In an unlikely pitchers' duel tonight at Tropicana Field (now with 20K more fans!), the Orioles beat the recently clinched Tampa Bay Rays 2-0 to take another series and end their road trip on a high note. Jeff Niemann and Kevin Millwood combined to allow just three hits through the first six innings before the Orioles finally broke through in the 7th with Felix Pie's 2 RBI triple.
Millwood and Niemann traded perfect innings to start the game until Robert Andino singled with one out in the third. He didn't do much with his single, however, getting picked off. He had the chance to get back to first safely but for reasons only known inside Andino's brain, he went to second base anyway and was thrown out. The Rays got their first baserunner in the bottom of the third with a Brad Hawpe walk, who was then wiped out on a double play. It went on like that for another few innings with the only excitement being Felix Pie doing his best Nick Markakis impression in right field by throwing out John Jaso at second base.
Finally, in the seventh inning, both pitchers started pitching a little more like the pitchers they have been all year. Niemann walked Markakis with no outs, but then retired Luke Scott (thanks to a fantastic play by B.J. Upton) and Matt Wieters before Adam Jones singled, moving Nicky to second. That brought Felix up to the plate with two outs and y'all know how nervous I get when Felix bats in these situations. He came through, though, lining a ball over the head of right fielder Matt Joyce. Both AJ and Nick scored easily as Felix raced into third with his fourth triple of the season (punctuated, naturally, with a hand clap). Andino grounded out to end the inning but the Orioles had all the runs they'd need.
Millwood made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff walk of his own. A bloop single by Carl Crawford followed the walk, putting the Rays in a pretty good position to tie the game. A ground out by Dan Johnson moved the runners up a base, but Millwood got Carlos Pena to fly out to shallow center for the second out. He fell behind Matt Joyce and intentionally walked him after the count went to three balls. B.J. Upton then did what he'd done 156 times already coming into tonight's game: he struck out. Millwood got out of it and finished his Orioles career (please, God, let him have finished his Orioles career) with a fantastic game. He allowed a total of two hits and three walks while striking out seven.
Jim Johnson came in to pitch the 8th inning and gave up a single to Brad Hawpe with no outs before pinch hitter Reid Brignac flew out to center. Pinch runner Desmond Jennings attempted a steal but was, naturally, gunned down by Matt Wieters. As is Matt's way, he stared down at Jennings in that bad ass way of his that makes my heart flutter, and even threw in a fist pump for good measure. JJ then struck out Jaso to end the inning.
The O's went quietly in the top of the ninth as Matt Wieters singled but was stranded. Koji and his sideburns came in to close things out and he once again had a perfect inning, inducing a first pitch fly out from Ben Zobrist and striking out Carl Crawford (swinging) and Dan Johnson (looking) to end the game and clinch the series.
The Birds head home tomorrow for their final series of the year, four games against the Detroit Tigers. I can't believe that I'm sad to see it end.