Tea 'n' Crush
Written by Mike Laws
Tea ‘n’ Crush
Superstar slugger, light-hitting backup catcher combine to power rout
Orioles 13, Detroit 3
Now you know how it feels, Tiger fans. A mere two and a half weeks after your band of mercenaries treated Camden Yards to an unsightly eight-run fourth inning — the kind of soul-crushing display that had us wishing Major League Baseball abided by the slaughter rule — the tables have turned. The shoe is on the other foot. The — OK, you get it. Point is that today it was the Orioles posting the crooked figures: three of them, to be precise.
So now on to the bullet points!
- First off, can we stop and marvel at just what an odd outing this was from Detroit starter Rick Porcello? The right-hander looked well in command out the chute, permitting only a Nate McLouth single to lead off the ballgame and a two-out Travis Ishikawa base-knock in the second, cruising through the Oriole third three-up-three-down-style. That was a feat he’d repeat in the fifth and sixth frames, too, and in even hastier fashion (needing eleven pitches in the fifth, ten in the sixth). But as for the inning I’ve left out, the fourth: Well, now, that was a different matter entirely. Nick Markakis got it started off with a single pounded through the right side. Adam Jones grounded out into a similar hole, advancing the runner to second. Not that that mattered, after Chris Davis lifted the first Porcello offering, a tailing outside-middle fastball, well over the wall in left. Basically just a mammoth fly ball, with not even cavernous Comerica, apparently, big enough to contain the big man. J.J. Hardy followed with a 1-1 single smacked into right. Ishikawa fanned for the second out — the strikeout pitch also being the delivery on which Hardy swiped second (so a failed hit-and-run, it looked like) — then Ryan Flaherty chopped a swinging bunt directly down the third-base line, where an alert Miguel Cabrera let the dribbler roll into his mitt and attempted to slap a tag on Hardy, sliding in behind him. Close, but ruled safe. Maybe generously. In any event the call kept the inning alive for, um, Taylor Teagarden, in the day game to spell Matt Wieters — and, after taking a ball, the backup catcher, who’d entered play sporting a cool .043 batting average, walloped a belt-high Porcello fastball even farther out over the left-field wall than Davis’s shot (though, to be fair, Chris’s was stroked to the opposite field). That made it 5-0. Fair to say the O’s had made their point. But they weren’t quite done. McLouth ripped a double down the line to right. Manny Machado hooked a single into the 5/6 hole, plating the Baltimore leadoff man. 6-0, and the Birds had batted around. How’s that as a palate-cleanser for whatever bad taste June 1 had left in the mouth?
- It was now Chris Tillman’s ballgame to lose — and, again, here we have another starting pitching effort you’d have to scratch your head at, a bit. And again his performance had to make you wonder just how nasty it’s gonna look when Tillman puts together one of his actually-totally-sharp starts. Because that wasn’t the case today. In each of his first two frames a Tillman clearly lacking the top-notch command (particularly w/r/t the breaking ball, which he couldn’t locate for a strike all afternoon) nonetheless stranded a pair of singles; in the third he’d work around a one-out walk. Staked to that sudden six-run lead, resuming his work in the Detroit half of the fourth, the big right-hander would falter, surrendering a pair of doubles to put the Tigers on the board. Even so, that was all he’d concede, with Tillman, by all appearances, saving his best stuff for last; he’d retire five consecutive batsmen, following the one-out RBI double in the fourth, finally recording one of dem nice one-two-three innings in the fifth …
- Which was Tillman’s last complete inning, with the starter coughing up a single to Victor Martinez and walking Jhonny Peralta to begin the sixth. Enter T.J. McFarland — who promptly surrendered a 1-2 gap-shot double to pinch hitter Matt Tuiasosopo, which is still a nightmare both for me to type and for Gary Thorne to pronounce. Anyway, that brought both baserunners home, and though McFarland would settle down to retire the side without further incident (hat-tip, here, to Hardy, who had the presence of mind to execute the rare 6-5 fielder’s choice for the inning’s long-awaited first out), the Tigers had halved the six-run deficit …
- But what’s that you say? Detroit’s nipping at our heels? Well, then, better tack some more runs up on the board! Whaddya say? McLouth seemed down, pulling another double down the right-field line to start the seventh and greet Tiger southpaw Darin Downs. Who then walked Machado, but struck out Markakis, and was removed in favor of hard-tossing Evan Reed, on whose first delivery McLouth took off for third and Machado for second, with both safe despite a bang-bang play on the trail runner. Jones then Baltimore-chopped an infield single over the mound, plating McLouth. Davis followed with a top-spun double over first — would’ve been good for two more RBI, except it Super-Ball’d off the warning track and hopped up into the stands. But no matter: Hardy’s subsequent fly to center traveled just far enough to send Jones, and the O’s were again ahead by six, 9-3 …
- But like the little girl in those obnoxious AT&T ads, we want more. (When you really like something, you want more!) And the Orioles were more than happy to oblige, absolutely teeing off the beleaguered Jose Valverde, on to pitch the ninth: An 0-2 Machado roller between third and short begat a first-ball-hitting Markakis single slashed to left (cue the boo-birds, here), which led to Jones doubling into the gap in right-center, converting on both runners (more boos, now, for Valverde), and then Davis, probably feeling aggrieved by the RBI stolen from him by the stupid bouncy warning track back in the seventh, unloaded on a splitter left up and middle-in, sending this particular no-doubter well out to right, this time (with a predictable crowd-reaction raining down on Valverde). 13-3. What was that about the slaughter rule, again?
YEAH, FINE, AND ALSO: And also, as if anyone were really even paying attention to the Oriole bullpen, in the midst of this drubbing, there was McFarland tossing a relatively quiet seventh, and Pedro Strop working an even quieter (like, suspiciously quiet, almost) eighth (in which he struck out his first two batters, and evinced no small degree of delight at such), and Freddy Garcia (wait, huh?) on for a ninth in which he sandwiched a couple singles and a fly-out in between two swinging K’s. So yeah, the man they call Sweaty Freddy’s role going forward remains to be seen, but for now it’s another series win, a well-earned day off, and a big series with a torrid Toronto club coming up. See you on the flip-side, boys and girls.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board