Walk It Off - Orioles win 7-to-5
Written by Mike Laws
Walk it off
Dickerson’s ninth-inning blast steals one for O’s
Detroit 5, Orioles 7
Of all the things about last night you could file under the “Good to see” heading, none was better than this: that it’s finally happening for, and not against, the Orioles.
And I’m not just referring to the past week (though it was certainly nice to see the Birds do exactly to Jose Valverde what the Blue Jays had done to Jim Johnson). Looking back over the last, oh, I don’t know, decade and a half, how many times have we sat and watched in horror as the Red Sox or Yankees came back in a game they had no business winning, the fans at Fenway or in the Bronx sensing blood in the late-game water and creating a kind of living-hell atmosphere for the opposing closer?
Not to suggest that the O’s need to pattern themselves after the quote-unquote big dogs of the division, but you had to love how difficult a task the Camden Yards faithful, over 46,000 strong in number, made it for Valverde on Friday night. Not just the homers, not just the hits, but each offering on which the Detroit closer missed the zone received raucous applause. Huge spontaneous chants of “Let’s go, O’s” broke out in unison’d staccato; for a while the entire place was doing the whole “Seven Nation Army” thing as one. Maybe not since game two of last year’s divisional series has the crowd at Oriole Park exerted such a palpable influence on the proceedings. And when Chris Dickerson smashed a two-out, two-run bomb into the bleachers in right-center, the reaction was the sort of proud pandemonium that comes with not just having witnessed an awesome affair, but recognizing your own role in it. As much as Dickerson himself, the fans stole this one for the Birds tonight.
Whew. Positively spine-tingling. On to the bullet points:
- Of course, as it’s been said, you’ve got to have tasted the sour to appreciate the sweet. And that was most of this game: the sour. It wasn’t just that Tigers starter Max Scherzer had befuddled the Orioles while Miguel Gonzalez gave them what was, for him, a middling performance; it was that, having broken through for a run in the second (singles from Adam Jones and Chris Davis followed by a sac-fly from Matt Wieters) and two in the third (a two-out walk from Nick Markakis, followed by a monster shot to dead center from Jones), Scherzer, far from being on the ropes or anything like that, actually got better as the ballgame progressed. That’s actually an understatement: Following the homer to Jones, Scherzer retired his next sixteen hitters, six of them on strikeouts (to go along with the previous four he’d fanned); it seemed as though the Tiger starter was finishing every inning with a swinging K. Making effective use of his sweeping slider — a nice second pitch, when you can throw it off a 95-plus fastball — not to mention getting some generous calls on (or off) the black from home-plate ump Greg Gibson, Scherzer whiffed the Orioles’ top three (Nate McLouth, Manny Machado and Markakis — or, as I like to call them, Emineminem) five times, to go along with two apiece against Davis and Dickerson. The only saving grace was that, having completed eight, by which point he’d delivered a season-high 119 pitches, no way was Scherzer returning for the ninth …
- While meantime, the Tigers had tagged Gonzalez for five, beginning in the first, when left fielder Andy Dirks ripped a single into right off an 0-2 pitch the Baltimore starter had tried, but failed, to bust him with inside — which was followed in short order by the fearsome Miguel Cabrera, against whom Gonzalez did deliver what looked like a nice two-seamer in on the hands, on a 1-2 delivery, nonetheless turning on the pitch and sending it way out into the left-field stands. Hey, credit where credit’s due. I think we all know the guy can hit. Gonzalez would finish the first without further damage before turning in a short second and even shorter (six-pitch) third — with the O’s, meanwhile, assuming the lead on Jones’s homer — but the Tigers would tie things back up in the fourth by way of an Avisail Garcia two-out RBI single back through the box, and, in the fifth, retake the advantage courtesy of a Victor Martinez run-scoring fielder’s choice. Scherzer now straight-up dealing, the insurance marker the visitors would add in the sixth (on an opposite-field Garcia home run off the top of the out-of-town scoreboard) looked like more than they’d need …
- That is, until Scherzer made way for Valverde. (Who entered with the margin still at two, 5-3, thanks to some quality work from Oriole relievers Troy Patton [a scoreless seventh], Brian Matusz [a scoreless eighth, plus two-thirds of the ninth] and Darren O’Day [that final third, in which he grounded Cabrera out to short].) Continuing the trend of belting two-strike long balls, Markakis greeted the Detroit closer with a solo shot off a hanging breaking pitch — which, like Garcia’s solo blast, just cleared the outfield wall (in Nick’s case, bounding off the top of the groundskeepers’ dugout and into a lucky fan’s hands in the bleachers in right). Which begat the crowd-sourced rapture — a response that only swelled when Jones rolled an infield single into the 5/6 hole, and began to crescendo when Davis, having worked the count full, slashed a liner into the right-center field gap (would’ve tied the game but for how deep the Tigers were playing the big man all night, permitting right-fielder Garcia to cut the ball off before it reached the wall, holding Jones at third and Davis to a single). And then, with the place going bonkers … well, for a time, nothing. Wieters popped up lazily to first on just the second pitch he saw from Valverde. J.J. Hardy fell into a hole at 1-2, worked another ball and fouled off a running fastball — but then likewise popped out, this time to shallow left, nowhere near deep enough to get Jones in from third. Could it be that the Orioles, after all this, were going to strand a runner ninety feet away? How could they not have gotten that tie run in? Well, not to worry. DH Dickerson, at this point 0 for 3 with a pair of K’s, took two tempting Valverde offerings off the plate, cued one foul — and then, on the 2-1 pitch, a fastball that tailed back over the middle of the dish, blew the lid off the joint, launching his three-run, walk-off bomb. What a finish — to the game, to the month, to that too-long span in which Camden Yards had felt more like a picnic grounds than an intimidating ballpark for opposing teams. No more. Ignited by those in attendance, the Orioles had done what you’ve got to do, to compete in the AL East, snatching victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat. 7-5 is your lovely, lovely final.
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