The Orioles pulled off an amazing last-at-bat victory over the Athletics, scoring five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a rollicking 5-2 walkoff win. Completely kept off the scoreboard for the first eight innings, the O's made up for lost time with a stupendous ninth-inning rally that featured Matt Wieters's game-tying two-run double and Wilson Betemit's walkoff three-run homer. The Birds' dramatic heroics sealed a series win over Oakland and a 5-1 homestand.
For most of the afternoon, this game was technically a pitcher's duel, though it was maybe the least impressive pitcher's duel I've seen in a while. This wasn't exactly Roy Halladay vs. Justin Verlander, where you're thinking, "Wow, these pitchers look incredible." Instead you were thinking, "Wow, these...are two bad offenses." Neither pitcher had dominant stuff or was blowing hitters away, but very few batters were able to hit the ball solidly.
The Orioles were facing veteran starter Bartolo Colon, who's held the undisputed title of Ugliest Man in Baseball for 15 years running. The Jabba the Hut lookalike is still a pretty decent pitcher, though, and he promptly shut down the Orioles for the majority of the afternoon. The O's had their best scoring opportunity in the first inning, which Nolan Reimold led off with a double. But the Birds caught a bad break. As Reimold took off for third with a huge jump, J.J. Hardy smoked a liner, unfortunately directly to first baseman Kila Ka'aihue, who easily doubled off Reimold.
The Birds managed a grand total of two hits in their next five innings. Both were harmless singles-- one in the second and one in the third-- and neither runner advanced past first base. Then, the Orioles just stopped getting on base entirely. Colon retired a whopping 11 batters in a row from the third inning through the sixth, inducing weak pop flies and routine grounders.
Meanwhile, O's starter Tommy Hunter did his best to keep pace. He got some great defensive help behind him in the middle innings. With a man on in the fourth, Ka'aihue smoked a hot shot down the first-base line. Mark Reynolds, making his first start of the year at first base, speared the scorcher with a dive, fired from his knees to second base, and then climbed up in time to receive the return throw and complete the 3-6-3 double play. The next batter, Seth Smith, roped another sizzler down the first-base line. Reynolds was denied another great diving stop when the ball bounced off the bag and skipped into right field. Smith greedily tried to take second, but right fielder Nick Markakis made a strong throw to gun him down.
The next inning, the O's made two more excellent defensive plays. Reimold reached into the first row of the left-field seats to rob Kurt Suzuki of a homer, then casually tossed the ball back in like it was nothing. On the very next play, center fielder Adam Jones made a nifty sliding catch to rob Eric Sogard. That's four consecutive batters who had hits robbed by great Orioles defense. How many times this year have we been able to say THAT?
The scoreless tie entered the sixth, but the A's pushed across the game's first run with a two-out rally, as Josh Reddick singled and was doubled home by Yoenis Cespedes. The first batter of the next inning was Smith, one of just four Athletics in the lineup who's hit a homerun this year. Well, let's make it two, as he took Hunter over the center-field wall to make it a 2-0 game.
Hunter delivered a quality start today, giving up just two runs in seven innings, and Darren O'Day and Pedro Strop followed with a scoreless inning apiece. Sadly, it looked like their efforts would go for naught. The O's wasted a leadoff double in the seventh and erased a runner in the eighth on a double play. They headed to the bottom of the ninth still trailing, 2-0.
But there's a lesson here: never, ever count out Orioles Magic. Just when you think you know where a game is heading, BOOM! Something awesome sneaks up on ya.
Colon took the hill in the ninth looking for the complete game. Spoiler alert: he did not get it. Hardy led off with a grounder up the middle. The second baseman Sogard ranged far up the middle to make a nice stop, but his throw to first hopped past Daric Barton, giving Hardy a leadoff single. Colon struck out Markakis for the first out, but Jones followed with a short dribbler to the left of the mound. Bartolo-- displaying surprising quickness for a man of his girth-- rushed over to field it, but his hurried throw to first took a bounce and again skipped past Barton. Barton, by the way, had just entered the game at first base that very inning. His inability to scoop those two throws (tough as they were) probably cost the A's the game.
The O's had two runners in scoring position with one out, and that was it for Colon. A's manager Bob Melvin hoped closer Grant Balfour could escape the jam. Another spoiler: he didn't.
Matt Wieters, the switch-hitting Jesus, who is better at baseball than you or I are at anything, played the hero. The first one, anyway. Wieters went fishing for a low pitch and managed to crank it to deep left field, over the head of Smith. Hardy and Jones both raced home to score, and THIS GAME IS TIED!! The impressive Camden Yards crowd of 31,793, who'd waited patiently through eight boring innings, went absolutely bonkers. Wieters delivers again.
The Athletics now hoped they could at least keep the game tied. Yet another spoiler: nope! The A's intentionally walked Chris Davis to bring up Wilson Betemit, who was 0-for-3 on the day.
Not anymore. On a 3-1 count, Betemit sent the crowd into hysterics again, crushing a deep fly to right-center. The A's outfielders could only stand and watch as the ball landed atop the Orioles' grounds crew hut for a dramatic, game-winning, walkoff three-run homer. YOU KNOW IT!! AIN'T THE BEER COLD!! THE ORIOLES WILL CRUSH YOUR FACE!! (ahem) Er, sorry, I got a little worked up there. But why shouldn't we? What a win for the Birds! Betemit was mobbed by his teammates at home plate, and the atmosphere at Camden Yards was absolutely electric, with fans jumping up and down and high-fiving all over the place. Great to see that the Orioles' largest crowd since Opening Day was rewarded with a thrilling win. You couldn't have scripted a better momentum-starter going into the Orioles' upcoming road trip to New York and Boston.