The Baltimore Orioles were in need of a nice easy win, and that's what they got tonight (after a fourth inning speed bump). Starting pitcher Bud Norris didn't have his best game of the year, but unlike those who came before him this week, he kept the Orioles in the game long enough for them to score a bunch of runs. The offense was paced by home runs from Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis as well as good nights at the plate by Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.
Rookie starter T.J. House gave up a single to Markakis and a double to Jones in the first inning, but because Jonathan Schoop was batting between them the Orioles weren't able to get a run across. Schoop grounded into a double play to kick off a miserable night at the plate for him (0-5, 2 GIDP). House wasn't as lucky in the second inning when Nelson Cruz tagged the first pitch he saw for a home run to center field. The homer was Cruz's 15th of the year, tying him with Jose Abreu for the major-league lead.
House was right back in trouble in the third inning. After another Markakis single and a Jones HBP, Chris Davis lined a double inside the right field foul line. Markakis scored easily and Jones, running hard around the bases, slid in just ahead of the tag to make the score 3-0.
The Orioles were looking for a good game from their starting pitcher tonight. The offense has been rolling this week, but the pitching has been atrocious. Bud Norris looked like he might be the man for the job, but his good game was derailed by the ghost of baseball past, AKA Jason Giambi.
All four runs that Norris gave up came in the fourth inning when he temporarily fell apart. Through the first three innings, Norris gave up just a walk and a single and had at one point retired eight in a row. But the fourth inning got ugly.
Michael Brantley started the inning off for the Indians and hit a ground ball that just eluded a diving Schoop at second base. Brantley came in to score the first run for the Indians when Lonnie Chisenhall doubled to left field. Norris got lucky on the next batter, as J.J. Hardy made an outstanding play to throw out David Murphy. The ball was headed up the middle and Hardy ranged all the way behind second to scoop the ball and make a quick throw that just nabbed Murphy at first.
A walk to Carlos Santana brought DH Jason Giambi to the plate. When he was with the Yankees in the mid-2000s, Giambi terrorized Orioles pitchers. He has three bronze plaques on Eutaw Street, the most of any non-Oriole. Nowadays Giambi is 43 years old and mostly just a pinch hitter and sometimes a DH. He had just 16 plate appearances coming into tonight with just one single and one walk. I wondered to myself, mostly jokingly, if Giambi might add a fourth home run plaque to Eutaw Street before the night was over.
Well, he didn't. But he did take a Bud Norris fastball to left field with a line drive that just barely cleared the outfield wall. Curse you, Giambi! That gave the Indians a 4-3 lead that deflated the crowd of over 39,000 who had come to cheer on the O's.
They didn't remain quiet for long, though. After a fourth inning that saw Markakis stranded after a two-out double, Jones led off the fifth with a sharply hit ground ball that 2B Mike Aviles couldn't handle. Davis followed with a bomb to right-center field to give the O's back their lead.
Norris completed six innings without giving up another run. He stranded a leadoff double by Chisenhall in the sixth to hold on to the lead. With two outs and Chisenhall at third, the O's elected to intentionally walk Giambi, which I found both hilarious and sad. But it worked, as Norris retired Yan Gomes to end the inning and his night. And like I always say, the only thing worse than giving up a home run to 43-year-old Jason Giambi is giving up two home runs to 43-year-old Jason Giambi.
The O's tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the seventh thanks to some help from the Indians defense. Jones hit a one-out double and the Indians elected to intentionally walk Davis. That's a tough call to make with Cruz on deck, but it set up the double play and gave the Indians a righty-righty matchup. It should have worked, too, as Cruz hit a ground ball back to the pitcher. But Mark Lowe, who had just replaced House to start the inning, threw the ball in to center field. Jones came in to score and Davis and Cruz went to third and second base.
Hardy then sent a slow ground ball to third base. Davis ran on contact and Chisenhall's only play was to first base. With Cruz on third, Delmon Young came up to bat. To that point, the only thing that Young had done in the game was make me miss Steve Pearce. But he came through this time, lining a double down the left field line to knock in Cruz and make the score 8-4.
It was then that the the Indians did something even more hilarious than intentionally walking Jason Giambi. They intentionally walked Ryan Flaherty! I understand that every major league pitcher would like to pitch to Caleb Joseph, but wow. The strategic move worked, with Joseph grounding out to end the inning.
With Norris out of the game after six innings, Buck Showalter turned to T.J. McFarland, who was just called up today to give some relief to the bullpen. McFarland is a starter in Norfolk and had an easy seventh inning when the Orioles added their insurance runs. But instead of letting the guy who is normally a starter pitch a few innings to rest the bullpen, Buck Showalter elected to pull him after just one inning. He used Brian Matusz and Darren O'Day,close out the last two innings. It worked in the end, it was just a curious decision.
What a nice night to be an Orioles fan! A big win, lots of offense, a huge crowd on hand, and fireworks on a beautiful night. Not much to complain about here at Camden Yards.