In this afternoon's rubber match against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Orioles battled through more starting pitching issues with a great effort from the bullpen, and some late inning heroics by two of Birdland's favorite sons, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones, to win 5-4 in ten innings.
Jason Hammel was not at his best today, but he battled through a tight strike zone and control issues to last six inning and give up four runs. Not great, certainly, but the best starting pitching performance we saw from an Oriole in this series. Hammel's counterpart, Cliff Lee, looked good for most of the game but stumbled against Team Steve in the fourth inning, giving up three runs on one Earl Weaver Special. Neither pitcher earned a decision as they both left after six innings pitched with the score tied 4-4.
The first inning was the beginning of a long, struggling day for Hammel. He needed just two pitches to retire lead off batter Jimmy Rollins, but he then walked Juan Pierre, gave up a single to Hunter Pence, and hit Jim Thome to load the bases. But he finagled his way out of the inning without giving up any runs thanks to a pop out and a strike out.
The O's got on the board first in the game as Cliff Lee gave up three straight two-out singles to Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and finally to Ronny Paulino. Jones scored on the the last hit and for just a moment, the O's had a lead.
After his precarious first inning, Hammel fell apart in the second. Hammel retired two of the first three batters he saw, with Hector Luna reaching on a single. But with two outs, it got ugly. He walked Rollins, then gave up three straight singles to Pierre, Pence, and Thome. All three were ground-ball singles, but they got the job done for the Phillies and made the score 3-1. That prompted a visit from the pitching coach, but it didn't help much as Hammel then walked Shane Victorino to load the bases. Thankfully Carlos Ruiz grounded out to end the inning, but Hammel had thrown 34 pitches in the inning and was looking like he might go the way of the other starting pitchers this series.
After a 1-2-3 third inning, Hammel let the Phillies get on the board again in the fourth due to his lack of control. He loaded the bases on a single and two walks, and with two outs threw a wild pitch. It didn't get too far away from the catcher Paulino, but the speedy Pierre was able to score from third.
Armed with a three-run lead, it looked like the Orioles would probably end up giving Lee his first win on the season. He'd already thrown perfect second and third innings, including striking out the side in the third. But the O's had a surprise in store for him in the fourth, a surprise called Team Steve. Mark Reynolds worked a two-out walk off of Lee (Lee's second walk of the inning; Wieters led off with a walk but Paulino ruined it with a GIDP), then Steve Pearce doubled to left-center field. Pearce smoked a lot of pitches he saw today, good to see. That brought up the other half of Team Steve, Steve Tolleson. Tolleson connected with Lee's fourth pitch of the at-bat for his second home run of the year, a three-run blast that tied the game 4-4.
With the game tied, Hammel seemed to find new life. He didn't allow a runner in either the fifth or sixth innings, bouncing back from his early troubles in the game. He didn't have a great line, especially since he walked five batters, but after his rough first two innings, the fact that he made it through six was impressive.
Lee also pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth innings, though he did allow two baserunners in the fifth. The Orioles and Phillies both turned to their bullpen to start the seventh, and both bullpens were so effective that the two teams found themselves in a second straight extra-innings contest.
In the seventh through ninth innings, both teams put two runners on but couldn't score. That took the game into the tenth inning and after Darren O'Day worked past a leadoff HBP to get the next three batters, Joe Savery took the mound for the Phillies in the bottom of the inning. Hardy capped off a terrible day at the plate with a pop out, then Adam Jones hit a smash to third base that our old friend Ty Wigginton just couldn't handle. Jones reached first on the error and I have to say that while I always enjoyed Wiggy's personality when he was on the Orioles, watching him these past three games has reminded me why I was happy when he left.
So with Jones on first, Wieters stepped to the plate. Wieters has gotten his hitting stroke back after several weeks of slumping, and he already had two hits and a walk on the day. He hit a long fly ball to right field. Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence raced back and tried to time his jump, but he couldn't quite get there. The ball hit off the scoreboard and ricocheted away as Jones raced around the bases. He scored standing up and met his mob of teammates just beyond home plate.
Walk off! Again! With that the Orioles took the series from the Philles 2-1, their second straight series win in a row. They're off tomorrow and start a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, where rumor has it that Brian Roberts will be back in the lineup.