It was the type of weather that typifies summer in Baltimore. A flash rain right around seven o'clock delayed the game by about thirty minutes, and it seemed to turn the weather from pleasant to ridiculously humid in a matter of moments. Some people can't handle the heat. Tonight, the Oriole hitters seemed to be a part of this group.
Baltimore managed to get runners on in five of the first seven innings. This included another impressive performance from catcher Steve Cleveneger, who added two doubles and now leads the team with eight this season. His first of the night was to deep left field. Rajai Davis failed to make the catch and it scored J.J. Hardy from first base after he had singled just moments earlier.
The bats fell silent there after. Detroit starter Rick Porcello kept the ball in the strike zone and forced the Orioles to beat him, but they couldn't. He only managed two strikeouts but didn't walk a single hitter in six innings. The righty seemed to have some type of injury as he disappeared into the clubhouse following the fifth inning, then exited after six innings despite only throwing 83 pitches.
The Orioles starter for this matchup, Bud Norris, looked downright filthy for his first seven innings on the mound. He stifled the Detroit lineup, striking out seven and surrendering a mere four hits. His only hiccup was in the fourth inning. He walked Kinsler, who then stole second. A Torii Hunter fly ball to right field advanced Kinsler to third base. He would then score on a Miguel Cabrera single up the middle. Cabrera himself would come around on a sacrifice fly from Austin Jackson after a Victor Martinez double moved him into scoring position at third base.
The other six innings were smooth sailing; then came the eighth. It was a bit of a surprise to see Norris re-emerge from the dugout for the top of the inning. He was under the 100-pitch plateau and had pitched well, but it was a warm night and Preston Guilmet had just been recalled so there was an extra arm in the 'pen.
The eighth began with a walk to Alex Avila. After two batters popped and flew out, Ian Kinsler stepped to the plate and sent a ball to deep left field and extended the Detroit lead to three runs with his fourth home run of the year. Norris then plunked the next batter, Hunter, in the ribs. He took exception and began to jaw at the Orioles pitcher, but David Stefan Norris was not about to be made a fool. He gave it right back to Hunter with a look of shock. He made motions to the ground and towards home plate, indicating it to be incidental. Hunter continued his verbal barrage and the benches and bullpens both halfheartedly emptied. Norris was ejected by the home plate umpire, but his night was done anyway.
It was a sad end to an otherwise commendable outing. Norris has re-asserted himself as a fixture in the rotation for the time being. With de-facto ace Chris Tillman struggling, Baltimore needs someone like Norris to pick up the slack. He did so in this start but likely stayed in for two hitters too long.
Another downer is that Nick Markakis failed to notch a hit tonight. That ends his hitting streak at 18 games.
On the bright side, Clevenger has been fantastic with the bat. He added three hits and an RBI tonight and also threw out Kinsler trying to steal second base on a play in which he seemingly got a solid jump. If Clev is able to keep improving his defense, then the Orioles may be able to stop this current search for a catcher outside of the organization.
And the new guy, Guilmet, look good as well in his one and one-third innings of work. He notched two strikeouts and didn't allow a single runner.
Finally, one noteworthy play was that by Hardy on a line drive up the middle, off the bat of Cabrera, in the sixth inning. It seemed destined for center field, but the Orioles Gold Glover sprawled out and made a diving catch that will likely become the only highlight you see on Sportscenter from the O's tonight.
The black and orange will get another crack at Detroit tomorrow. Ubaldo Jimenez takes the hill, and tries to make it three wins in a row for him, against lefty Drew Smyly, who has had a good start to his 2014 season. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.