Last week, Ryan Pollack told you about the top ten best O's pitching performances in 2013 according to WPA. This week we'll take a look at the top ten offensive performances of the season as sorted by WPA. These at-bats meant the most to the team in helping to win an individual game. I'm here to tell you about #6-10 and on Thursday, Steve Damerell will count down the top five.
Helpful hint: Click play on each video before you start reading about the hit, that way you'll be almost through the 30-second commercial when you're finished reading!
You all remember the first week of the season for Chris Davis, right? It was pretty big, what with him hitting home runs in each of his first four games. In the series finale of the first series of 2013, Davis had two big hits. The first came in the top of second inning, a two-run homer that put the Orioles ahead 2-0. But the really big hit came in the sixth.
The game was tied 2-2 and Davis stepped to the plate with Nick Markakis on second base and Adam Jones at first. Other than the homer to Davis, Roberto Hernandez had been pitching a fine game. But it all came undone for him with one swing from Davis, and it wasn't even a bomb like we all grew to expect from him. Instead, he went the opposite way with a bouncing ball against the shift. What a nice bit of hitting from the big guy.
This at-bat came on Opening Day in Tampa Bay. Going into the seventh inning, the Rays held a 3-2 lead and brought in Jake McGee to hold it. McGee got two outs but also let Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis on base before facing Adam Jones. All he had to do was retire Jones and he'd escape the jam. McGee is a filthy pitcher, and he owned the Orioles in 2012, when the Orioles went 3-for-29 against him with 17 strikeouts. But this wasn't 2012, and Adam Jones didn't strike out. He lined a double to left-center that split the outfielders. Roberts scored the tying run and Markakis came in from first to give the O's a 4-3 lead.
The Orioles were out on the west coast playing the Angels on May 4th, and in the recent past the west coast hasn't been so good to them. The Angels were off to a rocky start (which lead to a terrible season), but they came back against Darren O'Day in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the O's at 4-4. The game went into extra innings and the Angels brought in Garrett Richards to pitch. He gave up a lead off single to Adam Jones, and eventually faced Steve Pearce with two outs and Nolan Reimold at second base. Pearce hit a little flare to right field that fell in and allowed Nolan "Gazelle" Reimold to score the go ahead run. Pearce is an unlikely but appropriate hero in a game that featured Freddy Garcia taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
Back we go to the first series of the year, and to a game the Orioles actually lost. This one had a lot of action late in the game as the Orioles scored solo runs in each of the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, but they couldn't overcome Pedro Strop and Luis Ayala's mishaps out of the bullpen.
With the Rays up 7-6 in the ninth, they turned to their closer Fernando Rodney. You might remember that Rodney had his troubles in 2013, and this was the beginning. He walked Nolan Reimold to start the inning, then gave up a classic B-Rob double down the left field line. Reimold scored from first to tie the game. Unfortunately the Orioles couldn't score any more runs and in the bottom of the ninth Tommy Hunter went boom and gave up a home run to Matt Joyce to end the game.
The Orioles went 11-8 against the Red Sox in 2013, and this game was win #1 against them. Ryan Dempster and the Red Sox bullpen had held the Orioles to three runs (one earned) over the first eight innings of the game and Joel Hanrahan was in to close it out. Spoiler: he failed. Hanrahan gave up a leadoff home run to Chris Davis, then loaded the bases on two walks and a single for Manny Machado. The first pitch Hanrahan threw Machado got past the catcher and allowed Alexei Casilla to score. It turns out that wild pitch kept Machado from hitting his first career grand slam, because on the second pitch he went deep for a three-run homer that put the Orioles ahead 8-5.
Stay tuned for the top five offensive performances by an Oriole in 2013. It's coming your way this Thursday.
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