The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Texas Rangers tonight behind another strong effort by Miguel Gonzalez and an attack by the offense that featured at least one hit by every batter in the lineup. The win puts the Orioles back in position for a wild card spots and allows them to gain a game on the first place Red Sox, who lost today.
Miguel Gonzalez had yet another good start tonight, allowing just one run in six and two-thirds innings pitched. He was far from perfect, but even on a night when his pitch count went high he still made it into the seventh inning. He lowered his ERA during the game from 3.48 to 3.34, and he has now allowed three or less earned runs in fourteen of his seventeen starts. In short, I love him.
Gonzalez had just one three-up, three-down inning on the night, but he never let a runner past second base until the eighth inning and he had some help from his defense. In the second inning, with A.J. Pierzynski on first base with one out, Elvis Andrus hit a soft liner to center field. Adam Jones put up his glove like he was going to catch it, and Pierzynski went back to first base. But Jones wasn't even close to it and it fell in front of him. Because his deke worked he was able to throw Pierzynski out at second base. It was a great play and Jones couldn't help but grin in the outfield when it worked.
Gonzalez never pitched without a lead in the game as the O's offense scored two runs in the first inning, one in the second, and four in the third before their bats went quiet for the night. Ross Wolf was on the mound for the Rangers and he did not look good. In the first inning Nate McLouth singled and Nick Markakis walked, setting up back-to-back RBI singles by Jones and Chris Davis. Matt Wieters followed those two with a single of his own and it looked like the Orioles might break the game open right from the beginning. But J.J. Hardy struck out after fouling off two meatballs and Henry Urrutia, in his first major-league at bat, struck out to end the inning.
McLouth came up for a second time in the second inning and hit a fly ball to right field. It's no secret that Nelson Cruz is a bit of a liability out there, and he misplayed a fly ball by McLouth into a triple. It was a good hit, don't get me wrong, but Cruz just made a terrible leaping attempt.
With McLouth on third, Machado set to trying to knock him in. He wasn't successful in that task in the first inning, but this time he got it done with a ground ball single the other way that allowed McLouth to easily come in.
The biggest blow for the Orioles was their four-run third inning. Adam Jones was the first batter of the inning and he launched a ball to center field for his 20th home run. Davis followed him with a ball that looked like it might get out, but instead fell for a double. It looked like a play that some center fielders would make, but this is the Rangers so Leonys Martin did not.
Wieters walked and Hardy singled to again load the bases for the rookie Henry Urrutia. Ron Washington brought in a new pitcher to face him, a lefty. Urrutia came through with his first major-league hit on a ground ball to right field. Yay, Henry! Old man Brian Roberts followed that with a two-RBI single but was thrown out on the basepaths, then McLouth hit a fly ball to left field that Urrutia was tagged out on trying to score. A disappointing way to end the inning but with the Rangers defense it was worth a shot. Left fielder David Murphy made a good throw to get him.
After that, the Orioles decided they were finished scoring. They had a few hits over the rest of the game but never really came close to starting a rally. The Rangers bullpen and Gonzalez traded zeroes until the bottom of the seventh when Gonzalez gave up two hits and a sacrifice fly to lose the shutout. Buck Showalter replaced him with Tommy Hunter in the seventh and while Tommy got Jurickson Profar to end the inning, he wasn't good at all when he came back out for the eighth.
Nelson Cruz struck out to start the eighth, but Hunter gave up three straight singles that resulted in two runs scored before he recorded the second out. With two outs Murphy singled in the third run of the inning, officially making the game closer than I like to see.
In addition to it being closer than I like to see, it was also now a save situation and another adventurous night for Jim Johnson. Ian Kinsler grounded out for the first out, thanks only to a spectacular play by Machado. Machado charged and barehanded the ball to get Kinsler, which was fortuitous since, after a pop up by Profar for the second out, Johnson gave up back-to-back singles to bring the tying run to the plate in A.J. Pierzynski. As Orioles fans across the land held on to their butts, JJ got Pierzynski to ground out and end the game.