an unlikely candidate this game seemed for a pitchers’ duel, early on, with Boston spot-starter Alfredo Aceves looking massively hittable out of the gate and his Baltimore counterpart, Chris Tillman, requiring nearly seventy pitches to complete three innings of work. But a pitchers’ duel it’d become — with emphasis on the plural in that plural possessive: The teams would combine to use eleven pitchers, in this tilt, which in a nine-inning game usually adds up to a chess match, a battle of matchups, a race to see who’ll deliver that timely hit first.


    And so, happily, on to the bullet points!


    • Another day, another confounding start for an Oriole pitcher. It wasn’t like Tillman didn’t have his good stuff, or walked a ton of Red Sox (only two, in this game; cf. the four he walked in three and two-thirds in his first start, against the Twins). And it wasn’t like he didn’t execute a game plan, riding his fastball almost exclusively in the first couple innings then mixing in the off-speed stuff from that point on (most notably the big 12-6 slow curve, which Chris commanded better and better the deeper he got in the ballgame). He rang up five K’s, too, over his five and a third innings of work — but maybe that was part of the problem: that he appeared to be nibbling, falling into deep counts, not trusting his defense — in short, throwing lots of pitches even in certain frames where he’d eventually retire the Red Sox without their mounting a serious threat. And when they did rally against him, in a two-run third, Tillman needed almost forty pitches to get through it. 


    • But you’ll note that the two Tillman allowed in the Boston third were the only two the Sox would plate all night. That’s because the bullpen made a serious return to form, tonight. Brian Matusz gave us all a bit of a scare, coming on with two on and only one down in the sixth and proceeding to fall behind 3-0 on the first batter he faced — before clawing his way back to a key strikeout (and getting some help on the final offering, a hard slider buried in the dirt in front of home plate). Matusz then did pretty much the exact opposite against the final Boston batsman of the inning, Stephen Drew, jumping ahead 0-2 before nearly losing the hitter and, finally, striking Drew out looking …


    • … and I never thought I’d say this — especially not with respect to a one-run game involving a divisional rival — but Pedro Strop’s inning of work in the seventh was altogether less anxiety-ridden; Strop didn’t even get rattled when J.J. Hardy double-clutched on a routine grounder, failing to get the ball to first in time to retire speedy Shane Victorino. And then in the eighth Darren O’Day — well, Darren O’Day looked like Darren O’Day, and in the ninth Jim Johnson looked like Jim Johnson, and the Birds were cruising, 2012-style.


    • And by that point they had a lead to work with, courtesy of a Chris Davis big fly way back in the second, an Adam Jones game-tying two-out RBI single in the fifth and, in the seventh, a run-scoring double Jones ripped down the left-field line on the very first pitch delivered by Koji Uehara. Which was pleasantly surprising enough that I think I’ll end the bullet points right here …



    … BUT NOT BEFORE ADDING THAT: First of all, big ups to Manny Machado, who, apparently energized by last night’s game-winning three-run dinger, broke out tonight with an eye-popping line: 3-for-4, two runs scored, a walk. (And while he did get nailed trying to stretch a first-inning double into a first-inning triple, I’ll stay off his case for that — after all, it was neither the first nor third out of the inning, thus failing to break any kind of cardinal rule, plus Buck didn’t seem too bothered by it.)


    AND ALSO LET’S ALL PAUSE TO CONSIDER: Ballplayers have a way of shrugging off a tough loss as “just another game,” reminding officious beat reporters that there are “a lot of games left to play,” etc., etc., while then also simultaneously claiming that a spirited victory will suffice to “right the ship” or “get us going,” etc., etc., apparently never noticing the specious consistency of the logic, there … But this time I actually kinda believe it — all the “right the ship” and “get us going” stuff regarding last night’s 8-5 miracle comeback, I mean. As far as how that carried over into tonight’s contest, the Birds, while by no means red-hot at the dish, did evidently recapture some of the winning spirit from the season’s first few games: the clutch two-out RBIs, the tough-minded at-bats against big-time relievers, Chris Davis mercilessly punishing middling fastballs. Good to see, going into the Bronx …


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