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  • May
    04

    Freddy Garcia helps defeat the Angels in 10, 5-to-4

    Written by Mike Laws

    Give it up, take it back

    Angels break up no-hit bid, rally late to tie; O’s prevail in ten

    Orioles 5, L.A. Angels 4

     

    Watching Saturday afternoon’s Game Three against the Angels, it occurred to me how lucky I am no one in my immediate circle’s a psych major or practicing clinician or anything like that. Because it’s highly likely I was evincing what could’ve been read as serious affective lability. Somebody board-certified might’ve been legitimately concerned.

     

    Just to gloss over this wildly loop-de-looping emotional rollercoaster ride, you had the early adrenal excitement occasioned by a pair of bombs to left, first from Manny Machado, in the first, then from J.J. Hardy an inning later … a twinge of bitter too-familiar disappointment when, still in the second, the Birds proceeded to load the bases with just one down, yet failed to plate another run … a deepening disgust in the fourth when a one-out, second-and-third situation likewise yielded nothing … but then also, the backdrop unfurling beyond it all, a sensation of the ol’ cockles warming as it developed that the just-recalled Freddy Garcia was not only justifying management’s decision to end his triple-A toil, but was actually tossing a no-hitter through six …

     

    And then, of course, there was the Garcia-directed sympathy when a leadoff dink into center broke up his bid; the uneasy thoracic pit forming as Mark Trumbo socked his own dinger to left, cutting the B’more lead in half; mounting anxiety, frustration and (yes) sadness when L.A. managed to bring itself level in the eighth without a single ball getting beyond the Baltimore infield; unalloyed rage at home-plate ump Wally Bell, for squeezing Tommy Hunter on what should’ve been a ninth-inning-ending strikeout; and, finally, on the edge of hopelessness, cathartic release as Steve Pearce delivered that long-awaited clutch single …

     

    Whew. It was all almost too much to handle, for this reporter. But, to paraphrase Requiem for a Dream, it’ll work out in the end. You’ll see.

     

    The bullet points!

     

    • It’s hard to overstate just how good Garcia was, through six. There was, of course, the fact that he had yet to allow a base hit. But a Burnett-esque effectively-wild walk-a-thon this was not. Entering the seventh, Garcia had delivered a piddling sixty-five pitches. The sole Angel runner he’d permitted to reach — by way of a leadoff free pass issued to Trumbo, in the second — Garcia erased with a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play. Following that walk, he’d retired the next fourteen L.A. batsmen. How he was recording his outs was equally telling: Eight of the first nine grounded out, after which, adjusting his approach the second time through the order, six of the next nine flied or lined out. Unafraid to pitch to contact, Garcia had fanned just two Angel hitters (including, impressively, Albert Pujols in a three-pitch at-bat). By the time Trumbo connected — on just about the only mistake Garcia made all afternoon — and effectively bounced the Oriole starter from the game, Garcia’s pitch count was still well under eighty … 

     

    • That the Angels would tie this thing up against Darren O’Day still strikes me as more fluke than meltdown. After O’Day had come on in the seventh to spell Garcia, whiffing Howie Kendrick to end the threat, the side-armer fell victim to a shift-busting Hank Conger bunt single to key the Angel eighth. None of the knocks O’Day allowed after that was hit much better. A four-pitch walk of Scott Cousins was undoubtedly O’Day’s greatest mistake; a sac-bunt moved the runners up to second and third, in position for an Erick Aybar RBI groundout and — devastatingly, though luckiest of all — a flare off the handle of Mike Trout’s bat, over the head of first baseman Pearce and into right, tying the game. Hard luck for O’Day, who’d executed a good pitch (and would go on to ring up Pujols to keep this one level at fours). Even harder luck for Garcia, now non-decisioned …

     

    • And in the ninth, you had to feel as if the fortunes, all of a sudden favoring the home team, had turned permanently. The top-of-the-order M-M&M boys (Nate McLouth, Machado, Nick Markakis) all struck out swinging against Ernesto Frieri, his Latin-dictator-tough cognomen matched by his blazing stuff. And while the bottom half of the frame saw Hunter wriggle his way out of trouble — erasing a leadoff walk with a caught-stealing, then getting some additional help from his defense on a hot shot to first that was flagged down by Pearce before it could enter the outfield and score Kendrick, who’d singled and stolen second — it seemed only a matter of time before the Angels’ momentum would carry them through …

     

    • … which meant, basically, that the Birds really, really needed to score in the tenth. And this, in turn, would mean they’d need a little two-out magic — something that’d been hard to come by in this one, what with all the runners the Baltimore offense had marooned on the basepaths. Fortunately, though, Nolan Reimold had been set in motion before a one-out Hardy grounder to short, meaning L.A. would have to settle for retiring the Oriole shortstop and going to work on Pearce. And Pearce, already 2-for-3 with a double, would cap a nice Saturday at the dish with a slapped single to right, whence the relay from Trumbo tailed up the third-base line, permitting Reimold to slide around Conger’s attempted swipe-tag. And from there it was down to Jim Johnson to set the side down in order, in the Angel tenth, an eleven-pitch effort, good for big Jim’s eleventh save of the season. It didn’t lack for drama, but this one was finally in the books — and in the Orioles’ favor.

     

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