Some of the most memorable moments in baseball history have come in a single at-bat. From Babe Ruth calling his shot to Kirk Gibson's ultimate World Series grand slam, many of the briefest instants have redefined contests, and even seasons and championships. The Orioles didn't have any of those at-bats in 2013, but there were lots of at-bats that totally changed the course of the individual games where they occurred. As measured by Win Probability Added (WPA), these were the top five Orioles at-bats of 2013 (following Stacey letting you know about #6-10).
#5 - Chris Davis vs. Javier Lopez - August 9, 2013
The Orioles were opening a rare series against the Giants in San Francisco, and they were cruising to a victory off of a strong Chris Tillman start (8 IP, 1 ER, 9 K), before Jim Johnson's seventh blown save sent the game to extra innings, tied at 2-2. Javier Lopez came in to pitch the tenth, and gave up a double to Manny Machado with one out, followed by a two-out intentional walk to Adam Jones, leaving him to pitch to Davis with two outs and two on. Davis responded less than kindly to the disrespect of the Jones intentional walk, drilling a double to deep right-center that scored two runs and proved the difference in the game.
#4 - Adam Jones vs. Mariano Rivera - July 7, 2013
The Yankees were strolling toward a tight victory. The Orioles had held the Yankees to a one run off of an effective but abbreviated Jason Hammel start, whereas Hiroki Kuroda (as usual) had manhandled the Orioles lineup over seven shutout innings. So Rivera was brought in to get the last three outs of another Yankees victory. A one-out Nick Markakis single seemed like nothing more than a speed bump. But Adam Jones had other ideas, drilling a two-run bomb to left center to propel the Orioles to an unexpected victory.
#3 - Steve Pearce vs. Franklin Morales - September 28, 2013
Both starters (Jon Lester and Wei-Yin Chen) struggled a bit in a matchup that saw Boston enter the eighth inning with a 5-4 lead and 69% win probability. That was before the normally effective Franklin Morales gave up back-to-back leadoff singles to Matt Wieters and Danny Valencia. After retiring Markakis, Morales was left to face Steve Pearce, who promptly laced a two-run double down the left-field line, putting the Orioles on top with a lead that would hold through the end of the game.
#2 - Matt Wieters vs. Addison Reed - September 7, 2013
In another wild extra-inning match, the Orioles found themselves tied 2-2 in the 10th inning, after a study Chen start and scoreless relief appearances from Johnson and Darren O'Day. Then, in the top of the tenth, the White Sox took a 3-2 lead on (stop me if you've heard this one before) a home run by a mediocre lefty (Conor GIllaspie) off of Tommy Hunter, Closer Of The Future. The Sox carried an 80% win probability into the bottom of the tenth, which then peaked at 89% when J.J. Hardy grounded out to start the inning. Henry Urrutia and Markakis broke through with one-out singles, but McLouth struck out to bring the Orioles down to their last out, with Wieters due up. And Wieters came though, with a two-run, walkoff single that was one of the brightest spots of his season.
#1 - Chris Dickerson vs. Jose Valverde - May 31, 2013
For my birthday, the Orioles gave me a walkoff win, which turned out to arrive on the most valuable single plate appearance of the season. Detroit brought in their closer, Valverde, to shut the door on an easy 5-3 lead, handing him a 91% win probability to kick off the bottom of the ninth. Valverde struggled right out of the gate, yielding a rare Nick Markakis home run, followed by back-to-back singles to Jones and Davis. But then he induced weak popouts from Wieters and Hardy, leaving the game in the hands of fourth outfielder Chris Dickerson, with two outs and two on. Dickerson responded with the biggest hit of his season, and indeed, the biggest hit of the team's season, a walkoff Earl Weaver special. Happy birthday to me!
There really is nothing in baseball like a big, game-changing at-bat. What other at-bats do you remember from this season that weren't discussed in our top ten?