The Orioles decisively took game one of the series against the Blue Jays tonight as they combined solid, but not spectacular, starting pitching from Chris Tillman with eight runs scored, all on home runs. It was a fun win, especially since we got to watch Jose Bautista strike out four times.
After a quick first inning in which Tillman needed just twelve pitches, he got into a jam in the second. With Colby Rasmus on second base with a double and two outs, J.P. Arencibia did the only thing he actually does well: he hit a home run. It was crushed, too, to centerfield. It gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. Tillman then gave up a single up the middle to Mark DeRosa but got the world's most adorable archnemesis, Munenori Kawasaki, to line out to first to end the inning.
The lead lasted, oh, two minutes as the Orioles followed suit in the bottom of the second. Adam Jones, who has been looking much better at the plate the last few games, took a ball to the opposite field where it landed just inside the foul line for an easy double. That brought Chris Davis to the plate. Before this at bat, Davis was just 2 for his last 27 and both were home runs. After this at bat, Davis was 3 for his last 28 and all three were home runs. He hit an opposite field homer that just made it into the left field stands. It turns out that ridiculous strength doesn't slump.
The top of the third started off well enough for Tillman. He got two quick outs on Joses Reyes and Bautista, then left a change up up and in the middle of the zone to Edwin Encarnacion. Um, Chris? That's not a good idea. Encarnacion absolutely smoked it to left field, it got out so fast McLouth barely had time to move his feet (not that it would have mattered).
I know that Tillman gives up homers, and I know that players like Encarnacion are good at hitting homers, but right after the O's tied the game? Really, Chris?
After the home run, Adam Lind hit a ground ball up the middle that J.J. Hardy showed fantastic range to get to. He gloved the ball, got ready to throw and...ran into Brian Roberts. Oops. Come on, Brian! You gotta watch out for J.J.! Luckily it didn't do any damage as Colby Rasmus hit a sinking liner to left field that Nate McLouth made a sliding catch on to end the inning. That's a plus for you, Nate.
Tillman settled down after that, though he never really looked great. He faced just three batters in the fourth inning thanks to a fantastic play by Adam Jones. With one out, J.P. Arencibia hit a ball into the right-center gap. He tried to stretch it to a double and Jones made just a perfect throw to second base to nail him. I tell you, Adam Jones had himself a game tonight. Tillman worked around a leadoff walk in the fifth thanks to a double play ball and pitched a relatively easy sixth other than a dropped popup in the infield.
Really, though, once the bottom of the third inning rolled around, Tillman was kind of an afterthought. Buehrle got two quick outs to start the third, but singles by Manny Machado and Nick Markakis brought Jones to the plate. Adam already had a nice double and a sweet defensive play, and he added to his night with a a three-run homer to put the Orioles back on top. It was Jones's 17th home run of the season.
The O's weren't satisfied with one Earl Weaver Special on the night, so they added another in the sixth inning. This time Jones and Davis were on base with singles for J.J. Hardy. Hardy had already seen both of his fellow All Star Game starters go deep in the game, and he wanted to join the party. He hit a bomb to left field that landed deep in the seats. It was about the same location as Davis's but ten rows deeper. The crowd of over 42,000, which was loud as could be tonight, went wild. The O's were up 8-3 and the yard was rocking.
With the lead well in hand, Buck Showalter turned to the newest member of the bullpen, Jairo Asencio. Asencio walked the first batter he faced; I'll chalk it up to nerves. He got a ground ball right back to him from Kawasaki that he fielded well, but his throw to second wasn't great and they couldn't turn the double play. After a seeing eye single from Jose Reyes put another runner on, Asencio got it together and struck out Bautista and Encarnacion to end the inning. Impressive! Bautista's K was his fourth of the day. Somewhere in the bullpen, Darren O'Day was smiling.
Brian Matusz started the eighth inning and he was a disaster. He got one out and allowed two baserunners. Tommy Hunter had to come in and clean up his mess, getting two quick outs and stranding both runners. Hunter wasn't as efficient in the ninth inning, though. He gave up two runs when Lind hit a two-out double with runners on, making the score 8-5. Just like that it was a save situation, and so Showalter went to Jim Johnson in the pen. Sigh. The next batter up was Colby Rasmus and I have every confidence that Hunter could have gotten him out. But instead Johnson had to come in and make an appearance. It took JJ longer to run in from the bullpen than to get the final out as Rasmus grounded out to second base on the first pitch he saw.
Even with the less than exciting ending, it was a great game from the Orioles and their third straight win. Tomorrow they'll send Jason Hammel out to try and make the winning streak four.