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  • Apr

    More Of That Magic: Orioles 7, Athletics 3

    Written by Mike Laws

    More of that magic

    Four-run fourth keys latest come-from-behind victory

    Orioles 7, Oakland 3




    Man. I’ve really gotta learn to just trust this offense. After about an hour’s worth of late-afternoon Saturday baseball, live from Oakland, I was pretty well convinced we were gonna have a snoozer on our hands. Three in the books and Chris Tillman was pulling another of his tightrope acts: In each of his last two trips to the mound he’d given up a run and narrowly skirted further damage, stranding runners at first and second. Meanwhile, Tillman’s counterpart, A’s starter A.J. Griffin, kind of a unique hybrid surfer/grizzly man/dweeb, was cruising; he’d retired his last eight Oriole hitters, going all the way back to the first, when Manny Machado had reached — and that was on a bunt. So it wasn’t like we were seeing great swings, either …


    But let’s let the bullet points tell the rest of this happy tale:


    • First, how about the at-bat by Machado to lead off the fourth? Kid falls into an 0-2 hole, takes not one not two but three of Griffin’s sloooowwwwww curves (spun at a tantalizing 66-69 mph, all of them down or away), fouls off a pitcher’s-pitch outside-corner fastball, then, finally, draws the walk. I guess one does get some pretty good pointers, standing on-deck while Nate McLouth’s hitting. Anyway, Machado didn’t have to wait around first base long before Nick Markakis, himself in a 1-2 hole, waited on one of those curves, practically letting it drop to his shoestrings before golfing it out of the park to right-center. 2-2 ballgame. Never one to be outdone, Adam Jones took a called strike before deciding enough of this, belting a low fastball — and I mean belting it. The ball probably never got more than fifty feet off the ground, but sailed out of Coliseum to center on a dead rope. 3-2, O’s, and Griffin was stunned. Chris Davis, naturally, was greeted with a four-pitch walk — for which the Birds would make Oakland pay, after Matt Wieters flied out, when J.J. Hardy singled to right-center and Davis, who’d been running on the pitch (with a terrific lead, too), actually came all the way around from first to score. 4-2, O’s … 


    • Which lead of course wouldn’t have held up if Tillman didn’t settle down. He did. Chris Young furnished an uh-oh moment by way of a double to lead off the A’s half of the fourth — but he’d stay right there at second the rest of the frame. Nine pitches (and one line drive smashed right at Davis) later, and Tillman had retired the side. He’d need only eleven pitches to set Oakland down in the fifth. And while he allowed a Josh Donaldson single to lead off the bottom of the sixth, Tillman rallied to strike out the formidable Josh Reddick on three pitches, looking (his seventh and final K of the afternoon). And then, midway through Young’s at-bat — in fact, immediately following Tillman’s hundredth delivery of the ballgame — he picked Donaldson off first. The big righty would need just three more pitches to retire Young on a groundout, and his evening was over(*), a win in the offing …


    • Although, following an eighth inning in which McLouth homered, Machado doubled, Markakis singled and Davis delivered a sacrifice fly to expand the margin to 6-2; and two innings featuring Brian Matusz and Darren O’Day, both generally effective, though O’Day would permit a runner inherited from Matusz to score via sacrifice fly, making it 6-3; and a top-nine in which McLouth singled in Ryan Flaherty, after Flaherty doubled to left — after all this took place, with the score 7-3, and thus not representing a save situation (yet), Pedro Strop came in in the ninth and did his best to make things interesting. He went full on Adam Rosales before hitting Rosales. In the face. Literally. (OK, fine, it hit the brim of Rosales’s helmet. So he was actually very lucky not to get hit in the face. Anyhoo.) Think maybe Strop was a little wild? Buck did too. He’d let Strop face just one more hitter — an at-bat in which Strop delivered four straight balls, one of them a wild pitch — before giving the Dominican flamethrower the old heave-ho in favor of Jim Johnson. Who surrendered a base hit to left against the first batter he faced, John Jaso, but then got Seth Smith to pop into a can-o’-corn to left, then fell behind 3-1 to red-hot Jed Lowrie. OK, Jim, better to walk him than to give him something he can drive, right? Lowrie repping the potential game-tying run, and all. No matter. Johnson grounded Lowrie into a nice, easy, tailor-made, game-ending, series-clinching 6-4-3 double play. Hey, maybe Strop just wants to pad Johnson’s strand-rate and save stats … In any event, O’s hang on to win this one, 7-3.



    THE ASTERISK: But Tillman’s night wasn’t over. Not really. With catcher Taylor Teagarden having taken a foul ball off the thumb in the Oakland sixth, and Wieters, who’d been DHing, forced to take over behind the plate, the Orioles had to play some National League-style ball. And with the ex-DH spot due up third in the Oriole seventh — and with the first two O’s hitters that inning recording quick outs — Showalter & Co. opted not to waste a bench bat (who’d just have to come right out of the game anyway, to make room for the new pitcher), meaning Tillman was effectively told, OK, kid, quality start. Now get up there and strike out real quick. At least, I’m basing this on the at-bat Tillman turned in, which comprised precisely three Griffin offerings and suggested the Oriole starter heard the clarion beck and call of a nice hot shower/Icy Hot rubdown/etc. Hey, I’d still give him the edge over Daniel Cabrera, at the dish …


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