I don't know what else is going to happen this season. I don't know if the Orioles will win 100 games or go on a 10-game losing streak. But whether it lasts one day or one month, the fact is that on September 4, 2012, the Baltimore Orioles are in first place in the American League East. And that, friends, is awesome.
Tonight's game was just a lot of fun. The pitchers pitched well, the hitters hit, it was lovely.
Let's first talk about Zach Britton. Britton, who has been very successful since his call up from AAA Norfolk, continued his masterful ways tonight. He wasn't perfect, giving up one hit in each of the first four innings, but he never let the Blue Jays take control. The only inning in which he allowed more than one baserunner was the third, and that was due to an intentional walk to Edwin Encarnacion. Considering he's the only good hitter on their team, it wasn't a bad idea.
Britton exchanged zeroes with the Blue Jays' starter, Carlos Villanueva, through four innings before the Orioles finally broke through. It was beginning to look like they wouldn't, as Villanueva allowed just one baserunner before the fifth inning, and he was wiped out on a double play ball. Villanueva was totally owning the Orioles. And then, all of the sudden, he wasn't.
Adam Jones started the fifth inning with a double, then after a fly out from Matt Wieters, Villanueva walked Chris Davis. That brought Mark Reynolds to the plate. Reynolds has, much to the delight of Orioles fans, recently turned on the power, and tonight was no exception. He hit a long fly ball to left field that looked like it could stay in the ballpark, but as Rajai Davis tracked it all the way to the wall, it landed just out of his reach on the other side of the fence. It wasn't the kind of bomb we're used to from Reynolds, but it got the job done. The Orioles were up, 3-0.
As an aside, something strange was going on at Rogers Centre tonight, and I'm not talking about the beatdown the Orioles administered. Despite the fact that it had been raining all day in Toronto, someone decided it would be a good idea to open the roof of the stadium. But then it began raining again and they couldn't get the roof closed. Jays fans were running for cover, the batters were being pelted with rain, and between innings the grounds crew was covering the pitcher's mound with quick dry. Then, if that weren't enough, a fire alarm started going off in the background. I never could tell if there actually was a fire, or if Rogers Centre is just going the way of the Blue Jays and completely falling apart.
But back to the game! The Orioles added a single run off in the sixth inning thanks to a J.J. Hardy double and a Nate McLouth sacrifice fly, then tacked on three more in the seventh. They ran Villanueva out of the game and then some poor rookie named Aaron Loup came in and just got destroyed. Before he could even throw one pitch, he balked in the second run of the inning, then gave up a double to Nick Markakis and a single to Hardy, which knocked in Nick to make the score 7-0. McLouth flied out for the final out of the seventh, but the Orioles weren't finished with Loup yet.
Loup couldn't buy an out in the eighth inning as he gave up three straight hits, the last an RBI double to Chris Davis. John Farrell mercifully pulled him from the game, but replaced him with someone even worse, Chad Beck. Beck just kept giving up hits and runs and more hits and more runs. It got painful to watch. Especially when he couldn't field a grounder back to him to get even one out. By the time the smoke had cleared the Orioles had a 12-0 lead.
As for Britton, he got stronger as the game went on. He pitched a perfect fifth and sixth innings, then recovered from a leadoff walk in the seventh to get the next three batters. Really a great night for Zach. His final pitching line was: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K.
With the lead well in hand, Kevin Gregg and Zach Phillips closed out the game with one perfect inning each. And as the Orioles put win #76 in the books, the Yankees were putting the finishing touches on their 59th loss of the year. A loss that put the two teams in a tie for first place.
And that is awesome.