This afternoon's game at Tropicana field had a little bit of everything. The two starting pitchers looked dominant at times, while the home plate umpire had some difficulty with the strike zone. The opposing third basemen seemed to be dueling on who could make the better play in the field. Other fielders had some issues, and Evan Longoria killed an inning with bad base-running.
The top of the first was routine. The O's did get two on with two outs, but a Nelson Cruz strikeout would end any hopes of a rally.
The bottom of the inning was dicey to say the least as Baltimore's starter, Kevin Gausman would load the bases on a four-pitch walk to Matt Joyce, a Kevin Kiermaier single into left field, and a J.J. Hardy error on a weak Longoria grounder. All of this was done, of course, with no outs.
In a showing of his superb stuff, Gausman then struck out James Loney and Ben Zobrist on similar 84 mph splitter. He would end the inning by forcing David DeJesus to fly out to Steve Pearce in left. All said and done, it was a massive 35-pitch inning and Gausman seemed unlikely to last long.
The rec-spec-ed righty was noticably upset with the strike zone and he was seen chirping at the umpire. It was a feeling also voiced by commentators Ben McDonald and Rick Dempsey that the strike zone seemed to be an amoebae today, shifting all over the place.
The next three innings went much smoother and Gausman became more economical. There would be no notable action until the top of the fifth inning. Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph struckout and grounded out, respectively, to begin the inning. Then Nick Markakis would reach on an error by Zobrist.
Unfortunately for Tampa, Steve was on deck. He is like Beyonce at this point. At one time, he was the member of a dynamic trio. We called them #teamSteve. But he is the only one that matters now so there is no need for his last name. It's just Steve. Steve sent a shot down the right field line with Markakis in motion and two outs. Markakis rounded third and Loney bobbled a poor throw from Joyce. It was 1-0 Orioles.
It seemed like Tampa would mount a comeback in the sixth inning. Baltimore manager Buck Showalter stuck with Gausman despite being at 90-some pitches. There wasn't even anyone warming in the bullpen. It was Goose's inning and it did not start ideally with a Longoria double. Loney would strike out to make it one out with a man on second. Then Zobrist hit a laxy fly ball to left field that Longo inexplicably broke for third on. Steve settled under it and tossed it to Schoop covering second to turn two and end the threat.
The Rays wouldn't have another baserunner after that. However, Yunel Escobar did send a Tommy Hunter fastball to deep center, forcing Adam Jones to make an awkward catch at the wall. It wasn't exactly a web gem, but it was a tough play.
The only other offense to speak off was a Cruz solo shot in the eight inning off of Kirby Yates. It was a moonshot that hit the catwalk in left center field and it made the O's lead 2-0.
Hunter tossed two scoreless and hit-less innings, striking out one. Thank god! Zach Britton then entered the game in the ninth inning and did what he has done; straight up dominated. He faced three hitters and struck out two of them, including Zobrist on an 0-2 96 mph fastball to seal the victory.
The Rays stink but this was an important win. This team was in the playoffs last year and the O's young phenom stifled them and the bullpen looked equally as impressive. Kudos to you Baltimore pitching staff. Now if we could just fix Ubaldo.
As I alluded to in the opening, Longoria and Manny Machado each made some spectacular plays. You will be sure to see them on Sportscenter whenever there isn't anymore futbol for the day.
On the other hand, Hardy is having some issues. Today was his seventh error in the last fourteen games. He had 12 all of last season. A contract year is not the best time to struggle with the leather.
And a final quick note is that Pearce doubled again in the ninth inning. He was removed in favor of David Lough but it did seem that Pearce tweaked something in his groin as he cruised into second base. The trainers did not seem overly concerned at the time, but it is something to look out for.
The Orioles are off tomorrow, but we may hear some Machado suspension news as the are headed to New York tonight ahead of a series against the Yankees starting on Friday. The aforementioned Ubaldo Jimenez is on the hill for the birds. The Evil Empire has yet to announce their starter. First pitch is 7:05 p.m. ET in the Bronx.
- Britton is now 9-for-10 on save opportunities.
- The Orioles are 7-1 against the Rays in 2014.
- This was Cruz's first home run since June 3 against the Rangers.
- This was the O's 6th shutout of the season.
- Gausman threw 111 pitches, his most this season.
- In his three starts with Caleb Joseph, Gausman has allowed 2 runs in 19 innings.
- Matt Wieters had successful Tommy John surgery today. It was performed by Dr. James Andrews and took about 30 minutes. He says he feels good after the surgery, but alas, he will still be out for nine months. He will be back with the team for travel in August. So, he will be the 2014 version of Markakis in 2012 and Brian Roberts just about every season.