The Orioles looked like they were headed to their fourth straight loss tonight. The pitching was woeful, the bats were cold, and the fans were cranky. But what seemed sure to be a loss turned quickly into something else: the most exciting game the Orioles have played yet in this young season. A five-run rally in the top of the ninth, punctuated by Manny Machado's first home run of the year, propelled the Orioles to an 8-5 victory.
The Orioles got on the board in the first inning after an error by the Red Sox, but it was really a missed opportunity. After Nate McLouth worked starting pitcher Ryan Dempster for a walk (the first of three walks McLouth would take on the night), Manny Machado hit a fly ball to right-center field. Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury converged on the ball and as they tried to avoid each other, they both missed the ball. McLouth and Machado ended up on second and third base, bringing Nick Markakis to the plate and giving the O's an golden chance to take an early lead.
Jake Arrieta was on the mound for the Orioles tonight and we all hoped that he'd show us something more than what we saw in his first start of the season. And while Jake wasn't all that impressive today, there were some good things to come out of it. His first inning was fantastic as he needed just nine pitches to retire the Red Sox in order, but it fell apart shortly after that.
In the second inning, Arrieta got the first two outs quickly before walking Daniel Nava. And wouldn't you know it, Nava came around to score. Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled off of the green monster to tie the game. The walks, they're awful!
The Red Sox added two more runs in the third inning as Arrieta looked like he was falling apart. He walked Jackie Bradley Jr. ahead of Ellsbury, who hit a fly ball down the left field line. McLouth dove for the ball and missed it, and as he chased it down Bradley scored and Ellsbury ended up on third base with a triple. A fly ball from Victorino allowed Ellsbury to tag up and score the Red Sox's third run of the game. It wasn't a pretty chain of events, but if Arrieta could just stop it there...
No. Instead he walked both Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli to bring up Will Middlebrooks. I prepared myself for the inevitable three-run homer, but to my surprise Middlebrooks grounded into a double play to end the inning. So the Orioles weren't the only team on the field missing chances.
The Orioles tied the game in the top of the fourth inning. Nick Markakis got things going with his first home run of the season. Jones followed that with a single, and after he moved to second base on a wild pitch, he came around to score on a single from Matt Wieters.
With the game tied, the steady rain that had been falling the whole game got a whole lot worse. Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick began wondering if the game would be shortened after five innings. Of course, that could only happen if one team had the lead. So it was on Arrieta to not allow any more runs. Seeing as how things had gone in the previous innings, that didn't seem likely.
But he did it! He did give up a one-out double to Saltalamacchia in the fourth, but truthfully Markakis misplayed it in right field. It was a shame. Arrieta bounced back, though, and got Stephen Drew and Bradley to end the inning.
The O's couldn't do anything against Dempster in the fifth inning, and Arrieta took the mound in the bottom of the fifth in what looked like a torrential downpour. But he didn't let that bother him as Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia barely made a peep as they were set down in order.
Finally, the umpires decided to put the game into a rain delay. It should have happened at least an inning earlier, in my opinion, but all's well that ends well. The delay lasted 43 minutes, and when it was over both Arrieta and Dempster were taken out of the game.
The Red Sox turned to our old friend Koji Uehara, and he was just as filthy as I remembered. He had no trouble with Jones, Davis, and Wieters. For the Orioles it was Tommy Hunter, and Tommy did what Tommy does. He struck out Middlebrooks and Napoli, both swinging, and then he went boom: back-to-back solo home runs from Nava and Saltalamacchia put the Orioles in a two-run hole.
Both teams put up zeroes in the seventh and eighth innings and the Orioles went into the top of the ninth down by two and short on time. Closer Joel Hanrahan came in to get the final three outs, but it wasn't to be. Chris Davis, who had been down for a few games after his hot start to the season, did what we all love watching him do: he homered. He hit a fly ball to straight away center field that just kept carrying right over the wall. That cut the Red Sox lead to one, and after Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy couldn't get on base, the Orioles were one out from their fourth loss in a row.
Up to the plate stepped Ryan Flaherty. Since taking over for Brian Roberts, Flaherty had gone 0-for-17 included three strikeouts in this very game. If there were any one batter I would pick to NOT be up in that situation, it would be him. But somehow, against all odds, Flaherty came through. He didn't kill the ball; it barely made it through the left side of the infield. But that was good enough to keep the game going.
Alexi Casilla pinch ran for Flaherty and promptly stole second base to get into scoring position, but ultimately it didn't matter. Hanrahan walked Nolan Reimold on four pitches, and then McLouth walked the third time in the game in a gutsy, gutsy at bat. After going to a count of 1-2, he took three straight close pitches for the walk. PitchFX shows that one of the calls was bad, but it wasn't too egregious. It was definitely borderline.
With the bases loaded, Hanrahan uncorked a wild pitch that bounced in front of the plate. Casilla raced home to score the tying run and the save was officially blown. Still, all Hanrahan needed to do was get Machado at the plate, who was almost as cold at the plate this season as Flaherty.
Towards the end of the game there was a group of Red Sox fans heckling every Oriole that came to the plate. They chanted their names and screamed and hooted at them, hoping to rattle them. As Machado stepped to the plate, these (I assume) drunkards decided to start singing Macho Man to Manny Machado. They serenaded him as he stepped into the box, as Hanrahan let loose with a fast ball, and then shut up real quick when Manny launched said fastball over the green monster for a three-run homer.
Wow! Macho man, indeed. The home run put the Orioles up by a score of 8-5 and ran Hanrahan from the game. Andrew Miller came in and struck out Nick Markakis out to end the inning. Then it was on Jim Johnson to lock things down, and lock it down he did. He easily retired the side in order and the Orioles were in the win column.