On infinite Earths there are infinite possibilities. Sometimes a butterfly flaps its wings and across the globe a typhoon forms. Sometimes a butterfly just flaps its wings. From any given moment, as well, there are possibilities beyond counting. On this Earth, at this moment, right now, in the afternoon on August 30, year 2012 of the Common Era, one possible future is that the Orioles could win their next three games and be tied for first place in the American League East.
This is not the hypothetical parallel universe I often discuss, the one that might have happened if Rich Garcia hadn't temporarily been blind, if Jeffrey Maier hadn't been a sniveling little grasping weasel. This is the world we live in. This is a thing that could happen, because today's win puts the Orioles three games back and the next three games will be played against the first-place Yankees.
How did we get there? Obviously, the O's had to win today to set up this possible future. Prior to this series, I said I would be thrilled to split four with the White Sox, but after winning the first two I had higher hopes. Though they didn't show it last night, or in the first couple of innings of today's game, it seems the Orioles had higher hopes too. The theatrics began from an unlikely place - when haven't they, this season? With two outs and the bases empty in the third inning, Taylor "Earl Grey" Teagarden came to the plate in a game the Orioles were losing 1-0.
Teagarden had three hits all year. He was batting .086. White Sox starter Jose Quintana came into the game with a 2.86 ERA. Taylor don't care. He crushed a ball high and deep and it landed on the flag court to tie it up 1-1. His teammates picked up where he led off. Teagarden's home run was the first of five consecutive extra-base hits with two outs in that third inning. They would score four runs thanks to an RBI double from J.J. Hardy and a two-run, 422 foot mammoth blast from Adam Jones.
Meanwhile, Zach Britton was pitching for the Orioles. Did you have a good feeling about Britton today? I did not. MASN, in its continuing mission to put the best foot forward about the O's, noted that Britton has had troubles in the first inning and then "settles down" in every other inning, with settling down counting as a 4.70 ERA. Is that really settling down? But it seems that Britton got wind of the imminent signing of Randy Wolf, another person who pitches with his left hand and has a pulse, and he wanted to keep his spot.
After giving up five hits in the first two innings, looking not long for this day, Britton settled down. He allowed no more runs. He struck out ten Chicago hitters. Ten! But there is no justice in the world, because the press release has just popped up: he has been optioned to Norfolk. He can come back once Norfolk's season ends in about three days. I am sure he will be back. Dan Duquette will do whatever move he thinks he needs to do, but it kind of sucks to option a guy right after a great outing like this, eight innings, seven hits, and beautifully, no walks.
As I type this sentence, Jim Hunter is praising the move as "an outstanding use of the rules and the roster," even. I suppose none of us should be surprised by this.
Britton was great today, and that's the big story, anyway. After the 7th inning it even looked like he might get the chance to have a complete game, but a cheap Jose Lopez single with two outs in the 8th probably cost him the chance to come out for the 9th. We'll take this kind of game from the Orioles starter any day of the week.
These are the Orioles, and there are no easy wins, so Pedro Strop came on to pitch the 9th, got one out and then gave up consecutive singles to Alex Rios and pinch-hitter Hector Gimenez. Strop didn't really pitch poorly, they just got some lucky bloopers on good pitches. Still, it was second and third with only one down, and though the score was 5-1, Buck decided not to mess around and summoned Jim Johnson.
Johnson got a little dribbler in front of the plate from Dayan Viciedo for the second out, but then two runs scored on an Alexei Ramirez single and Gordon Beckham came to the plate, representing the tying run. That would be the same Beckham who drove in the first White Sox run of the day all the way back in the second inning with an RBI single. Were you worried? Shame on you! These are not the Orioles of years past. Johnson struck out Beckham, notching his 41st save of the year. He now has more saves than the Houston Astros have wins.
JJ is now four saves away from tying the Orioles franchise record for saves, chasing the 45 saves Randy Myers recorded in 1997.
The team is back up to 14 games over .500, setting up tomorrow as the latest chance for the O's to bring their record farther over .500 than it has been since 1997. They should be far more interested in more immediate and tangible benefits, namely that if they win tomorrow they'll be only two games back in the division.
Matching up in the Bronx will be starters Miguel Gonzalez of the O's and Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees. Kuroda has been a great pitcher for the Evil Empire this year. It won't be an easy battle to take the improbable road sweep into a division tie, but the stage has been set for the drama, and it is one possible outcome. That is pretty cool.