The Baltimore Orioles completed their road sweep of the season tonight against the Texas Rangers, thanks, I believe, in no small part to Mark's reverse jinx gamethread. Perhaps just as important was Chris Tillman's fantastic eight-inning (plus one batter) outing that kept the Rangers from putting together any rallies (with a Rangers TOOTBLAN helping out). Honorable mention goes to the Rangers defense, which was as bad in this three-game series as I've seen from any team in quite some time.
Speaking of that defense, let's pick things up in the second inning, in which the Orioles managed to score only two runs despite the absurdness that was the Rangers defense. Chris Davis led off the inning and hit a fly ball to left field. It should have been an easy out but David Murphy lost the ball in the sun and Davis landed on second base with a double. That's the kind of play that makes fans cringe (when it happens to their own team), but it's also the kind that happens from time to time and at least has an explanation.
With the runner on second, Rangers starting pitcher Martin Perez turned his attention to Matt Wieters. Wieters has had a hot bat lately and tonight was no exception. He hit a ball back up the middle that knocked in Davis for the O's first run of the night. A wild pitch by Perez moved Wieters to second and he stayed there when J.J. Hardy singled to Elvis Andrus at shortstop. There was nothing Andrus could do about that one, it was deep in the hole and he had no play. The next play, though? It was all his fault.
Designated hitter Danny Valencia hit a double play ball right to Andrus, but he dropped the ball when he tried to throw it to second. Instead of the inning being over, the bases were loaded with no outs. That brought up Brian Roberts who hit a single through the hole at second base and into right field. Wieters scored from third and the O's were looking good with a 2-0 lead and the bases loaded with no outs. But the rally was quickly squashed as Perez struck out Nate McLouth and Manny Machado (Machado swung at a pitch that bounced in front of the plate) and a one-pitch groundout by Nick Markakis.
The Orioles added another run in the third inning on back-to-back two-out doubles by Wieters and Hardy. Wieters hit a ground ball just inside the foul line at third base. It was a tough play, to be sure, but Adrian Beltre got there in plenty of time and the ball just went past the side of the glove. It's a play that you often would see Beltre make and that I believe Machado would have made easily. Hardy's double was clobbered to the right-center gap, nothing the Rangers defense could do about that one. He was stranded at second when Valencia struck out.
The final run by the Orioles came in the fourth inning. Brian Roberts lined a double to left field and, after Nate McLouth bunted him over, came in to score on a single by Machado. I know we all hate bunts, and this one was scored as a sacrifice, but it looked like McLouth was bunting for a hit. It was a good bunt, too. Perez made a nice play to get him out.
The four runs was enough for Tillman, who threw four shutout innings before finally giving up a run in the fifth. Through the first four he allowed just one walk and one hit, both in the third inning. He found himself in a jam with runners on first and third with two outs but struck out Craig Gentry to get out of trouble.
Tillman started the fifth inning with just 56 pitches. He got the first batter but then gave up singles to Andrus and Murphy. With two outs Ian Kinsler singled to right field. Andrus scored easily with the throw cut off by Davis in the middle of the infield. But Kinsler had gone too far around first base and Davis fired to Roberts, to start a rundown. Murphy took off from third trying to score and Roberts threw the ball to Machado, who started another rundown that led to Murphy being tagged out and the inning over. Thanks, Rangers!
Not much action to report on after that for either team until the ninth. Machado walked in the seventh inning, which is always news. In the ninth the Orioles tried to rally (thanks in part to another defensive miscue by the Rangers), but Matt Wieters popped out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
That brings us to the controversial bottom of the ninth inning. The Rangers were scheduled to send out Beltre, a right hander, followed by a lefty (A.J. Pierzynski) and a switch hitter (Jurickson Profar) . Buck Showalter elected to leave Tillman in to face the righty and had Brian Matusz warm in the pen to face the next two. Tillman ended the eighth inning with 113 pitches. The move made sense to me although some Orioles fans weren't happy that Tillman was coming back to start the inning. Were they right? The results suggest they were, although we all know that doesn't always mean anything.
Tillman went to a 1-2 count to Beltre before throwing a curve ball that Beltre hammered to right-center field for a solo home run. That made the score 4-2 and ended Tillman's night. Matusz came in and struck out Pierzynski, but then walked Profar on four pitches. That's not good. Showalter pulled Matusz for Darren O'Day. O'Day got Andrus to hit a grounder but he beat the relay and stayed out of the double play. That left the game up to Murphy. O'Day went to a full count on him before throwing a very good slider (almost unfairly good) that Murphy swung through for strike three.
Sweep! A great way to start the second half, especially with three good starting pitching performances against a good offensive team. Now on to Kansas City for a four-game series that, sadly, will not have a Chen vs Chen matchup.