The Orioles were 8-3 winners tonight thanks in part to a good game by starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, a two-hit game by catcher Caleb Joseph, and a monster home run by (who else?) Nelson Cruz. The win is the Orioles' third in a row and, combined with the Yankees' loss to the A's, moves them back in second place in the A.L. East.
For the first seven innings of this game it was a low scoring affair, but the Orioles had enough wasted opportunities against Rangers starter Joe Saunders that if they had lost, it would have been the kind of loss that makes me angry. But luckily for all of us, they broke out for six runs in the top of the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and finally give the Orioles a comfortable lead.
For Jimenez, it was far from a fantastic game. He walked four batters and in doing so ran his pitch count up so that he could only get through 5 2/3 innings. He walked the very first batter he saw, but thanks to a double play he got out of the first inning with just nine pitches thrown. But he went into excruciating Jimenez mode in the second, getting two outs before walking back-to-back batters. Thankfully he got out of it unscathed. In fact, despite the walks and not having any 1-2-3 innings, Jimenez gave up just one run on a home run by Adrian Beltre. He was pulled from the game with two outs in the sixth with two runners on and the Orioles clinging to a 2-1 lead. All told I'd call it a successful game, even if I do find him a little hard to watch.
The Orioles got on the board first in the game thanks to a home run by Adam Jones that hit the foul pole in right field. It was a line drive and just about the shortest home run you'll see from Jones. After the home run by Beltre tied the game, the O's went back ahead in the sixth inning. Singles by Jones and Chris Davis set the table for Delmon Young, who singled past the shortstop to knock in one run. They were surely hoping for more runs (I know I was), but Jonathan Schoop grounded into a double play to end the inning.
After a prime opportunity wasted in the top of the seventh inning (two on with no outs, then bases loaded with two outs), Brian Matusz gave up a game-tying home run to Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos is a righty, so why was Matusz pitching to him? Well, he came in in the sixth inning in relief of Jimenez to face a lefty, and the next two batters after Chirinos were lefties, so I understand wanting to keep Matusz in, but it certainly backfired.
The good news is that we didn't have long to stew over Matusz giving up the lead, or about the O's offense only managing two runs off of Joe Saunders despite 10 hits and multiple opportunities. Alexi Ogando came in to pitch the eighth inning, and...well, things didn't go well for him. J.J. Hardy popped up for the first out, but after Young reached on an infield single, Ogando hit Schoop to put two runners on. Next up for the Orioles was Caleb Joseph, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering why he wasn't pinch hit for. Joseph didn't appreciate my doubts, though, as he launched a double to right-center field. Young scored, Schoop moved to third, and the Orioles were in business.
Ogando was pulled from the game in favor of Neal Cotts, and Nick Markakis and Manny Machado greeted him with back-to-back RBI singles to make the score 5-2. With two runners on, Cruz got his chance. He had gone hitless so far in his Texas homecoming (though he did draw a walk), but he more than made up for it with a ridiculous home run to left field. Cruz had received a warm welcome from the Texas fans in his first at-bat tonight, but the cheers turned to boos as he circled the bases for the Orioles.
The Rangers scored one more run in the ninth inning off of Preston Guilmet, but it was certainly too little, too late. The O's take the first game of the series with a decisive win. Tomorrow the two teams play game two of the series at 8 p.m. Bud Norris will take the mound for the Orioles with Nick Martinez pitching for the Rangers.