Before tonight's game, celebration was in the air amongst Rangers fans at the Ballpark at Arlington. To commemorate Michael Young's reaching the all-time franchise hits record, they had a ceremony for him that delayed the start of the game by 19 minutes. Young, for the curious, had 1,770 career base hits at that time, which is good for 378th place of all time. There was also a lot of celebration at the thought of getting to see their new ace, Cliff Lee, in action. But for all the pre-game jubilation in the Texas stands before the game, it was a Birdland celebration after the game, as the Orioles rode 6.1 no-hit innings from Chris Tillman (and 7.1 innings total) and three home runs to notch their third straight win, 6-1.
The Orioles came in with a plan against Lee and it only took two pitches to pay off. Lee has a 15.1 K/BB ratio on 112.2 IP for the season, so if ever there's a pitcher where you might as well swing at the first pitch it might be him. Corey Patterson doubled on the first pitch of the game and Miguel Tejada singled him home on the second. Though Lee cruised through the next couple of innings, he gave up home runs in the 4th, 5th and 6th innings. Nick Markakis launched a solo shot in the 4th. Cesar Izturis hit his first homer of the year in the 5th, and Adam Jones drove a pitch over the fence in deep center in the 6th for a two-run bomb.
The score was 5-0 before the Rangers even managed a base hit off Tillman. He hadn't had a really great pitching performance yet in the big leagues this year, but tonight he was dealing. When the Rangers finally got a base hit off him, it was not even great contact - just a grounder in the 3B-SS hole.
Tillman came out for the 8th inning, a decision that was not popular in many quarters here because he was already around 100 pitches and had lost his chance at a no-hitter. Jones voiced his disapproval of the decision by booting a one-hop single to center and letting it get by him, leading to a runner on third who scored on a wild pitch. The run wasn't earned because of the two-base error, but it's a mystery to me why Tillman came out for the 8th anyway. It was one more of those plays that make you wonder what Jones is doing in center sometimes.
Still, the Orioles needed a strong performance from Tillman after the bullpen was ragged from the past two nights and he delivered exactly what was needed. It was also encouraging to see him notch up a good start on the road, because a lot of his bad ones have been road starts.
The Rangers' newly-acquired ace starter only needed 95 pitches to throw a complete game. Unfortunately for him, far too many of those pitches ended up in play, or over the fence. The free-swinging Birds have frustrated a lot of fans this year, but tonight they seemed to have a plan and even though it was an aggressive plan, it worked.
Instead of getting to laud the arrival of their pitcher, Rangers fans could only scratch their heads and wonder just what happened as the Orioles took their third game in a row. Orioles fans know exactly what happened and you can sum it up in just one word: Birdland.