Hopes were high for the Orioles coming into the 2013 season, but with five games left to play, all fans had to hope for tonight was for a guaranteed winning season. The O's delivered it with a typical high-run-scoring, lots-of-runs-allowed game against the Toronto Blue Jays, who were also ticketed early on for postseason play
Bud Norris started the game and was not sharp, but he did okay and with so many arms in the pen, it didn't really matter. Jose Reyes, Munenori Kawasaki, and Brett Lawrie all had great at-bats against him in the top of the first inning. The second inning was better, even though a run scored, but in the third inning the string of good plate appearances continued and the Jays scored two more. By the end of the third inning, Norris had thrown an astonishing 73 pitches already. The fourth inning went better, with no three-ball counts, and Norris worked to keep the score tied with a runner on third and two outs.
T.J. McFarland replaced Norris to start the fifth and kept the game tied by the skin of his teeth, avoiding a bases-loaded jam on a hard-hit lineout by Kevin Pillar. McFarland was similarly lucky in the sixth, when he allowed two runners and was replaced by Josh Stinson. Stinson loaded the bases when he hit Brett Lawrie, but Adam Lind hit into a double play and only one run scored in the inning.
The O's offense; stagnant all week (all month, really) poked through in the third and kept going all game long. Mr. Jonathan Rufino Jezus Schoop got things started when he singled in his first major-league plate appearance. Ryan Flaherty then blasted a Eutaw Street Special to make it 3-2 Jays. Steve Pearce added a solo shot in the fourth to tie the game at three.
Then in the fifth, three more runs came across. Flaherty was hit by a pitch to start the inning, advanced to second when Nate McLouth grounded out, moved to third on a J.J. Hardy single, and scored when Nick Markakis squibbed a jibber past second baseman Ryan Goins. 4-3 O's.
Chris Davis then slammed a ground rule double (off a lefty, no less) to score Hardy, making it 5-3. Toronto manager John Gibbons then intentionally walked Pearce to load the bases, but Jason Pridie (making his 2013 O's debut) grounded out to the first baseman, scoring Markakis for the sixth Orioles run.
Schoop made some noise again with his first major-league home run in the sixth, a solo shot to deep center. Meanwhile, Troy Patton and then Jason Hammel followed Stinson in relief, allowing several baserunners but no runs, to keep the score at 7-4. As the O's batting order turned over, it was Schoop's show again in the eighth. He worked his first major-league walk, and again Flaherty stepped to the plate and socked another two-run dinger, this time to the opposite field, making it 9-4 O's. Schoop & Flaherty, Schoop & Flaherty, Schoop & Flaherty ... just rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? Jason Hammel did allow Toronto's fifth run in the bottom of the ninth, but really, who cares?
Note: with his 197th strikeout in the bottom of the second inning, Davis set his second team record of the year, surpassing Mark Reynolds' 196 K's in 2011. Davis added K #198 later in the game before he was lifted for pinch-hitter Danny Valencia.
The Orioles look to take the series tomorrow night at home when Mark Buehrle faces Miguel Gonzalez. Oh, and, as a sweet, sweet side note: the Yankees lost tonight, eliminating them from postseason play.