Little Things - Orioles Win 3-to-1
Written by Mike Laws
Three-run fourth, quality team pitching earn O’s series W
Orioles 3, Houston 1
In a rather large percentage of the games they’ve played this year, three runs on eleven hits would’ve meant the Orioles squandered too many opportunities to win. Not today. Today the three-spot the Birds hung in the fourth was quite enough, thank you, with Miguel Gonzalez, Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz and Jim Johnson combining for a pleasantly uneventful getaway afternoon in Houston.
And so, quickly, on to the bullet points. We’ve got a charter flight to catch!
- On the rare day the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders, this one came down to details. Like, for example, how Gonzalez’s defense came to his aid in a shaky first, after the Oriole starter surrendered a leadoff single and a one-out Jason Castro double to set up a potentially costly second-and-third situation. The next Houston hitter, J.D. Martinez, then clocked a shot to right — off the bat it looked like a certain two-run double over Chris Dickerson’s head, but the O’s right fielder had other ideas, ranging back to the wall while somehow keeping an eye out over his left shoulder, and reeled the liner in just before colliding with the fence. The second out of the inning went down in the books as a sac-fly scoring one, but the play’s importance can’t be overstated: Gonzalez would go on to fan Carlos Peña, holding the Astros to the lone tally they’d get all afternoon …
- Because, after that half-inning, Gonzalez found his game, beginning and ending his second frame of work, a one-two-three affair, with swinging strikeouts (Chris Carter and Matt Dominguez, respectively). And when again trouble lurked in the third, the diminutive right-hander dug deep to emerge unscathed, whiffing Jimmy Paredes to record a huge second out with a man ninety feet away (the result of nary a hard-hit ball, on Houston’s part: a leadoff infield single followed by a stolen base/sacrifice bunt that advanced the runner the extra bag). And when, after walking Castro intentionally, Gonzalez fell behind 3-0 on Martinez before getting the cleanup man to bounce back to him, you kinda had a feeling it was gonna be the Orioles’ day …
- And indeed, the lineup must’ve shared that sentiment. In the following half-inning the Birds would strike for a trifecta, with the first couple runs coming by dint of a nice combination of big and small ball: Chris Davis smashed a single to right to lead things off, then came around to score on Adam Jones’s ripped left-center field gapper, with Jones advancing to third on a Matt Wieters groundout to second, and J.J. Hardy (still red-red-hot at 4-for-4 on the day, with a double) delivering Jones with a single slashed to right on a 2-2 pitch. Which gave the O’s the lead, and set the stage for another fine display of detail-oriented baseball on Dickerson’s part — strange to say when he nearly bounced into an inning-ending double play to third, except here’s the whole point: He didn’t, and legged it out to beat the relay to first by a hair, keeping things alive for Ryan Flaherty to … well, also keep things alive, inside-outing a pitch down to third, where Dominguez couldn’t come up with a diving play, the ball off the end of his glove and dribbling away into shallow left — which an alert, aggressive Dickerson read, and cruised into third, eventually coming in on a spiked 2-2 slider that went for a wild pitch …
- And as it happened, the 3-1 margin would hold up the rest of the way. Gonzalez cruised through a ten-pitch fourth and nine-pitch fifth (inducing a tidy 5-4-3 twin-killing, in the latter frame, to extinguish something of a developing threat). The Baltimore starter would give up one more Astro hit in his final inning of work — an infield single, natch — before retiring the side in the sixth, making way for O’Day’s sharp-looking inning and two-thirds, Matusz’s easy-come-easy-go one-batter outing (he fanned Castro to end the eighth) and Johnson’s twentieth save of the season (necessitated after a greenlighted Flaherty hooked a would’ve-been grand slam foul by a matter of micrometers, then wound up striking out, in the eighth, by the end of which the Orioles had gone 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and stranded nine). Nor was Johnson’s ninth inning what you would call particularly worry-free: The closer got Martinez to ground out on one pitch, but watched as Flaherty botched what was admittedly a tough play on a Peña topper, then plunked Carter on an 0-2 pitch. Still, Johnson clearly had the heavy sinker working, and ended up needing just two more offerings to put this one in the books: a ball down low to pinch hitter Carlos Corporan, and his next delivery, which Corporan smacked right at Hardy, who flipped to Flaherty for one, on to first for a game-ending double play. Another series win for the Birds, and a nice way to head on over for a big series in Tampa. 3-1, is your final.
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