Written by Lee Tackett
The Orioles staged rallies in the fourth and seventh innings to defeat the Oakland Athletics 9-7. In the second, both Adam Jones and Brian Roberts left the yard to put the O’s up 6-4. Down a run, the Birds scored three in the seventh to give Francisco Rodriguez his second win as an Oriole.
The Athletics nickel and dimed their way to the lead off starter Bud Norris in the first. Coco Crisp led off with a single, advanced on a sacrifice and came in on a two out single by Brandon Moss. Norris threw a scoreless second, but ran into trouble again in the third when Crisp turned around a slider to leadoff the inning with a solo home run to move the lead to 2-0. Norris struck out the next two, but left a change up out over the plate and Moss put a no doubter into the right field seats to extend the deficit to 3.
Norris worked a scoreless fourth, but the wheels came off in the fifth after the Orioles rally. Crisp (who else) led off with a single and came home on a Jed Lowrie double. Lowrie scored on a Josh Donaldson single to bring the Athletics within one. Norris stumbled into some luck when Moss lined into a double play to the shifted Roberts. But with two outs, walks sandwiched around a Seth Smith single ended Norris’s night.
Despite the 7 strikeouts, Norris had very poor command tonight. He was constantly in the middle of the plate and up in the zone. His ability to execute his pitches almost seemed to switch from hitter to hitter, as his stuff looked downright filthy on some of the strike outs. However, he was unable to give the Orioles even five innings and left the game with the bases loaded.
Troy Patton was a pitch away from stranding his inherited runners and keeping the Orioles in front, but with two strikes gave up a two run single to Eric Sogard to put the A's back in front. After the single he limited damage despite giving up another single to reload the bases and threw a scoreless sixth.
Francisco Rodriguez and Tommy Hunter both worked scoreless innings to keep the team in the game.
Jim Johnson had the goods tonight and worked a perfect ninth for his 40th save of the year.
-The O's looked to answer in the first and had men on first and second with just one out but Adam Jones and Matt Wieters were unable to advance the runners.
-The bottom of the fourth proved to be an explosive inning for the Orioles offense. Chris Davis led off innocently enough with a walk and scored on Jones's 27th home run of the season to bring the Birds within one. Wieters then singled and Nick Markakis walked to put two on with none out. After a Hardy strike out, Ryan Flaherty ripped a line drive into right field, but too hard to score Wieters from second. The much-maligned Brian Roberts turned back the clock and brought everyone home on a grand slam to put the O's up 6-4.
-After back to back scoreless frames from the pitching staff, the Orioles offense got back into the act in the bottom of the seventh. Nate McLouth led off with a walk, then stole second off of A’s reliever Ryan Cook. Manny Machado greeted the new arm with a single to left to put runners on the corners. Davis battled to a 2-2 count and hit a hard ground ball to the left of the second baseman Sogard couldn’t corral the grounder and the game was tied. Jones didn’t get the ball out of the infield, but his jamshot to third was hit slow enough that Machado was able to score and the O’s were on top again. A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson got a workout in the seventh. Next Wieters hit a slow roller to Donaldson, who was playing very deep, and hustled out an infield single to extend the inning. Markakis added an insurance run with a line drive back through the middle and the O’s made the 9-7 mark stand up.
-On an Eric Sogard stolen base attempt in the second, Hardy got his feet tangled covering the base and was unable to pull Wieters's throw from the third base side of the bag to make the tag.
-Machado made a tremendous diving play to rob Yoenis Cespedes of a single in the ninth inning and keep the potential tying run on the on deck circle.
-The Brian Roberts home run sent the Yard into an absolute frenzy and provided viewers with an awesome Jim Hunter call.
-The Orioles were on the ropes the entire top of the fifth and finally broke on the Sogard single to put the A's up again.
-In the seventh, had Davis’s ground ball to Sogard been a foot to the left, it would have been an easy double play. Instead, it got through and the O’s were able to rally.
Observations and Musings
-It took a while, but the Orioles finally took advantage of Dan Straily's wildness in the bottom of the fourth. In the earlier innings, Orioles hitters found themselves in good hitting counts, but were unable to put good swings on the ball.
-The top of the fifth was excruciating. It seemed clear that the Orioles coaching staff, Norris, and Wieters were doing all they could to slow the inning down in hopes of giving Norris a breather to collect himself but batter after batter, Norris couldn't put the Athletics hitters away. He was fortunate on the double play and the inning could have been much worse. It should not be lost in the victory that this was yet another start where Norris flirted with danger throughout the outing. Not inspiring for the tight games coming in September.
-It's hyperbole to call a game a "must-win" in August, even if it is against a team you're chasing for the wild card, but this could have been a crushing loss had the 7-6 line held up. Credit the bullpen, especially Patton, for staying composed and giving the offense a shot to win the game after the starter had faltered.
-With the win, the Orioles jumped ahead of the the Indians and are two back of the Athletics for the second wild card.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board