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  • Apr
    19

    Going Deep - O's 10 Rays 6

    Written by Mike Laws

    Going deep

    O’s prevail in extra-inning slugfest

    Orioles 10, Tampa Bay 6

    You just had to know this one was gonna end with a homer. It actually shouldn’t have — and we’ll get to that in just a minute, here — but for Matt Wieters to cap the rubber match against the Rays with the grandest of walk-off slams was the only appropriate way to decide a ballgame whose 6-6 scoreline, entering the tenth, comprised six separate dingers between the two clubs. A right launching-pad, was Camden Yards tonight …

     

    On to the bullet points!

     

    • First, let’s back up a second and talk about Miguel Gonzalez. (Feels like ages ago already that he was on the mound, doesn’t it?) Inasmuch as you can deduce anything from a starter’s first two pitches, Gonzalez looked terrific, going right after Desmond Jennings, he of the first-pitch leadoff home run two evenings ago, jumping out to an 0-2 count. But oh, how quickly fortunes can turn. Even down in a hole, Jennings did it again, blasting a fastball that tailed back inside over the plate way out over the wall in left. And while Gonzalez recorded two outs on his next two offerings, he fell behind dangerous Evan Longoria 2-0 before the hulking third baseman likewise launched a shot into the left-field stands. In a blink of the proverbial eye, the Rays led this thing 2-0. Worse, the quick strike seemed to stun Gonzalez, who battled his command over the next few frames, consistently working from behind in the count, walking a pair and even, in the second, plunking Yunel Escobar to load the bases with only one down. Even so, Gonzalez had enough of his pitches working to limit the Rays to one run in that inning (on a sacrifice fly), then, in the third, fell victim to a J.J. Hardy throwing error on what could’ve been an inning-ending double play, but instead permitted Tampa’s fourth run to come across (n.b. that it is this reporter’s humble opinion that the error should actually have been charged to Gonzalez himself, off whose glove the ball ticked and then entered the stands, advancing all runners an additional base) … 

     

    • … after which, seemingly out of the clear blue sky, Gonzalez found his game. The diminutive righty cruised through the fourth and fifth on eleven and twelve pitches, respectively — both of those being three-up, three-down half-innings — and looked to be all set to retire the side in order again in the sixth, when, sadly, the elevated pitch count caught up to him, and Jose Molina took a 2-0 pitch out of the park to center, and after which Gonzalez got the hook …

     

    • But that homer made it 5-4, at the time, with the Orioles having again displayed the remarkable resilience that’s been a hallmark of pretty much every game against Tampa. A Wieters double/Chris Davis single back in the second had cut the deficit to 3-1; not satisfied with that, Nolan Reimold belted a two-out, two-run rocket into the bullpen area in left-center. 3-3 …

     

    • The offense would repeat the performance in the fifth. Again with two out, and still facing the difficult David Price, Alexi Casilla got the rally going with a liner smacked over second and into right-center, which somehow the Oriole second-bagger, just flying around first, turned into a double. Nick Markakis then legged out a single into the hole between short and third, alertly ducking into a headfirst slide to avoid any swipe-tag coming from first baseman James Loney, who’d been pulled up the line to handle Escobar’s wide relay. (By the way, note the praise, here, for Markakis’s baserunning acumen; that’ll be the last of it, tonight.) The stage was set for Manny Machado, who absolutely crushed a Price delivery on a line that ricocheted off the top of the wall in left/left-center, plating Casilla easily — but being played back in in plenty of time to gun down Markakis, who tried in vain to throw the brake and scamper back to third, but wound up getting caught in an inning-ending, rally-stanching rundown …

     

    • … which mistake really ate at this particular O’s fan, for a couple innings, as following on its heels was — wouldn’t you know it — the Molina home run. But, again, that fighting spirit prevailed, this time in the person of Steve Pearce, who came up in the bottom of the seventh following a Hardy double to right-center that knocked Price from the game. Brilliant baseball mind/manager’s manager/hipster grandpa Joe Maddon called upon his other fearsome lefty, Jake McGee, setting up a grim-looking matchup: the unhittable bullpen arm versus the heretofore hitless Pearce. But, yes, heretofore — Pearce battled the southpaw brilliantly, working the count full, in short delivering one of those late-in-the-game, won’t-go-down at-bats that’s a prerequisite for success in the AL East, before lifting a long drive into the rollicking, and very busy, left-field stands at Camden Yards. 6-5 Orioles; the Birds’ first lead of the game.

     

    • It wouldn’t hold up for very long, as James Loney — Oriole-torturer du jour, what with the back-to-back three-hit nights — sent a hanging Darren O’Day slider out beyond Markakis’s reach and over the wall in right-center. 6-6 …

     

    • … which is how it stayed until the tenth, thanks to some quality work from both bullpens — Joel Peralta and Jamey Wright for the Rays, Jim Johnson and an imperturbable Troy Patton, for the O’s. And how would the O’s bats handle this season’s first extra-inning, um, inning? Very capably, as it turned out. Markakis chased Wright from the ballgame with a single up the middle. Machado followed, facing Brandon Gomes, with an attempted sacrifice bunt that wound up being too damn good for a sacrifice bunt, rolling halfway down the first-base line just between the chalk and the infield grass; by the time Molina picked it up, now certain it wouldn’t ever be rolling foul, Machado had the throw beat. And then Adam Jones, wasting no time in atoning for an 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, went with the first pitch he saw, driving a ball deep to right and off the out-of-town scoreboard for the game-winning —

     

    • — wait. Markakis, apparently convinced the ball was gonna be caught, didn’t score. He went back to second to tag and saw the ball hit off the wall and reversed course and rounded third and … stopped and went back to third. Which meant Machado had to turn around and scamper back to second. Jones, who’d actually rounded second and nearly caught up with Machado, had to re-touch second and book it back to first, which thankfully was presently unoccupied by a Rays defender. Maddon had his team try an appeal to every base but second, for some reason, then spent a good minute or two walking and talking with a pair of umps. Then he conferenced on the mound, electing to employ his patented two-outfielder defensive scheme …

     

    • … which, if you’ll pardon the aside, I actually saw work, in the same bases-loaded/nobody-out scenario in extra innings in Boston (and in April, too!) a few years back. A fielder’s choice and a double play and the Rays were out of the jam; while meanwhile the Red Sox runners all trudged off into the dugout, to a man staring dejectedly at their footwear, and went on to lose the ballgame in short order …

     

    • But nothing like that tonight. Wieters answered Orioles Nation’s collective prayer of Just get a ball in the air, Matt, just get a ball in the air with an upper-cutted first-pitch wallop way, way out of here to right, redeeming Markakis and sending the Camden Yards faithful walking off very happily indeed. 10-6, O’s, is your final.


     

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