In the 9th inning, as the 35,000 fans rose to their feet with two outs to cheer for the victory, you could almost imagine a future time where a packed house is at Camden Yards for an October baseball game that actually matters. Who the players will be on the field when that happens, nobody knows. Still, it's a point to be proud of for Orioles fans. Where playoff-bound Tampa Bay had to give away 20,000 tickets to get 35,000 fans in their stadium, the O's got that number of fans to come see a team 30 games below .500 in the second-to-last game of a long season. The crowds will be back all summer long one day. I won't be able to pay $10 for 300-level tickets and sit on a padded seat in section 18. Good times are a-comin' and we got another taste of them tonight.
As for the actual game tonight, there weren't a lot of fireworks, but it was enough for the O's to come out on top. Behind a solid outing from Brian Matusz, who went six innings, gave up two hits, walked two and struck out nine, the batters didn't often touch up Armando Galarraga, but they did what they needed to do.
One of the two hits Matusz gave up was a 2nd-inning home run to Brandon Inge (at least it wasn't Don Kelly again). Fortunately, it was only a solo shot, and the Tigers wouldn't score again for the rest of the game. The pitch count got a little elevated as Matusz racked up his nine strikeouts, so there was an early exit in his future. Still, he hung in long enough to see the offense hang the runs to get him a win.
Galarraga threw a complete game and only gave up four baserunners the whole time - three hits and a walk. But one of those hits was a home run by Nick Markakis, who parked a ball on the flag court. The other run followed from a little small ball after a Felix Pie leadoff double. Don't worry. Nobody bunted. For once, though, a couple of Orioles hitters strung together productive outs to manufacture a run. Ty Wigginton grounded a ball to the first base side to allow Pie to take third, and then he scored on a deep fly to center by Matt Wieters. Early in the season, we saw way too many times where the batter with nobody down was unable to even move up the runner, so that the deep sacrifice fly never occurred when there was a man on third with less than two out. This was the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 5th and neither team scored again.
Mike Gonzalez, Jim Johnson and Koji Uehara each threw a scoreless inning to finish off the game, with Koji recording his 13th save in the process. Gonzo and JJ had perfect innings - although in the top of the 8th, JJ was helped out a lot by stellar plays from both Cesar Izturis, who knocked down a ball deep in the hole, got up and threw out Will Rhymes by a half-step, and Nick Markakis, who made a great diving catch on a ball that was tailing away from him. Koji gave up a single to start the 9th but that was it for the Tigers, as the only other ball that left the infield was a pop-out that never even looked the least bit scary.
With the last out, the crowd roared in a way I don't think an Orioles crowd has roared in October in probably a decade. This is the fourth straight victory for the O's and they will enter tomorrow's game looking for a sweep against Detroit to close out the season. Brad Bergesen will take the mound hoping to continue the brilliant pitching that we've seen from the rest of the rotation in each of their final starts.