Written by Chris Slade
Chris Tillman and Dustin McGowan were the pitchers on the hill in this slugfest. The Orioles scored first on a solo home run by Chris Davis in the 1st inning. The Blue Jays responded with a big 2nd inning in which Brett Lawrie hit his second three-run tank of the series and Jose Reyes also put out a two-run homer. Edwin Encarnacion also had an RBI single to give the Blue Jays a 6-1 lead. The Orioles cut the lead in half in the 3rd inning thanks to an RBI single by Nick Markakis and a solo bomb by Nelson Cruz.
Cruz came through again in the top of the 5th inning with a monstrous grand slam to give the Orioles a 7-6 lead. In the same inning, Matt Wieters hit an RBI double and JJ Hardy sac flied to extend the Oriole lead to 9-6. Ryan Goins cut the lead to two with a solo home run off Tillman in the 6th. Wieters responded with a solo home run of his own in the 7th to give the O's a 10-7 lead. After the Jays scored a run off Brian Matusz in the 7th, Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter were able to secure the 10-8 win to even the series.
It's no secret that Chris Tillman has flyball tendencies, something that has gotten him in to trouble before at the Rogers Centre before and did again tonight in the 2nd inning. Tillman didn't have his sharpest fastball command early in the game and the Blue jays were able to make him pay with a big 6-run 2nd inning, highlighted by home runs by Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes. The pitch to Reyes in particular was horribly located, a straight 90 MPH fastball up and inside, ready to drive. Kudis to Tillman for not completely falling apart and settling in to work into the 6th inning. The Orioles offense was able spot him on an off night and despite an ugly looking looking stat line, Tillman picked up his 3rd win of the season.
Final Line: 5.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, Win
Ryan Webb came on to get the final out of the 6th which he did, striking out Edwin Encarnacion after after issuing a walk to Jose Bautista.
Brian Matusz got two outs in the 7th via strikeouts of Juan Francisco and Jose Reyes but allowed a run to score on a Josh Thole single.
Darren O'Day got out of the jam in the 7th and pitched a scoreless 8th inning while recording two strikeouts.
Once again, Tommy Hunter made things uncomfortable in the 9th inning, loading the bases with one out before inducing a ground ball double play off the bat of Jonathan Diaz to end the game.
Where to begin? The Orioles put on an offensive show tonight, and Nelson Cruz led the charge with a two home runs, five runs driven in, two runs scored, and (for good measure) a walk.
This offensive adjustment to Dustin McGowan after he inexplicably shut the Orioles down at Camden Yards a few weeks back was both encouraging and expected. McGowan is simply not a good pitcher and the Orioles were able to chase him after 4+ innings.
Cruz's big swing came against former Orioles spring training invitee Todd Redmond, who entered for McGowan with no outs in the 5th inning.
Nick Markakis went 2-for-5 with an RBI single and Chris Davis also went 2-for-5 with his second home run of the season in the 1st inning.
Matt Wieters had the second best night at the plate (behind Cruz of course), finishing 3-for-5 with a single, RBI double, and solo blast off J.A. Happ in the 7th inning.
Defensive Highlights/ Lowlights
No errors were committed by the Orioles defenders in this game and the lone double play they turned got the final two outs of the game in a much needed situation. J.J. Hardy fielded the gorundball, flipped to Jonathan Schoop who then fired a strike to Chris Davis at first.
Key Moments in The Game
Could he do it again? Yes, he could. After the Orioles dismal effort in bases loaded situations last night, Nelson Cruz came through with a clutch grand slam that put the Orioles ahead after being down in a big hole early.
Chris Tillman's ability to give the Orioles scoreless innings in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th were crucial to giving the O's bats a chance to cut down the lead. Had he been chased early, who knows what kind of damage the Blue Jays may have done against the Orioles long relief corps.
The double play to end the game after Tommy "Tightrope" Hunter loaded the bases.
Other Notes/ Musings
It's early in the season but what a tremendous addition Nelson Cruz has been to the lineup, especially when you consider the black hole of production level Orioles DH's combined for in 2013.
Rick Demspey said in the post-game show that he is going to start calling Hunter "Don Stanhouse". Seems fitting.
Thank the lord Jonathan Diaz was up with the bases loaded in the 9th and not...pretty much anyone else in the Blue Jays lineup.
Orioles go for the series win same time tomorrow. Bud Norris (0-2, 4.42 ERA) and Drew Hutchison (1-1, 3.60 ERA) on the hill.
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