Sweep Prevention Offensive - Orioles win 10-to-7
Written by Mike Laws
Sweep prevention offensive
O’s rake against Moore, need just about all of it
Orioles 10, Tampa Bay 7
Well, the bats are awake again.
Which is no small feat, considering the stifling job done by Rays hurlers through the first two of the three-game weekender in Tampa: Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson et al held the Birds to one run on six hits — ahem, combined — through the Friday and Saturday games. That’s about as quiet as we’ve seen this Oriole offense over any two-game span all season long.
And, of course, the prospects certainly didn’t seem any brighter coming into the finale, given the fact of Matt Moore’s start. Basically, “on paper” (as they say), this was the one where you probably would’ve penciled in an O’s loss. Ignoring the Tampa Bay southpaw’s fine 2013 to date, there was also the bitter memory of what happened on the last Sunday he went toe-to-toe with the Orioles’ Chris Tillman — I probably don’t need to remind you, but it wasn’t pretty: Moore outpitched Tillman en route to an eventual 3-1 win that gave the Rays the sweep; it was pretty much the nadir of the Orioles’ year.
But hey, no time like the present to reverse thrusters, unleash the offensive fury and halt this little slide. It was, in the end, maybe a little tighter than we would’ve liked, but it got the job done.
- First off — though not for the first time this year — there were the doubles. Like, a whole lot of them. Six of the first seven Oriole base hits, in fact, went for two-baggers. And that’s over just more than two innings! Which means the Birds had just jumped right out all over this Moore fella. In the first, it was J.J. Hardy blasting a shot over the head of Tampa center fielder Desmond Jennings, plating Manny Machado (who’d been hit with a pitch). Then Adam Jones shot the gap in left-center with a blistering drive, scoring Hardy easily. 2-0, O’s, who’d go on to outdo themselves with a three-run second after Tillman breezed through his first frame of work (three up, three down, ten total pitches). Danny Valencia, the target of today’s abuse at the hands of Tropicana Field’s Happy Heckler, made him think twice, leading things off with another gapper into left. Steve Pearce then singled, advancing Valencia to third, from which he was delivered by an Alexi Casilla sacrifice fly to right. 3-0. Nick Markakis struck out, but then Machado slashed (what else?) a double down the line and into the corner in right, scoring Pearce. 4-0. And Hardy — this is getting ridiculous, now — launched another two-bagger, this one onto the warning track, splitting Jennings and left fielder Kelly Johnson. 5-0. (Interestingly, and maybe tellingly, all of the Orioles’ six hits to this point had come in a pitcher’s count; in fact, Hardy’s second double, on a 2-2 offering, was the only knock among those on which Moore wasn’t actually ahead of the batter. Either the lefty was missing his spots, or the O’s have figured him out …)
- And while the Rays would pull one back in their half of the second, mostly on the strength of Evan Longoria’s leadoff (yes) double, the visitors weren’t done yet. Matt Wieters joined the party in the third, driving a 1-1 pitch into the opposite-field gap in right-center. Valencia walked (the Happy Heckler having now pretty much stopped jabbering at the Baltimore DH). Pearce again dropped a single into left. Bases loaded with one away for the light-hitting Casilla; will he come through? He will. The Oriole second baseman rolled the first offering from Moore through the 5/6 hole and into left, which should’ve been good for an RBI and kept the bases loaded, except Johnson overshot the cutoff man, and Tampa backstop Jose Molina let the relay roll through his legs, earning himself an error and permitting all the runners to advance an extra base. 7-1, Birds — and 8-1 after Markakis lofted another sac-fly out to right, with only an insanely nice diving catch from a Matt Joyce directly on top of the right-field line preventing the damage from escalating to ludicrous levels …
- Even so, it appears we’ve got a laugher on our hands, right? … Eh, don’t adjust that dial just yet. It certainly wasn’t Tillman’s doing — through his third, fourth and fifth innings of work, the Oriole starter permitted only a Ben Zobrist homer, then, in the sixth, a Kelly Johnson RBI single, scoring Zobrist, who’d walked with two down — which in any case didn’t seem to matter too much, especially after Jones picked up the ninth Baltimore run on the day via a monster shot to left on a hanging Moore breaking ball, and after Markakis doubled off lefty reliever Cesar Ramos, plating Casilla, who’d singled, to make it now 10-3 — nor was it Darren O’Day’s fault — the sidewinder struck out the side in the Tampa seventh — but the home team, nonetheless, would find its way back into the ballgame. Sad to report, this was mostly the doing of Brian Matusz, who simply did not have it, today. The trusty southpaw bullpen arm coughed up five hits through his two-thirds innings (he couldn’t make it out of the eighth), with Molina singling to start things off, Sam Fuld homering, and Joyce, Longoria and ol’ pal Luke Scott all swatting singles. 10-6 …
- And though Tommy Hunter would spell Matusz with a swinging strikeout of Jennings to retire the side in the eighth, his ninth didn’t proceed quite as prettily; after conceding a pair of singles, in between which he did notch another K and record a fielder’s-choice groundout, the flamethrowing righty had to be lifted in favor of Jim Johnson (being as we were now technically in a save situation and all, and of course the closer must be used in any technical save situation). Anyway, Johnson promptly surrendered a run-scoring single to the pinch-hitting Jose Lobaton, making it 10-7, but would go on (occasioning a big sigh of relief from Your Humble Game Recapper) to coax K. Johnson into a game-ending pop to short. So the good guys salvage a game at the Trop and come home to face the Angels tomorrow, some of that good juju in tow. Till then, e’erbody …
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