Another Slugfest - Orioles win 10-to-6
Written by Mike Laws
Subpar pitching not a problem as O’s blast off in Toronto
Orioles 10, Toronto 6
Well, Chris Tillman picked a pretty good night not to have his sharpest stuff. A tense nail-biter of a matchup — the kind of game in which the de facto Oriole ace always seems to find himself, be it against Matt Moore or J.A. Happ or, um, Andrew Cashner — this assuredly wasn’t; far afield from those taut two-hour affairs, here we had a protracted, homer-happy belt-a-thon. Droves of baserunners, hard-hit balls by the barrelful, doubles left and right (literally). In the end fully seven of the eleven scoring plays shared between the teams involved a round-tripper. You could, watching from home, be forgiven for occasionally forgetting you were watching Major League Baseball, and not men’s slow-pitch over at the church diamond.
But that’s not exactly a complaint …
The bullet points! Hit it!
- We’ve talked a lot already about how remarkably consistent the Baltimore offense has been. Well, safe to say they took that to a whole ’nother level tonight. Teeing off against vaunted Jays prospect Sean Nolin — and, when Nolin failed to make it past the inning-and-a-third mark, reliever Ramon Ortiz — the O’s hung a three-spot on the board in each of their first three turns at the plate. In the first it was Nick Markakis and Manny Machado, both in pitcher’s counts, dumping singles the other way — at which point No. 3 hitter J.J. Hardy, also down 0-2, went down to get a Nolin curve, golfing it over the left-field Rogers Centre wall. The Toronto lefty would escape the frame having surrendered only that dinger and a subsequent single to Chris Davis, bouncing Matt Wieters into a double play to hold the margin at three, but he wouldn’t make it much deeper into the night. Danny Valencia pounded a double to the base of the wall in left-center to lead off the Oriole second. Steve Pearce walked on four pitches. Yamaico Navarro lofted a single into left, loading the bases. And then Markakis promptly unloaded them, ripping a 1-1 double into the gap in right-center. Ortiz would come on to take over for Nolin after the latter finally induced a fly-out off the bat of Machado, and would escape the frame stranding Markakis, but the Birds weren’t done yet. Davis kicked off the third with another of his mammoth moon-shots directly down the line in right; thing wound up in the second deck. And after Wieters drew a walk — still with no one down — Valencia clobbered a full-count payoff pitch to left, good for two ribbies of his own …
- All of which was most welcome, because Tillman, too, was getting fairly smacked around — kinda weird, given how many strikeouts he was also racking up. In the first he’d back up a Melky Cabrera leadoff shot to center and Jose Bautista single with a pair of swinging strikeouts. In the second he’d fail to record an out until Brett Lawrie (another homer to lead off an inning), Colby Rasmus (a double ripped to right) and Emilio Bonifacio (RBI single) touched him up for two additional runs. In the third Tillman sandwiched a double and a single within fully three strikeouts, two of them looking (with an irate Lawrie, followed closely by an irate manager John Gibbons, getting the boot from home-plate ump Dan Bellino for impugning Bellino’s generous strike zone). Another Jay called out on strikes — Rasmus, this time — followed in the fourth, meaning Tillman’s last four outs had come by way of the K. And while the Oriole starter had managed to wriggle out of the third, fourth and fifth without conceding another run (despite back-to-back singles, from Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, to lead off the fifth), he’d also, by the time of his seventh strikeout (J.P. Arencibia, swinging), thrown enough pitches (109) that his evening was at an end ...
- But if you were thinking this was just gonna be an absolute rout — especially after Adam Jones stroked another leadoff homer, in the sixth — you had another thing coming. Brian Matusz, on in the Blue Jay half, notched a quick pair of outs before walking Bonifacio on four straight. Munenori Kawasaki, of all people, then slapped a double, going the other way, over the head of Pearce in left. Yet another two-out hit, this time a single from Cabrera, delivered Kawasaki from second; it also bounced Matusz from the ballgame in favor of Tommy Hunter — who, though he’d permit a single from Bautista on a 1-2 pitch, finally recorded that elusive third out, getting Encarnacion to at least rip his sinking liner within Jones’s range in center. Hunter would go on to cough up an opposite-field bomb from Adam Lind, in the seventh, bringing the Jays to within four at 10-6, but — finally — the scoring in this one was through (with Hunter, benefiting from a double-play ball off the bat of Cabrera in the Toronto eighth, becoming the first pitcher in this game to face just the three opposing hitters in any half-inning, and the Oriole ninth being the only true one-two-three frame; Darren O’Day would surrender a double to Lind, but nothing else, fanning Mark DeRosa to bring this one to an end).
GLOVEWORK: We could go on all day about the eye-popping numbers turned in by the tops of the respective orders (Markakis was 3-5, Jones 2-5, Davis 3-4; on the Jays’ half of the ledger, Cabrera and Encarnacion went 2-5, Bautista and Lind 3-5), but it’s the defense supplied by O’s third-bagger Machado, himself 3 out of 6 in this one, that, strange though it may seem, might’ve made the difference. On two separate occasions — both with Cabrera at the dish — the youngster made difficult catches in foul ground to extinguish the Toronto threat: In the second Machado sprinted to his right, seemingly unafraid of pulling a Jeter McLouth with regard to the little half-wall fast approaching, to backhand a dying flare just as it reached the level of his kneecaps; in the fourth he completed arguably an even tougher play, ranging back and to his right down the line and somehow keeping an eye on Cabrera’s pop over his shoulder and into the glove, basket-style. Tested again in the fifth by a bounding chop from Lind, Machado circled the ball, picking it on a short-hop off the artificial turf, lining himself up so his momentum would carry him onto the bag at third and he could relay to first without hesitation. That was good for a 5-3 twin-killing that, who knows, might’ve kept Tillman out of a Big Inning and in line for the W (with a tip of the cap to Davis, at first, for an alert sweep-tag after Machado’s quick relay tailed up the line). And, having aided his starter in this way, Machado apparently figured he’d save some glove-love for O’Day, making like a butterfly-style goalie, dropping to his knees to take a leadoff grounder from Encarnacion off the turf, then coolly returning to his feet to supply a spot-on delivery to Davis. For a game comprising such powerhouse offense, how refreshing is it to find the youngest player showing such attention to fine work on both sides of the ball?
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