The Orioles notched their 67th victory tonight, one more than last year's total, in a game that was bookended by unlikely events involving Matt Angle. He opened up the top of the first inning with a leadoff home run off of Cy Young contender Justin Verlander. The home run was the first of Angle's career. Not bad for a rookie getting his first taste of the big leagues. The O's jumped out to a 5-0 lead but it came back to be tied and it was in the top of the 9th where Angle was again involved. Speedster Kyle Hudson worked his way from first to third on a single wild pitch and then came the suicide squeeze. Hudson took off on a pitch, Angle dropped the bunt where it needed to be and the run scored, making it 6-5 Orioles. This was the final score.
It wasn't the best of nights for Verlander, who entered with a 2.29 ERA and left with a 2.40 ERA. That reflects the five runs he gave up over seven innings. The damage all came for him in the first three innings. Angle lead off with the homer and the Orioles nickel-and-dimed Verlander for three runs off of four singles and a walk in the second inning. The walk was issued to Angle. Verlander wanted no part of the powerhouse after the home run. Mark Reynolds delivered another of the promised home runs, his 37th of the year, and after that Verlander shut them down, retiring twelve Orioles in a row at one point. Still, the damage was done.
Staked to the lead of five runs, Jeremy Guthrie did not have his best start, but it was still enough. First he gave up a leadoff walk to Ryan Raburn (.291 OBP) in the 4th. Raburn eventually scored on an Austin Jackson single. A couple of sharp hits to start the 5th by Miguel Cabrera (single) and Victor Martinez (ground rule double) gave Detroit second and third with one down. An RBI groundout followed by an RBI sac fly gave the Tigers two runs but ended the threat. He gave up a solo home run to Miguel Cabrera, which was the best-hit ball off of him of the night. That was all over six innings. Not the best Guthrie start, but not the worst. Barring something unusual it's his final appearance of the year. He will close the book with a 4.33 ERA over 211 innings.
Because it was Guthrie, of course he could not get the win when he left with a one-run lead.
The Honey Badger, Pedro Strop, came on in relief after Guthrie allowed a single to start the 7th, but three ground balls later and that threat was over. Buck left Strop out for a second inning. Strop got the first two outs but a runner made it to second base in the process. That meant there was a man in scoring position for Jhonny Peralta, who brought in the tying run with a single to left. Guthrie was stuck with a no-decision. The run was the first one allowed by Strop since coming to the O's. He's now thrown 10.2 IP with just the one earned run. A much more palatable ratio than someone like Kevin Gregg.
Speaking of Gregg, he pitched the 9th inning. This was frustrating, but he did not suck tonight. He did not walk anyone and only gave up one base hit. The tying run never even made it into scoring position. The save was the 22nd of the year for Gregg. Let's not talk about the blown saves. We're just lucky to get this win.
The O's had ten hits on the night, with multi-hit games from Nick Markakis and Chris Davis. Vladimir Guerrero had a base hit in the first inning to get his little tie with Julio Franco for the all-time hits lead for a player from the Dominican Republic. With one more hit he will have the sole lead. That will be 2,586 career hits, the 81st most on baseball's career list. He did not get on base again.
Fortunately for the Tigers, they will get to feast on Brian Matusz in tomorrow afternoon's game. They're sending out their weakest pitcher in Brad Penny, but it doesn't matter. Anyone is better than Matusz at this point. They will have a chance to get back the game they lost to Texas.
Who would have ever thought we'd end this year with more wins than last year? Does it mean anything? Probably not. Too many things have gone wrong to feel too good. But enough has gone better than it looked that we can feel at least a tiny bit good. In a lost cause there can still be some glory - and Matt Angle being the star of the show against Verlander is why it's still fun to watch meaningless September baseball games.