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  • May
    08

    After The Flood Orioles win 4-to-3

    Written by Mike Laws

    After the flood

    O’s surrender lead following delay, rally late for narrow victory

    Kansas City 3, Orioles 4

     

    With one down in the seventh, everything appeared to be coming up Birds. Well, more or less, anyway. It’s true that starter Wei-Yin Chen had just allowed a single to old (and I don’t intend a pun, there — heck, does anyone even know his age? … All right, so that was a low blow) Oriole mainstay Miguel Tejada, now plying his trade at third for the Kansas City club. But then Chen had been giving up singles all night long — this was the ninth he’d allowed — and the bare fact he was still in the ballgame surely spoke volumes: Despite only one purely one-two-three inning, Chen, apparently doing his best Jason Hammel impression, had consistently worked himself out of jams, coming up with rally-killing groundball double plays in the first, fifth and sixth. Back in the third, the sole frame in which he’d surrendered a run to the Royals, he’d also pulled himself together nicely, inducing a first-pitch Billy Butler fly-out with men on the corners to end the threat. Having men on just doesn’t seem to rattle this cool customer, does it? And so on he worked, with Tejada aboard, and O’s fans must’ve been thinking about yet another twin-killing — and then the rains came …

     

    And here it seems appropriate to take a break of our own. We’ll let the bullet points pick things up:

     

    • Ah, but if only Brian Matusz could’ve picked Chen up. The lefty reliever, so good so far this year (a certain late-inning lapse in Oakland notwithstanding), looked as if he’d continue apace, following the fifty-minute delay, getting Elliot Johnson, he of the suspended at-bat, to fly harmlessly out to center. Matusz then nearly had Alex Gordon rung up — a would’ve-been third-strike foul tick popped out of catcher Matt Wieters’s glove, extending the at-bat, which lasted precisely one more pitch: a Matusz fastball meant for the outside corner that wound up tailing back over some prime plate, which Gordon turned on, blasting it over the out-of-town scoreboard to right. And just like that, we had a whole new game on our hands … 

     

    • But let’s back up a bit — or actually, all the way back to the first — and take a look at how we got there. With one down in their first look at the tough but mercurial Ervin Santana, the Birds — swinging freely against a righty who’s usually right around the plate — leapt out to a first-and-second situation, courtesy of a pair of singles (Manny Machado, still piping-hot, and Nick Markakis). It was at this point that Adam Jones turned in one of the more … interesting at-bats of the year: The Oriole center fielder swung at each of seven Santana deliveries, reeling off five straight fouls before connecting for a single off the hands and over third, good for the first run of the evening (hat tip to Machado for being at third to begin with, by the way; he’d come charging around second, never slowing, on Markakis’s ball up the middle and off the bag at second; he might otherwise not have been able to score on Jones’s flare). With men now on first and second, and following a swinging strikeout of Chris Davis, Wieters turned in his own exemplary at-bat, falling into an 0-2 hole before working things full, spoiling a tough Santana offering along the way, and finally pulling a low-and-away (but not low-and-away enough) slider into the gap in right-center, plating both Markakis and Jones. Just like that, 3-0, Baltimore …

     

    • And a damn good thing, too, because Santana settled right in following his first frame of work. He’d go on to retire his next eleven Oriole batsmen — and, when the O’s finally broke the streak, with back-to-back Nate McLouth/Machado singles in the fifth, pulled a Chen impression of his own: In that inning, and in a sixth where Baltimore used a Davis walk and a J.J. Hardy single to mount a two-out threat, Santana got the big out to steer clear of further trouble, flying Markakis out in the fifth, Ryan Flaherty in the sixth.

     

    • And so, after the delay, exeunt Chen/Santana, Gordon homers, knotted at 3, on into the soggy late innings. Neither of these stingy bullpens appeared ready to cave, with the O’s Tommy Hunter, brought in to spell Matusz, especially effective, retiring all four batters he saw over an inning and a third of work. But up to the task (or so it appeared in his first inning of relief) was Royal lefty Tim Collins, which sounds like a citrusy gin drink, who worked past a McLouth walk/stolen base to ground both Machado and Markakis out and end the Baltimore seventh. But Collins couldn’t repeat the performance in the eighth, walking Jones (Jones! A walk!) to lead things off — which, though he’d strike Davis out, and then exit the ballgame in favor of Luke Hochevar, proved Collins’s fatal flaw. Hochevar came on and promptly threw the ball away attempting to catch Jones leaning off first (which makes this the second consecutive game in which the O’s took advantage of an errant pickoff throw). With Jones now on second, Wieters wasted no time in posting his second double of the game, slapping the very next Hochevar delivery down the left-field line (right on the line, as a matter of fact), scoring Jones easily. And while the Orioles witnessed some hard luck in being unable to cash in Wieters, too — with Flaherty retired on a wicked shot to second that Johnson dived for, and came up with — the Birds now led, 4-3 …

     

    • Which, as we’ve seen, was quite enough of a margin for Jim Johnson, thank you very much. Johnson flew Royal right fielder/Markakis bestie Jeff Francouer out to center, fanned catcher Salvador Perez on a nasty tailing fastball and popped Mike Moustakas up to short left, good for his thirteenth save of the season, his thirty-third in as many regular-season attempts, dating back to last July, and another satisfying Oriole victory.

     

     

     

    THE DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE YEAR, THUS FAR: Some O’s observers have been alarmed at the frequency with which Gold Glover Hardy seems to be delivering short-hops to Davis over at first. But surely we can’t fault J.J. for this one. With a man on second and two down in the Kansas City fourth, the Royals having cut into the deficit an inning prior, catcher Perez pulled a sharp grounder deep into the hole between short and third. If it gets through, it’s probably another Royal run. At best it looked like infield-hit material (which, incidentally, would’ve been the second such single of the inning). But Hardy, ranging as far right as humanly possible, laid out, snaring the shot on a backhand at full extension, then threw — from his knees, from the outfield grass — to get Perez by a half-step at first (with, yes, a fine pick by Davis). Hell, even Chen was fired up. Derek Jeter couldn’t even have tossed his hat onto that ball …

     

     

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