The Orioles were lauded last year for their home run prowess but so far this year have not been going deep that often. Their HR total will get a boost tonight as the team smacked three dingers to provide all the scoring in a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The O’s scratched at spot starter Cesar Ramos early. Nick Markakis led off the game with a single, extending his hitting streak to 14 games in the process, and in the top of the 2nd, Adam Jones hit the first pitch he saw over the fence for his second home run of the season. In the fourth, Jones did it again: one pitch, one swing, one run and it was 2-0 O’s. Fans of his will point to this game as an example of how his aggressive approach pays off.
Ramos benefitted from some fine defensive work from his shortstop, Yunel Escobar. In the third inning, Escobar formed the back half of an impressive double play when he had to receive an off-balance throw from Ben Zobrist, step on the bag and hop over a charging Nick Markakis, and fire a bullet to nail Manny Machado at first. In the fourth, he snared a Delmon Young line drive with a leaping backhanded grab. I know he’s playing for the opposition, but those were some nice plays.
Meanwhile, Bud Norris worked out of trouble early. He walked the leadoff batter in each of the first three innings but managed to strand all of them. Matt Joyce singled against him to open up the 4th for the Rays’ first hit. Then in the bottom of the 5th, David DeJesus hit a monster shot over the center-field wall to put the Rays on the board. It was his third home run (lifetime) against Norris, who walked his fourth batter later in the inning. Norris would also strike out five.
Finally in the 6th, Norris put the leadoff hitter away for the first time. But with two outs, he hit James Loney in the knee with a slider and allowed a single to Will Myers (that would’ve been a double but for a great dive by Manny Machado) and that was it for him. Brian Matusz came in to face DeJesus, but Joe Maddon matched up the matchup with righthander Sean Rodriguez. Matusz, who’s allowed a .374 wOBA to righties in his career, promptly served up a run-scoring single to make it 2-2. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, sinkerballer Ryan Webb came in to try and limit the damage. He got his man, inducing Yunel Escobar into a groundout to end the inning, and he’d retire the side on three ground balls in the 7th.
Webb was pitching with the lead because just like they did last night, the O’s had immediately broken the tie game open. Batting in the top of the 7th with two outs, Steve Pearce poked a little single through the infield and Jonathan Schoop followed with a two-run blast to left. 4-2 O’s.
Zach Britton retired the side in order in the eighth, including a strikeout of Evan Longoria. But things got interesting in the bottom of the 9th, as they usually do with Tommy Hunter. Will Myers started the half with a ringing double. Sean Rodriguez, who’d come in to pitch for DeJesus, struck out, but Escobar and Hanigan both singled to plate Myers and put runners at first and third; 4-3 O’s and it was clear from how he was being hit that Hunter, despite his 97 MPH heater, wasn’t fooling anybody.
He didn’t fool Ben Zobrist or Desmond Jennings either; both of them hit the ball squarely. Luckily they both lined out to defenders, and the game was over. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win and it guarantees the O’s a series victory on the road against Tampa Bay.
Also of note is that new callup Caleb Joseph made his MLB debut; unfortunately, he went hitless.
Here's how the game played out from a win expectancy and leverage standpoint:
The Orioles go for the sweep tomorrow night when they send Ubaldo Jimenez to face ace lefty David Price. Jimenez will hope to build on his 10 K, 1 BB, 0 R start against Minnesota this past weekend.