The Orioles took the series from the White Sox with a win that took 12 innings and ended on a walk-off wild pitch by White Sox pitcher Daniel Webb. The game was took so long to complete, 4 hours and 3 minutes plus a 1 hour, 9 minute rain delay, that by the time David Lough raced in with the inning run, the pathetic offensive display by the Orioles through the first seven innings and the uneven pitching performance by starter Ubaldo Jimenez were just hazy memories. They were washed away by Nelson Cruz's eighth-inning grand slam and Tommy Hunter's 12th-inning strikeout of Paul Konerko on all breaking balls.
Going into the eighth inning, the Orioles had seven hits, all singles. It took them until the seventh inning to get a runner past first base, when they were losing four to nothing to Hector Noesi, a pitcher so bad that he's on his third team this season. They started the eighth with two more singles, knocking Noesi out of the game. And when relief pitcher Zach Putnam got Steve Pearce and Adam Jones to fly out, it felt like it would be another wasted chance. But then Chris Davis worked a walk to load the bases, bringing Nelson Cruz to the plate as the tying run.
Cruz had grounded into two double plays in the game. It was his chance for redemption, and he took it. With the count 2-1 he went opposite field on a fastball. It was hit well, but looked like it would be a close play. Right fielder Moises Sierra, who had come in for defense at the start of the inning, tracked the ball. It looked like he might catch it. He timed it, leaped for it, and...missed it! That ball JUST got out of the park. The crowd was small tonight, just 20,000, but they went wild as the Orioles circled the bases to tie the game. Choruses of CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZ filled the air. In that moment, just as with Chris Davis' walk-off home run on Monday, all offensive troubles were momentarily forgotten. But would it be enough? We had to wait to find out, as after a quick ninth inning, the rains came, forcing a one hour, nine minute delay before the start of the 10th inning.
It was a shocking turn of events, really. The Orioles had been playing woeful baseball the entire game. Just terrible. Since joining the White Sox rotation at the end of April, Noesi hadn't had a scoreless outing. He hadn't pitched in a game and not walked at least one batter. He had given up eight home runs in 56 innings and had a 4.47 ERA. And the Orioles couldn't do anything against him. And as for Jimenez, he at least teased us with the idea that he might be good tonight, which is more than we usually get from him.
Honestly, for the first six innings of this game Ubaldo Jimenez didn't look terrible. Nobody was going to mistake him for Felix Hernandez out there, but he looked much improved from the Ubaldo of recent past. He was keeping his pitch count down, he wasn't walking everyone in sight, and he racked up six strikeouts through the first four innings. The first run of the game scored in the fourth inning when Jose Abreu hit his 23rd home run of the year to lead off the inning. It was annoying because it felt like at the time like one run was enough to beat the Orioles thanks to the lifeless hitting, but really not upsetting. I mean, he's Jose Abreu. That's what he does.
Jimenez walked Alejandro De Aza to start the sixth inning, his first of the night. As is so often the way, that runner came in to score. Two batters after the walk, Adam Eaton hit a high fly ball to right-center field. It hung up for a very long time, but it looked like Nick Markakis was running in wet cement trying to get to it. Has he always been this slow? De Aza scored easily and Eaton cruised in to third base with a triple. He then tried to score on a ground ball to third base, but even he isn't that fast. Manny Machado threw home to Nick Hundley, who tagged him out easily.
After a quick sixth inning, things fell apart for Jimenez in the seventh. He again walked the leadoff batter, Dayan Viciedo, then De Aza double to put two runners in scoring position for Tyler Flowers. Flower hit a ball over Steve Pearce's head in left field and while both runners scored, Pearce threw Flowers out at second trying to stretch his single to a double (he was originally called safe, but review showed that he was easily out). With the bases empty and one out, Jimenez gave up another hit and he was pulled from the game. Brad Brach came in to bail him out got two ground outs to end the inning.
The bullpen kept the White Sox off the board, and in fact did a very good job on the night. Brach, Darren O'Day, Zach Britton, Ryan Webb, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter combined to pitch 4 2/3 scoreless innings to take the game to the bottom of the 12th.
And finally, in the bottom of the 12th, they prevailed. Nick Hundley walked to start the inning, and was replaced at first by David Lough. Markakis lined a single to right-center field and Lough was off to the races. He wanted to score that winning run, but the center fielder Eaton cut the ball off before it got to the gap. Lough raced around third and it looked like third base coach Bobby Dickerson threw up a delayed stop sign. Lough couldn't stop himself though, and this was the outcome:
So with first and third and no outs, Steve Pearce stepped to the plate. Pearce is used to playing the part of the hero, but tonight he didn't have to. Webb through a wild pitch that catcher Tyler Flowers couldn't get a glove on, and Lough finally got to score his run. O's win! The 5-4 victory brings them back to 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays, who lost tonight.
The Orioles are off tomorrow, but play a split double header on Friday against the Rays. See you then!