The Orioles closed out their nine-game home stand today with a decisive victory over their playoff competition. The Oakland Athletics sent their rookie starter, Sonny Gray, out to face the O's and they knocked him out early and poured on the runs throughout the game. The O's starter Scott Feldman wasn't at his best but managed to only allow one run through five innings.
Feldman did not get off to an inspiring start, walking leadoff batter Coco Crisp on four pitches and then immediately balking him over to second. Feldman walked another batter in the inning, and with two outs and runners on the corner, Alberto Callaspo hit a bloop that just fell over Ryan Flaherty's head for an RBI single. Nick Markakis was playing really deep and couldn't get to the ball. That hit itself was tough luck, but when you walk two guys in an inning that kind of stuff happens.
Feldman didn't allow another run, but had another really tough time in the third. He walked two batters and hit a third to load the bases with two outs, but Seth Smith for some reason swung at the first pitch despite Feldman's control problems and popped out to shortstop to end the inning. Ultimately Feldman got through five innings but with a pitch count over 100 and several close calls throughout the game, that was it for him.
Thankfully it wasn't too stressful watching Feldman because the Orioles offense jumped out of the gate early. Singles by Manny Machado and Chris Davis in the first inning put runners on base for Adam Jones, who singled in one run, and Matt Wieters, who knocked in a second with a sacrifice fly. They put three more runs on the board in the second inning, starting with a double by J.J. Hardy that was actually a ball that right fielder Josh Reddick lost in the sun. The A's outfielders had a lot of problems with the sun today. Anyway, with Hardy on second, Ryan Flaherty walked and Brian Roberts followed that with an RBI single.
With two runners on and one out it was Machado's turn to his a sacrifice fly, a deep fly ball to center field. One RBI single from Davis later and the Orioles were up 5-1. They added another run in the fourth on Machado's second sac fly and one more in the sixth courtesy of Hardy's 23rd homer of the season.
With Feldman having trouble with his control and pitch count (in his post game presser, Buck Showalter attributed Feldman's problems to his layoff, he hadn't pitched since August 18th), long man T.J. McFarland took over in the sixth inning. He pitched two good innings before he got into some trouble in the eighth. With one runner on, Josh Donaldson got to McFarland for a home run. It made the score 7-3 and after a single and a line out, his day was over. Nice job by McFarland to save the bullpen a bit. He was replaced by Darren O'Day, who needed just two pitches to induce an inning ending double play.
Even with a four-run lead, the Orioles weren't finished scoring. Their eighth run of the day came from an unlikely source. Nick Markakis has been a constant source of frustration this season. Before today he hadn't had an extra base hit in over a month and hadn't had a home run since June 24th. Back in the third inning he got the extra base hit monkey off his back with a double to right-center field. And in the eighth, leading off the inning, Nick hit a ball to almost the same part of the ballpark. The difference is that this one went over the fence, and it wasn't a cheap shot either. It made it to the back of the center field stands, almost a Eutaw Street shot. Yay, Nick!
Hardy followed Nick's home run with a single and came in to score on yet another home run, this one by Nate McLouth. Two slumping outfielders with home runs in the same inning? I'll take it! That made the score 10-3, their 11th time scoring runs in the double digits this season.
With Miguel Gonzalez being pushed back to start on Friday against the Yankees, he came in to pitch the ninth to get some work in. He didn't get much in, though, since he threw just eight pitches in the 1-2-3 inning.
O's win! They took two out of three from the team ahead of them in the race for the wild card and won two of the three series on the home stand. Now they head off for a road trip against the Red Sox, Yankees, and Indians.