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  • Apr

    Cardiac Birds Keep It Interesting - Orioles Win 4-to-3

    Written by Mike Laws

    O’s jump out early, escape with win over Cy Young Dickey



    This team likes cutting it close, eh? For once — maybe the first time all season — Oriole fans thought they could relax a little and enjoy a wide-margin victory, propped up on a nice early four-run cushion, with starter Miguel Gonzalez looking like he was well on his way to a silky-smooth seven- or eight-inning outing, maybe even a complete game. Through five he’d thrown a paltry fifty-nine pitches, consistently working ahead in the count, inducing all manner of meekly hit Blue Jay outs. Even in the third, his one trouble spot in the early going, Gonzalez worked around a leadoff double and a one-out single, emerging completely unscathed thanks to a nicely turned 6-4-3 double play bounced into by the not-slow Munenori Kawasaki; what’s more, Gonzalez needed only nine pitches to escape that frame, keeping him on target for the kind of deep outing this staff so sorely needs.


    And then the sixth inning happened …


    … But we’ll get to that. First, the bullet points. Hit it!


    • In terms of the Oriole offense, what we had here was an all-or-nothing kind of evening. Last year’s NL Cy Young recipient, the knuckleballing R.A. Dickey, might not have had his absolute tip-top stuff tonight, but, save for one inning, he was good enough; remove the Baltimore second from the equation and all you really have is a couple more walks than Dickey’d probably like to give up. But, for whatever reason — Alfonso Marquez’s comically undersized strike zone might’ve been one — Dickey came unhinged in the second, failing to deliver a first-pitch strike until the ninth Oriole hitter of the inning, issuing a pair of free passes and surrendering a sacrifice fly amid four singles, the backbreaking last of them a smashed Manny Machado grounder that glanced off the glove of Kawasaki at short and filtered on through to center, good for a pair of runs. 4-0, O’s, after two …  


    • … Which is how it’d stay until the aforementioned top of the sixth, when Gonzalez, having recorded a strike- and a groundout, found himself up 0-2 on Adam Lind. According to Marquez, he proceeded to miss the strike zone on four straight offerings (with the 3-2 pitch being of particular interest in the “OK, now where was that?” category) and, following a tough battle with Jose Bautista, walked him as well. OK, deep breath, no problem; a visit from O’s pitching coach Rick Adair’ll set him straight, right? Not this time. The dangerous Edwin Encarnacion leapt at Gonzalez’s very next pitch following the confab on the hill, blasting a three-run shot to left. The Jays were now officially back in the ballgame, and Gonzalez was now officially rattled. The diminutive righty fell behind 2-1 against the next Blue Jay batsman, Melky (“Anabolic Catfish”) Cabrera, who then stroked a long liner off the wall in right-center that caromed off Adam Jones’s leg and rolled along the warning track to the right-field corner. Good for a triple, the O’s were lucky Melky’s a little banged up and not running well, and was ultimately held up after taking a wide turn at third. And doubly lucky, it turned out, after Brett Lawrie’s rocket to the warning track vectored into left fielder Nate McLouth’s reach, keeping the Orioles ahead by just the one run, now.


    And so now it was up to the Baltimore bullpen to seal the deal. Brian Matusz worked a quick seventh. Pedro Strop took over in the eighth following a leadoff walk, managing intermittent erraticism to strand a Blue Jay at third with a huge inning-ending called strike three against Cabrera (and receiving, oddly enough, a little friendly help from Marquez, who might’ve been getting tired or had to urinate or something, and adjudged Strop’s 3-2 backup slider to have painted the outside corner). And Jim Johnson, apparently eager to serve all the naysaying prognosticators (“His K rate’s not high enough!”) a heaping helping of crow, sent ’em home happy, sawing Lawrie’s bat in half on the first pitch the Toronto third-bagger saw, which went for an easy groundout to Machado, then whiffing both Rasmus and, after a two-out single kept the game alive, power-bat J.P. Arencibia. 4-3, O’s, is your final.

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