The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is the place where fly balls go to die. Offense, in general, goes to die there. With its generous foul territory for chasing down pop-ups and its deep outfield fences, it is a tomb for the hitter. Abandon all hope of home runs, ye who enter here, and so on, and so forth. Those are the rules. The Orioles do not care about your rules.
A seven-run offensive effort was powered by home runs by Nick Markakis (3rd of the year) - His Noodly Appendages Himself - Adam Jones (4th), and Nate McLouth (1st). The three home runs were part of a barrage of ten hits and led to a 7-3 victory, guaranteeing the O's a series win and giving them a chance at a rare four-game sweep tomorrow afternoon.
The runs were scored to the benefit of Orioles starter Chris Tillman, whose box score line looks much better than it seemed like it would be at first. 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. That'll do, especially when he looked like he was chugging along to barely make it five innings. Three baserunners in each of the second and third innings, with Tillman looking like he couldn't locate anything, and yet, he did what so many Orioles starters have failed to do over the years: he rallied through the trouble, giving up only a run in each of those innings.
As helpless as Tillman looked at times in those two innings, he made Athletics hitters look just as helpless as he racked up the seven strikeouts. They could only stand with bat on shoulder as Tillman painted the corners with fastballs. Who is this guy and why don't we see him more often? This, against the highest-scoring offense in baseball heading into today's games.
Same as the first game of the series, the Orioles spotted the A's two runs, looking pathetic and helpless in the process - the first time through the lineup against A's starter A.J. Griffin was a disaster - and then went to work. Manny Machado worked a walk to lead off the fourth. He did not stay on first base for long, scoring on Markakis' homer. Jones made it back-to-back by unloading a line drive to straightaway center. As frustrating a player as he can be sometimes, it's easy to forget how strong he is.
Later that same inning brought another rarity: an Orioles baserunner scoring from first. On a single, no less. And the runner was Chris Davis! What in the world? J.J. Hardy hit the single. Davis had been running on the pitch and he just kept on running. There are times where the cavernous outfield of the Coliseum plays to the advantage of the offense.
McLouth was nearly a one-man army, as he's seemed to be in a few games this season. His day included a 3-5 with the home run and two RBI. He's now slashing .319/.434/.449 on the season. Small sample size, to be sure, through only 24 games, but if I might paraphrase my friend and fellow blogger, Stacey Long: "24 AWESOME games."
McLouth's homer and an RBI single came in the 8th and 9th innings, respectively, and they would prove to be insurance runs the Orioles would need. The bullpen could not just let us have an easy one on this Saturday afternoon. After pitching a scoreless 7th, Brian Matusz came out for the 8th, got a quick out, then walked Brandon Moss. With righties coming up, Buck summoned Darren O'Day, who gave up a double to Josh Donaldson and then an RBI sacrifice fly to Josh Reddick. Because he's O'Day, he then struck out Chris Young, with Young looking like he could have batted against O'Day a hundred times without ever getting a hit, to end the threat.
With a 7-3 lead going into the 9th, you wouldn't have thought the Orioles would need Jim Johnson today. Unfortunately, you can't forget about Pedro Strop. The bad Strop showed up today. He hit Adam Rosales with a pitch on a full count, uncorked a wild pitch against Coco Crisp and then proceeded to walk Crisp. Buck was quick with the hook and in came the closer.
Johnson would give up a base hit to John Jaso to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate with no one out. This was all very unnecessary drama, but drama it was. A Seth Smith flyout wasn't deep enough to score a run, then Johnson got one of his patented ground-balls for a double play to bring an end to a great game that nonetheless had its messy and tense moments. The save was Johnson's 10th of the year. Last year, he got his 10th save in the Orioles' 33rd game.
Matt Wieters, hitless on the day and looking helpless at bat, was the designated hitter (because of course an Orioles designated hitter can't get hits), but he had to catch the last few innings after Taylor Teagarden took a foul ball off of the thumb on his glove hand, dislocating the thumb. He told reporters after the game he expected to be out 3-4 weeks. Oakland waited until Wieters was behind the dish to try to steal on him - and as it turned out, Tillman picked off Josh Donaldson and Wieters never had to throw.
The Teagarden injury resulted in Tillman actually recording an at-bat in the game, which had the potential to be amusing, only Tillman watched three strikes go by, with Griffin showing off by dropping a curveball in for the strikeout. Daniel Cabrera would have been proud. Tillman's at-bat was more curious because he was lifted before pitching in the next inning.
Machado and Markakis each had multi-hit games for the Orioles in addition to McLouth.
The final game of the series gets underway tomorrow at 4:05 Eastern. Miguel Gonzalez starts for the Orioles as they go for the sweep. He'll be opposed by the recently-PED-riddled mass of flesh that is Bartolo Colon.