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  • Jun
    02

    The Late Greats - Orioles win 4-to-2

    Written by Mike Laws

    The late greats

    Gausman dazzles, bench bats come through late in rubber match

    Detroit 2, Orioles 4

     

    Whaddya say, Kevin Gausman, you feel like sticking around the bigs awhile? On a day the Tigers got Torii Hunter back, adding potentially more pop to a lineup that’s already proven beyond potent here at Camden Yards, it was the prospect, the previously somewhat green-looking kid with the promising arm, whose star shone brightest of all. The spindly right-hander spun six innings of one-run baseball in which he kept the fastball down and deftly weaved in a slider and occasional fading change, good for four strikeouts (including Miguel Cabrera, caught looking, to put a cap on his outing) and too many ground balls to count (OK, it was twelve, including, against Cabrera, a pair of big 6-4-3 double-play balls). About the only complaint you could make, with respect to the work done today by the 22-year-old with the Mussina-esque delivery, was that the lone run he did concede — on a two-out pitch to Prince Fielder that honestly wasn’t even that bad, just that Fielder went down and golfed it out over the right-field wall — was, for a considerable time, good enough for a Detroit lead …

     

    But let’s move on to the bullet points:

     

    • As was the case yesterday, when you could point to the fourth as being pretty much the story of the game, so too did today’s game come down to a single telltale inning — this time, the seventh. It didn’t start well. Up just that single marker, the Tigers greeted Brian Matusz with three straight hits: a double from Fielder and consecutive singles from Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. First and second, one run in to make it 2-0, Detroit, and still no one down — was this to be another monster Tiger frame? Happily, the answer is no. No, it wasn’t. Catcher Alex Avila, after attempting a bunt on the first offering he saw from the Oriole southpaw, which he nicked down into the right-hand batter’s box, foul, did pretty much the same thing on the following delivery — except the ball stayed fair this time, easily within reach of Baltimore catcher Chris Snyder, who popped to his feet and fired to third, where the covering Manny Machado caught and relayed to first in time for the rare 2-5-3 twin-killing. Wow. Talk about a potentially huge swing in momentum. If only Matusz could get the next guy, and strand that runner at second … and he did, flying second baseman Ramon Santiago out to center on the eighth pitch of the at-bat … 

     

    • And sure enough, that big play turned out to be precisely the wakeup call the Oriole bats needed, effectively rousing the offense from what had been a game-long slumber induced by soporific Tiger starter Rick Porcello, himself a groundball artist par excellence. Indeed, entering his seventh inning of work, Porcello had retired the side in order on three separate occasions, scattering  two hits and two walks among the other frames. But for whatever reason, the Birds pounced in the seventh, with Chris Davis keying the attack with a first-pitch leadoff homer — like we’ve seen before, on a fastball tailing up and away — that wound up settling way out near the top row of bleachers in right, next to the out-of-town scoreboard. One pitch and the lead was cut in half: all right. Chris Dickerson then deposited a payoff-pitch single into right; J.J. Hardy followed with a single of his own, a nice firm smack into right-center; and then the bench got involved. Jim Leyland opted to lift Porcello in favor of lefty specialist Phil Coke; Buck Showalter countered by removing the left-handed Ryan Flaherty from the ballgame in favor of right-handed lefty-masher Danny Valencia. Who fell 0-2 before fisting a single to right, plating Dickerson and, at long last, tying the game. Woo-hoo! But they weren’t done yet. With Alexi Casilla pinch-running for Valencia, and after Snyder failed to deliver a sac-bunt (it was the Tigers, this time, who were able to nail the lead runner at third), Nate McLouth, like Valencia jammed by an inside fastball from Coke, nonetheless muscled a liner over second base — a perfectly placed single hit weakly enough to bring a flying Casilla around from second, giving the Orioles their first lead of the ballgame …

     

    • And speaking of Casilla: Either dude was just excited to play, or took particular offense to the Tigers’ walking Hardy intentionally to get to him. Which is what the visitors opted to do, in the Oriole eighth (following a nice half-inning of work from Darren O’Day), after Davis poked your typical run-of-the-mill average-as-they-come routine-groundball-to-third double (effectively punishing the Detroit infield for defending him with such an extreme shift, as well as the Detroit outfield for playing him so deep — all series, they lined up practically along the warning track). Coming up with two down and Davis and Hardy thus aboard, Casilla fell 0-2 against southpaw Darin Downs, then fouled off a tough pitch, then laced a double deep to left, over the head of Andy Dirks, plating that all-important insurance marker …

     

    • And so it was all a matter of which Jim Johnson we were going to see. And, thankfully, a leadoff single to Cabrera notwithstanding, it was the good one. Unfazed, despite staring down the heart of the Tiger order, the big sinkerballer recorded a quick pair of fly-ball outs (Fielder, Martinez) before Peralta whacked a liner directly at Casilla at second. Lead preserved, series win ensured, yesterday’s cruddy memory erased as the Birds earn themselves a nice day off before heading down to Houston. 4-2, is your final.  


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