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  • Jul

    An Inning Too Far

    Written by Mike Laws

    Toronto 7, Orioles 3


    Were it not for the variation in the level of daylight, you could be excused for thinking MASN was just slotting a replay of last night’s ballgame into the 4 o’clock Saturday dead zone.


    Because, in many ways, the experience of watching this — the second of three against the Toronto Blue Jays — was like viewing Friday night’s Oriole win in a dark mirror. Repeat the details; flip-flop the final result.


    For, again, the Jays went up early courtesy of a two-run shot — this time from Edwin Encarnacion, who homered for a second straight game, though the man who delivered yesterday’s blast, J.P. Arencibia, also continued to rake against Baltimore pitching. Even so — and, again, just as was the case yesterday — Chris Davis warmed to the task in his first at-bat, again taking the Jays starter (Todd Redmond, in Saturday’s case) out of Oriole Park the other way, to left. And later — again — Adam Jones added a dinger of his own.


    The difference? Well, J.J. Hardy never added a long ball of his own. And of course Davis’s and Jones’s homers were good for only two combined runs driven in (unlike yesterday’s five).


    But the real point of divergence, all other things being basically equal? Sadly, that’d be Jason Hammel’s performance, in which the Oriole starter was unable to match Chris Tillman’s series of escape-jobs from a day earlier.


    Hammel did rebound nicely from Encarnacion’s first-inning blast, enjoying a couple quick innings where he had only to face the bare-minimum three Blue Jay batsmen — frames that saw the Oriole defense come up with some big saving plays (just as, by the way, it had for Tillman). In the second Hammel erased a leadoff Maicer Izturis single with a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of (what? this guy actually makes outs?) Arencibia. In the third the Baltimore hurler issued a leadoff walk to Emilio Bonifacio, but then watched as Matt Wieters delivered a perfect strike to Brian Roberts, nabbing the Blue Jay left fielder rather foolishly attempting to swipe second. (Wieters and Bonifacio would repeat the little pas-de-deux in the Toronto eighth, which makes you think Emilio’s probably now learned his lesson.) And in the fourth, Hammel recorded a quick pair of outs before surrendering a pair of singles — the second of them a dribbler to first on which the big spindly righty couldn’t get off the mound to cover in time (a harbinger of things to come) — but then fanned Arencibia (whoa!) on some nasty low-and-away cheese.


    If Hammel’s effort in that fourth was such that you sensed a shift in momentum, and said to whoever you were watching with that now here is where the Birds would take the lead, well, your intuition would be spot-on, my friend. Jones led things off with his solo drive (like yesterday’s, on a ball somewhere around his shoelaces that Adam was somehow able to golf out of the park to left-center). Speaking of shoe-tops, Davis then got plunked in his, which looked painful. Hardy popped out and Wieters flied out, but Roberts came through in the clutch, smoking a Redmond delivery up and in all the way off the very top of the wall above the out-of-town scoreboard in right, which for some reason Jose Bautista decided it best to play by ranging all the way back to the warning track and deking Davis like he was gonna catch the ball (uh, there are two outs, dummy), meaning he was now in a perfect position for the ball to carom off the wall and back down onto the right-field grass. By the time Bautista chased it down on his way back toward the infield, Davis had already made it around from first, providing the Orioles their first lead of the day, at 3-2.


    To which Hammel responded with his first (and, as it’d turn out, only) clean inning of the afternoon, a one-two-three, seven-pitch fifth. Hooray! But don’t get to popping that André just yet. Now in his sixth frame of work, and still up just the one, the Baltimore starter looked well on his way to another quick inning of work when Adam Lind stroked a two-out single to right. Colby Rasmus followed suit, this time to center. And — in literally the exact same play as his last at-bat — Izturis fisted a little dribbler into the Bermuda Triangle between mound, second and first, where — again! — Hammel seemed to slow and flirt with the idea of trying to field the ball himself, on his way to first, and wound up not getting himself over to the bag in time. This time, however, it’d cost him; here’s where Arencibia proved his mettle (as if he still needed to, against the O’s), turning on Hammel’s first delivery and ripping it over third, good for a pair of RBIs, putting the Jays back on top, 4-3.


    The pain-train kept a-rollin’ from there. Hammel, who’d somehow managed not to elevate his pitch count beyond the fateful century-mark, opened the seventh by hitting Bonifacio. He then walked Jose Reyes. That was it for the Oriole starter; enter Jairo Asencio. Could he repeat last night’s magical debut, in which he’d fanned the batter he was to face today, Bautista? He could not. Baltimore Public Enemy No. 1 jumped on an 0-2 changeup Asencio left hanging up out over the plate, sending it deep into the left-field corner. Bonifacio scored. Reyes advanced to third. Asencio walked Encarnacion intentionally and made way for Troy Patton — who, though saddled with this unenviable bases-loaded/nobody-out hellscape, should’ve gotten Lind to line into a double play to first, except the ball either ticked off or actually went through Davis’s mitt and trickled out behind the infield dirt. Davis was still able to collect the baseball and fire to second for the force on Encarnacion, but all that meant was that, officially scored, this was a fielder’s-choice RBI groundout, and had put the Jays up 6-3 — soon to be 7, when Rasmus cued a ball too slowly-hit to short to go for a double play. Tough luck, Troy.


    And that would pretty much do it. Oh, I suppose I could tell you about the rest — about Darren O’Day’s or T.J. McFarland’s scoreless innings of work, or about how the Orioles threatened in each and every frame the rest of the way, but failed to plate another run against Aaron Loup, or Dustin McGowan, or Brett Cecil, or Steve Delabar, or (my God, John Gibbons, calm down!) Casey Janssen — but MS Word is now advising me to update, and at this point that seems like a better idea than continuing to talk about this ballgame. Orioles lose, 7-3, setting up the rubber match tomorrow. Better luck then, sportsfans.

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