The game was one of many that have come recently with an inauspicious beginning. In that TV graphics-can't-jinx-the-game-but-sometimes-they-do-it-anyway way, as a MASN graphic helpfully pointed out that the Dodgers have scored the second-fewest runs in the majors right before Andre Ethier (.945 OPS vs. Orioles starter Jason Hammel heading into today) socked an Earl Weaver Special. It was the fourth straight game where the other team has homered off an O's starter in the first inning, and Hammel would throw 32 pitches in the inning. Even worse, Ethier's home run landed on Eutaw Street.
Yet for the third time in those four games, the Orioles found a way to make up the deficit, take the lead later in the game, and close out a victory. These are the things you can get away with when you've scored the second-most runs in the American League. The O's offense, piling on seven runs today, has now scored 80 runs, trailing only Oakland, which has 99 (!) runs scored.
Hammel continued to not be at his best into the second inning, allowing another run to score when a misplayed line drive by Nolan Reimold left runners on second and third with only one out. (The ball was scored as a double, which goes to show why errors, earned runs, and ERA are occasionally worthless.) A Mark Ellis sacrifice fly later, the deficit was 4-0 and Hammel did not look like he would be long for the day. Dire scenarios were mooted; how long could T.J. McFarland go to save the rest of the bullpen, if needed?
Instead, Hammel got his act together and made it through six innings, still leaving the O's without a seven-inning effort, but much better than it looked at first. Four earned runs over six, with seven hits, three walks and five strikeouts, isn't winning any Cy Young awards, but some days you just need to hang in there and let the offense take care of the rest.
Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu came into the game with a sub-3.00 ERA through three starts. An unfamiliar lefty was a bad omen, you might have thought, as I did. But Ryu wasn't fooling anyone today. Nick Markakis singled and Adam Jones walked in the first before Matt Wieters hit into an inning-ending double play, but the Orioles kept piling on the base-runners and eventually they would score some.
If you've watched this team the last two years, you could guess how they might start scoring: home runs. Chris Davis led off the second with a single and scored when J.J. Hardy hit his third homer of the season. That made it a 4-2 score in favor of Los Angeles, but you know the Orioles weren't done homering. Reimold followed with a solo shot two innings later to make it a 4-3 game, earning a little redemption for his fielding miscue that cost Hammel a run in the second.
Ryu entered the sixth inning with a one-run lead, limiting the Orioles from damaging him other than the home runs. It all escalated quickly. Wieters led off with a single, Davis followed with a double, and Hardy quickly tied the game with a sacrifice fly. All of this happened in the time it took me to make a sandwich.
You know it was the Orioles' day when even Steve Pearce, designated hitter, got in on the act, scoring Davis with a single to left. Team Steve is now batting .150/.190/.300, which is either unsustainable or is Steve Pearce. Ryu would be out after six, 95 pitches thrown. Maybe he wasn't tired and O's hitters just figured him out the third time through.
What would the Orioles do with a one-run lead in the 7th, you may ask? How about: bring on Pedro Strop! We know how this story goes. After getting Carl Crawford to line out to lead off the inning, he then walked Ellis after getting ahead in the count. That meant Davis had to be in position to hold the runner, which meant that the broken-bat ball hit next by Matt Kemp became a single to shallow right that let Ellis go to third. One wild pitch later and the game was again tied. Oh, Pedro.
Brian Matusz was summoned to limit the damage with two men on and only one out. He had stranded 19 straight inherited runners since joining the bullpen last season and was tasked with two more today. A strikeout of Ethier and a flyout from former Oriole Ramon Hernandez later and the threat was over.
Hernandez's flyout was reminiscent to me of that one game where he hit the home run and did the bat toss and helmet flip and the ball landed in the first row. Only now he's six years older and it's warning track power.
Before we had to start steeling ourselves for extra innings, the O's struck in the bottom of the 8th. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly put in lefty Paco Rodriguez to face Davis. A good idea in theory, except Davis crushed a pitch to deep center that almost left the yard: a double, his third hit of the day. So the LOOGY was more like a NOOGY. New relief pitcher Ronald Belisario proceeded to walk Hardy by accident, then, following a Hernandez passed ball (sounds familiar!) issued an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Nate McLouth to load the bases.
Next up: Reimold. He did what needed to be done. Belisario pitched him low and away and Nolan drove the pitch into the right field corner. My favorite thing about these Orioles so far is how many guys are going opposite field. Two runs scored, the Foo Fighters' "Pretender" played over the Camden Yards PA for the announced crowd of 26,811, and Jim Johnson came in and closed it out for his seventh save of the year.
With seven saves in 16 games, Johnson is on pace to have 70 on the season, which would be ridiculous if it happened but is still cool to say.
The nightcap of the day-night doubleheader is to follow with a 7:05pm first pitch. Josh Beckett will start for the Dodgers, with Wei-Yin Chen starting for the Orioles. Between Ryu (Korea) and Chen (Taiwan), Asia is well-represented on the Camden Yards mound today.