The augurs were poor for an Orioles victory tonight after the first few innings. Jeremy Guthrie was knocked out after only 4.2 IP and the O's were already down 4-0 and Mark Hendrickson entered the game. As things turned out, tonight was not a night where the team died with runners in scoring position, and they followed the recipe from the Nationals series of rallying from a deficit behind a scoreless performance from all across the bullpen. Though there were none of Earl Weaver's beloved three-run homers, the Orioles rode a peculiar offensive surge to a 6-4 victory against the Rangers.
First, the deficit. Guthrie gave up his traditional early-inning runs, although he wasn't helped by some typical subpar defensive performance. Josh Hamilton opened up with a solid double, then scored when Nelson Cruz got a cheap single to right. Cruz stole second, then took third on a play that ended with Craig Tatum being charged with a throwing error. Your blogging correspondent this evening pinned that play on Julio Lugo failing to catch the ball, though. Cruz then scored on a throwing error by Guthrie on a bad pickoff attempt. Following a Michael Young single, the O's were down 3-0 and Josh Hamilton launched a ball that hit the upper deck facade in right field to make it 4-0 in the third.
Though the Orioles never mustered more than one baserunner until the seventh inning, they didn't need more than that to get on the scoreboard. Scott Moore in the 5th and Felix Pie in the 7th joined the home run party. Pie's home run was particularly impressive because it actually went into the second row of the upper deck in right field - even farther than Hamilton's blast. I envisioned the offense shutting down there. In this lost cause of a season, that really would have been enough for me, just seeing two guys who might actually contribute to the club in the future with a home run apiece.
If you believed, you were rewarded. Tatum singled and Moore walked with still no one down, which chased Rangers starter Tommy Hunter. Lugo naturally failed to do anything useful, striking out, but a Corey Patterson single to center brought the score to 4-3 in favor of Texas. The less said about Miguel Tejada's predictable GIDP to snuff out this first-and-third, one down rally, the better.
Earlier in the game, Nick Markakis doubled to lead off the fourth, and ended the fourth inning at second base. Between batters the MASN camera showed him just looking angry that he was still on second base. So, to open up the eighth, he manufactured a little offense of his own: singled, stole second, advanced to third on a sharp single to center by Ty Wigginton, and there he stood on third base when things got strange. Back-to-back hit by pitches on Adam Jones and Pie first loaded the bases and then plated Nick, who was the tying run. Texas reliever Darren Oliver came into the game with a sub-2.00 ERA and ... oh, you know, he left with one because he just failed at the whole inherited runner thing. He also walked the mighty Tatum to force home another run and give the O's a 5-4 lead. That was enough from him. Lugo singled sharply off the next reliever, scoring Jones to get the final 6-4 score. Pie was thrown out at the plate on the play. There was no reason to send him, but why would we expect the Windmill's spirit to leave the third base coach's box?
Following a drama-free eighth from Jason Berken and the same in the ninth from Alfredo Simon, that was the ballgame. Not exactly Oriole magic but in this barren season, you gotta take the wins you can. This was only the tenth road win of the season for the Orioles, and it wasn't exactly textbook but it was good enough. Most of the time as an Orioles fan you know you're going to tune in to see a loss, but somehow we all still believe we might win on any given night or even we'd stop watching. Tonight was one of those nights where that belief was validated.