Written by Mike Laws
The walkoff bloop
Davis’s single into shallow left gives O’s win in 13th
Boston 4, Orioles 5
When Red Sox reliever Alex Wilson grounded Manny Machado harmlessly to third to record the second out of the Oriole thirteenth, you had to think this one was destined to go even deeper into the night.
Such was how quiet the Baltimore bats had been through the extra frames — indeed, through a good chunk of the regularly scheduled innings that preceded them, too. Going in reverse order, there was Wilson, by now in his third inning of work, who’d conceded only a two-out pinch-hit double to Chris Dickerson, in the twelfth; Junichi Tazawa, who worked the ninth and tenth, and who had likewise allowed a runner to reach with two down, in both Oriole half-innings, but nothing more; Andrew Miller, pretty much Boston’s version of Jake McGee, who issued a couple of walks through the seventh and eighth, neither of which hurt him in any way; Franklin Morales, also a lefty, who flirted with trouble in the sixth, plunking Nate McLouth and surrendering an infield single to Machado with just one away, but worked out of that; and, before the relief corps was called upon, starter Felix Doubront, who, while the Birds did touch him up for four, had also limited the damage, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and pitching around a one-out Danny Valencia double in the fourth.
Then again, it wasn’t like the Oriole bullpen wasn’t up to the task. Cycle back through the efforts turned in by T.J. McFarland (a three-up, three-down thirteenth), Jim Johnson (same story, in the twelfth, with all three outs on the ground), Troy Patton (two-thirds of the eleventh, needed five pitches), Darren O’Day (an inning and a third, one runner allowed — on freakin’ catcher’s interference) and Tommy Hunter (two and a third, seven hitters, twenty total deliveries), and you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Baltimore bullpen arms, much-maligned of late, were actually better than their Beantown counterparts.
That is, with the exception of Brian Matusz. Who actually looked fine when he’d first gotten the nod, spelling starter Kevin Gausman with one down in the sixth; with a man on, the lefty retired David Ortiz (on one pitch, a pop to short) and Mike Carp (a strikeout, looking, on 3-2), no small feat considering the pair had stroked back-to-back shots off Gausman, back in the fourth. Sadly, though, Matusz’s subsequent trip to the hill wouldn’t proceed quite as swimmingly. Daniel Nava singled to center on the first pitch he saw in the Red Sox seventh. Jarrod Saltalamacchia looked at a ball, then did likewise. Will Middlebrooks fell into an 0-2 hole, worked the count even to 2-2, spoiled two more Matusz deliveries, then also singled, this time to left.
So that’s now bases loaded, no one out, the Orioles’ 4-2 lead looking suddenly a tenuous margin indeed. And now Stephen Drew rifled an 0-2 pitch to straightaway center, where only a terrific backward-running catch from Adam Jones spared the Orioles a truly disastrous fate, though the play did score Nava easily to cut the deficit right in half.
What happened next was even sadder, in a way: Matusz got ahead 0-2 and eventually 1-2 on Jacoby Ellsbury, and got the Boston center fielder to roll over into what, against most other hitters, would’ve been a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play; it was just that given Ellsbury’s speed, Ryan Flaherty rushed the backhand toss to second (what Mike Bordick calls the “power-flip,” but I tend to think of more as the “tossing dirty socks into the hamper” move), costing J.J. Hardy, who had to stab at the ball, precious time in his relay, which Ellsbury beat by a half-stride, allowing Saltalamacchia to come across with the game-tying run.
Which, as I’ve indicated, the game would stay level at 4 for quite awhile (long enough, in fact, that the crowd at Oriole Park, sparse to begin with on account of some malignant-looking weather forecasts, dwindled to practically no one). But of course, before circling back to the climactic thirteenth, I should probably talk about how the Orioles had posted their four runs, and how good Gausman looked through the early going …
Pretty darn good. Far from the three outings in which the kid showed flashes of brilliance en route to an eventual drubbing, tonight’s outing was closer to the Detroit game that effectively earned Gausman his keep; the twin long balls notwithstanding, he stayed away from the middle of the plate, kept most everything low (receiving, it should be noted, very little help on several borderline calls), and appeared more willing to mix in that devastating fadeaway changeup, even from the get-go. Gausman permitted a single in the first and a double in the second, working past both, then settled in for an especially sharp three-up, three-down third …
Which meant it was time to get the poor kid some runs, fer crying out loud. Certainly lefty-masher Valencia was up for the task, greeting Doubront in the Oriole half with a no-doubter to left off a 1-0 fastball. Flaherty followed with a double sliced just inside the line in short left. McLouth bunted Flaherty over to third. Machado fell into a 1-2 hole before somehow fisting a broken-bat single back over the box, beating the drawn-in Boston infield. 2-0, Birds. Nick Markakis likewise singled to center. Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice, advancing Machado to third; Chris Davis yanked a 1-1 Doubront offering through the 3/4 hole and into right. 3-0.
But, of course, not for long, after the Ortiz and Carp bombs, both of which came with two away in the fourth. The O’s would add a run in the fifth courtesy of a Matt Wieters RBI single (settling for just the one, leaving them juiced), but then, as I’ve said, the Matusz meltdown …
And so, after or in the midst of all that great bullpen work, here we were in the bottom of the thirteenth, two down, nothing (ostensibly) cooking … and Markakis draws a six-pitch walk. And Jones, despite looking increasingly chase-happy with each at-bat, slaps a single to right-center off a 1-2 Wilson fastball. And then Davis takes a ball and swings right through a 94 mph heater and, with the count like that, 1-1, chips an innocuous-seeming pop out over third. Ugh — more extras, right? Wrong! The Bermuda Triangle strikes again, sucking Davis’s fast-dying loft into its grassy maw, the little expanse of shallow outfield where neither shortstop Drew nor third baseman Middlebrooks nor left fielder Jonny Gomes can get to it in time, and Markakis can come in easily with the game-winning run. Not exactly Davis’s best-hit ball of the season, but hey, I think we’ll all take it. And the Orioles take game one of the four-game set, 5-4, in thirteen.
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