Orioles 7, Reds 5: Homers off Homer

In last night's game, the Orioles were on the wrong side of an onslaught that featured nine home runs between both teams. The Reds homered with the bases empty. They homered with men on base. They homered off the starter and they homered off relievers. This afternoon's game saw five home run balls land in the stands, but today the O's were on the right side of it, for all they tried to give this game away at times, and they ended up with a 7-5 victory to take the rubber game of the three-game set.

The tone for the Orioles was set in the 4th inning when Derrek Lee came to the plate with two men on base and blasted a Homer Bailey pitch into the left field seats. It was Lee's sixth home run of the year, meaning that one-third of his year's total has come just in this series. For once, the home run didn't kill a rally, because two batters later Mark Reynolds delivered another of the promised homers, his 14th on the season, a bases empty shot that staked the Orioles to a 5-0 lead.

That Reynolds hit a home run was a good thing for him today, because he also ended up with two throwing errors that prolonged innings for starter Jeremy Guthrie. Neither of the errors led to runs, but Guts had 111 pitches by the time he was pulled after 5.2 IP and he was plainly gassed for the last couple of batters. Guts didn't help his own cause so much by having a 27 pitch first inning, but what can you do? He was awarded the arbitrary win statistic today, even though he gave up 4 ER, although to be fair to Guthrie, two of these runs were walked in by relief pitchers who were getting squeezed by the home plate umpire. On the MASN telecast, they told us that marked the 14th straight game where an O's starter has failed to pitch into the 7th inning.

You never really want to see a bullpen in the sixth, especially this bullpen, and they showed us why today. Clay Rapada the LOOGY was more of a NOOGY today, walking his one batter, which wasn't especially controversial. However, following Rapada was Jim Johnson, who walked in two runs (charged to Guthrie) before going 1.1 scoreless. Now, in fairness to JJ, the plate umpire had a generous strike zone for both sides the whole game but in the sixth inning he started squeezing O's pitchers inexplicably. But whatever the cause, the deficit for the Reds was cut to 5-4 after those walks, and you knew there was no way that would be enough with three innings of bullpen to get through.

Fortunately, the Orioles actually got some insurance runs. That's no sure thing with them this year because they seem to have this tendency to score early and then it's like they think, "Well, that's enough" and the bats go to sleep. They tacked on a run in the 7th with a little small ball. Blake Davis (two hit, two run day) had a walk to lead off and was sacrificed to second by Craig Tatum. On the whole, sac bunts are repugnant, but one situation where they are notably less offensive is when the bunt is being laid down by the backup catcher. Davis then took third on a wild pitch that Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez made no effort to block. So he was perfectly placed to score the run on a little single to right by Nick Markakis. Orioles 6, Reds 4 at that time.

Markakis had a three-hit day, all singles, extending his hitting streak to 16 games. They weren't really cheap singles but they weren't exactly struck with authority either. Still, Nick's got his slash line up to .277/.329/.360. That's a .689 OPS against a league average of .709. He's on a torrid streak right now, though, raising the OPS by 87 points since the start of the hitting streak. 8 of the 16 games in the streak have been multi-hit games.

Aroldis Chapman, he of the 100+ mph fastball, pitched the bottom of the 7th for the Reds and he looked like his high-octane gas might strike out the side. But after showing Luke Scott the heat, he dialed back to only 94 mph and sped up Scott's bat. Luke drove the ball several rows deep into the center field bleachers to give the Orioles a 7-4 lead. The home run was Scott's 9th of the year.

Koji Uehara had a calm eighth, as is his wont. Since the ball's been flying out of Camden Yards this series,  it was good to see that Koji did not surrender any of these. 6 of the 21 hits he's given up have been homers. Koji did walk a batter but he never seemed to be out of control.

Then came Kevin Gregg for the 9th inning. Gregg demonstrated why it was good for the Orioles to get the add-on runs by giving up a first-pitch bomb to Hernandez, a fastball which Gregg grooved. Presumably he will tell us that Hernandez had to do a lot of things right to hit that ball out at this point in his career. Gregg went on to give up some three-ball counts but didn't give up any walks or any more hits and recorded the save, his 14th on the season. I wonder if Andy MacPhail thinks that number of saves justifies the signing.

The O's had 11 hits on the day, with Markakis and Davis joined in the multi-hit club by Adam Jones (single and a double). The team was 3-9 with RISP today and avoided any GIDPs. There are days where you might actually think this is a major league offense.

The win today was the Orioles' 35th. Last year the Orioles did not get their 35th win until August 5th, the third game (and third win) of the Buck Showalter era. At that time, they had a 35-73 record. Sometimes it's hard to remember just how much better this year is than last.

Between promotional gimmicks, nice weather and maybe some honest-to-goodness interest in weekend interleague baseball, the O's averaged 37,809 fans across this three game series. Color me impressed.

There is an off day tomorrow before the Pujols-deprived St. Louis comes into town on Tuesday. Kyle Lohse will be on the mound for the Cards and Zach Britton pitches for the Orioles.

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