One way to win a baseball game is with strong starting pitching. There's another way, though. You can rain down a barrage of hits to all fields and corners of the stadium, battering the other team with the fury of your offense. The Orioles chose this second method on Tuesday afternoon, their first true breakout of the season on the way to a 14-5 beatdown of the Yankees in New York.
They did not waste any time getting started. Leadoff batter Nick Markakis served a pitch the opposite way to open the game with a single. Delmon Young followed with a ground ball to Derek Jeter's left, which is another way of saying a base hit up the middle. Make no mistake, with any other shortstop that was a rally-killing double play. Instead, it gave the Orioles a first-and-third, nobody out situation.
Rather than do the Orioles thing and do absolutely nothing with the opportunity, Chris Davis got them on the board with an RBI sacrifice fly. Yankees starter Ivan Nova tried to pitch low and away to Adam Jones. In general, that's a sound tactical decision. The problem for Nova, as Yoda would remind us, is that there is no try. Nova did not hit his spot. Jones crushed the mistake to deep center, a two-run home run that represented his first bomb of the year. The Orioles came out of the top of the first inning with a 3-0 lead.
With the way the rotation has been pitching, it was nice to see the fast start. They needed it today, with Wei-Yin Chen allowing a hit parade of his own. You could make excuses for him in his first start, with a lot of bad luck hits. On Tuesday, he gave up nine hits in five innings, surrendering four runs. On any ordinary day, that's going to be a loss. He was lucky to be on the mound when the Orioles busted out of the team-wide slump at the plate.
One heck of a breakout: Every Orioles starter had at least one hit. Eight of the nine had an RBI. Eight of the nine had a multi-hit game. Every starter scored a run. Three players had RBI sacrifice flies. Three of them had three-hit games, including Steve Lombardozzi and Ryan Flaherty, the scourge at the bottom of the lineup. They were no scourge today, except to Yankees pitching. The two of them, along with Jonathan Schoop, combined to bat 8-for-15 on the day. The team scored in five of the nine innings. They hit doubles. They hit home runs, with Young and Matt Wieters each adding one later in the game, Young's first of the season and Wieters' second. It was beautiful.
As a team, the Orioles went 20-for-42 on the day. That is 20 hits, two-zero, no joke. They almost batted .500 for an entire baseball game. They tarred and feathered first Nova and then reliever Vidal Nuno. They went up to the top rope for the flying elbow to the face and landed it. They smoked the ball as if it was a piece of encased meat. They unloaded a fusillade of artillery that could have ended a war. They lit up the place like it was Hampden at Christmas time. Wieters provided the eighth-inning home run to put the angel on top of the palm tree. It was really, really beautiful.
The win would have been a heck of a lot more fun if the O's had come into the game with a 5-2 record rather than a 2-5 record, but if they're going to dig out of the early hole they've placed themselves in, they've got to start moving up eventually. Perhaps today was the shock they needed to get going.
Orioles hitters even walked three times, for crying out loud. Jones took a walk in four pitches! Davis and Nelson Cruz also walked. Those guys combined to hit 113 home runs last year. Today they showed patience, which is just as nice. You can take a walk and be on base when the next guy hits a home run. Baseball is a lot more fun when all of that is going on.
Is there still stuff to worry about with this team? Sure, of course there is. The offense has to show that it can score runs regularly. An outburst of 14 runs is a lot to ask on a nightly basis, but consistently getting five or six runs in a game would be good. They might need it with the way the rotation has struggled, as starters not named Chris Tillman have an ERA that is somewhere near the corner of Awful and Terrible. They need better performance from those guys, or these good games will be isolated bright spots in a morass of failure, the kind of thing to which we became accustomed in the pre-Buck Showalter era.
Those are problems for another day. Today, the Orioles went into Yankee Stadium and crushed their spirits. In the top of the ninth inning, when someone struck out - let's face it, this is the Orioles - that strikeout whistle that we all hate sounded, like it always does. The whistle echoed through the premises as if it was a ghost town. There was nothing to stop the sound from bouncing all around. Most of the faithful had left; the remaining die-hards were silent. They wanted to see no more. Orioles fans could not get enough.
Great as today was, the scoreboard is wiped out for tomorrow. A new challenge awaits. The Orioles actually get to play a game at night on Wednesday. Miguel Gonzalez takes the mound for the O's, with O's hitters getting their first chance to face new Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. Can they make it two wins in a row and take a series for the first time this year?