Written by Lee Tackett
Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo home run off of closer Jim Johnson in the ninth to tie the game at 3, then another in the eleventh to lift the Diamonbacks to a 4-3 win. Goldschmidt’s homeruns wiped out seven strong innings from Miguel Gonzalez and home runs from Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy.
Miguel Gonzalez began by retiring the first 11 hitters of the game before allowing a tomahawked single to Paul Golschmidt (who else). Gonzalez went to the mound with his full arsenal of pitches and was particularly sharp spotting his fastball above the strike zone. The Diamonbacks’ hitters chased pitches up in the zone, early in the count, but couldn’t get on top of anything. Until the seventh inning, the only blemishes on Gonzalez’s start were the Goldschmidt single and a Randall Delgado bouncer through the middle. After the Delgado single, Gonzalez was aided by a fantastic play by Manny Machado to rob A.J. Pollock of extra bases. Other than the Pollock ground out and the Goldschmidt single, Gonzalez didn’t give up any truly hard hit balls until the seventh.
Gonzalez entered the seventh with just 74 pitches and was cruising but lost some of his command and began to pay for it. The broadcast was optimistic about Gonzalez’s chances to throw deeper into the game, citing his eight-inning performance against Anaheim in June, but as the inning dragged on, both Palmer and Throne thought he’d run out of gas. Personally, I didn’t see it. Yes, the stuff was less sharp, but Gonzalez had also been pitching up in the zone all game. There isn’t a lot of room for error when a pitcher does that and once his pitches started to fall into the upper part of the strike zone, the D’backs’ hitters didn’t miss.
After retiring Goldschmidt, Gonzalez left a ball up to Aaron Hill, who tripled to the left center gap. With the infield back, Hill scored on an RBI ground out from Martin Prado. Gerardo Parra took advantage of another ball left up in the zone and homered to right to cut the deficit to 3-2. The hits continued when Wil Nieves singled back through the middle and it looked like Gonzalez’s good start had come unhinged. Gonzalez fell behind Didi Gregorious 3-0, but worked the at bat back to a full count and retired him on a deep fly ball to the right center gap.
This start could have been a lot better for Gonzalez, but he was able to save the bullpen by getting through the seventh and exited in line for the win. It’s tough to say whether it is mental or truly a physical issue, but there is no reasonable explanation why Gonzalez had to labor so much in the seventh tonight. The pitch count was low and his command was stellar all night, but he looked like a completely different pitcher in the seventh.
-This was the Francisco Rodriguez that we traded for. It was a vintage performance from the man they call K-Rod, who had his good change up complete with animated arm flailing after each of his two strike outs.
-And this was the Jim Johnson that we’ve come to fear in 2013. Johnson started the ninth by falling behind Goldschmidt, something that has become far too common in Johnson’s save chances, and Goldschmidt tied the game with a solo home run. Johnson retired Hill for the first out, but then allowed a single to Prado and a double off the center field wall to Parra. The O’s were fortunate that Prado didn’t score on the double, as Johnson got the next two to force a tenth.
-T.J. Mcfarland got hosed on the 2-2 pitch to recently called up Matt Davidson and was unable regroup and walked the leadoff man in the tenth. Mcfarland was not sharp in the inning but got a huge boost from an excellent play by Wieters on a sacrifice bunt and a masterful 4-6-3 double play to close the inning. Mcfarland’s struggles would continue in the eleventh as Goldschmidt hit the first pitch he saw out to right field for the walk off victory.
The Orioles struck first in the fourth. Nick Markakis drew a one out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Adam Jones grounded out, but with a base open, Delgado pitched to Chris Davis. Bad choice. Davis drove the second pitch he saw over the wall in right field for his 44th home run to put the O’s up 2-0.
J.J. Hardy got a sunflower seed shower in the dugout after a lead off home run to start the fifth. It was Hardy’s fourth career drive at Chase Field and his 22nd of the season.
Brian Roberts logged a 2-4 night and hit the ball hard four times.
Randall Delgado kept the Orioles off balance all night with a simple fastball-changeup-curveball mix. Despite this the Orioles had no trouble getting runners on base, but they were unable to execute much in the way of situational hitting to ever put any pressure on the Diamondbacks.
-Aaron Hill managed to be perfectly positioned for a 2nd inning Wieters line drive that was halfway to the right fielder. Wieters smoked it and had it been a few more feet towards the line, it was likely extra bases.
-McLouth made a nice sliding play on a scalded Martin Prado line drive in the bottom of the second.
-Manny Machado made a Manny Machado play in the sixth to rob A.J. Pollock of hits and possibly an RBI. Pollock hit a shot towards the left field line and Machado calmly dove, popped up, and fired a strike across the diamond to a stretching Davis for the out.
-Gold Glove level play from Wieters in the tenth, jumping out from his stance, bare handing the bunt and throwing a strike to second to cut off the lead runner.
-When Adam Eaton chopped the ball on the ground in the tenth, I held my breath that we would get the lead runner and was elated when Roberts made a perfect shovel to Hardy who gunned to first to double up Eaton, considered one of the fastest players in the majors.
-The O’s cruised through the first six innings but were quickly brought back to reality in the final third. Goldschmidt’s two home runs wiped out a good start from Gonzalez and reaffirmed that our embattled closer is in the midst of one of his multi outing funks.
Observations and Musings
-Markakis has always choked up on the bat, but during this West Coast road swing he seems to be even further up on the bat and has a ton of pre pitch hand motion. This type of stance is more common for leadoff slap hitters but Nick has been swinging the bat well on the trip so who knows?
-Gonzalez did not carry the torch well for the Orioles pitching staff at the plate. In the second, he bunted into a double play and in the fourth he was unable to advance Roberts on a struck out.
-The broadcast always talks about how Davis should lay a bunt down every now and then, but after the home run, Wieters tried to lay one down, but fouled it off.
-The O’s are fortunate that this game even made it to a 10th inning. I’ve watched the Parra double a few times, and Prado got a terrible read on that ball. Based on both the way Jones gave chase and the ball flight, it was borderline inexcusable for Prado to not score.
-The result of this game makes for a very important afternoon game tomorrow. It’s a get away day from a long west coast road trip and the team is in the midst of a two game losing streak. In other words, all the excuses are already built in for the team to lay an egg and fast-forward to Friday. It will be very interesting to see how the Orioles respond to dropping back to back games they very likely should have won.
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