Oh man. What a fun, fun game. Good pitching, mammoth home runs, and a comeback win. I did have some issues with Dave Trembley's management of the pitching staff, and I still do if I stop to think about it, but my mind was pretty much wiped clean on Matt Wieters' home run and now I'm in Oriole heaven for at least one day.
I feel like I say this a lot about our young starting pitchers, but Jason Berken pitched so well other than one inning tonight. Unfortunately, that inning was the first. Before the fans could even get settled into their seats, Berken was in trouble. Singles by Jason Bartlett and Evan Longoria put runners on the corners with one out for Ben Zobrist. Zobrist doubled in Bartlett and kept two on base for Pat Burell who hit a 3 run HR. Just like that the O's were down 4-0. Berken retired Aybar and Upton to end the first, and for the rest of the game looked good.
The Rays scored their 5th run in the 3rd inning on two hits, but Berken retired the Rays in order in the 2nd, 4th and 5th innings (with Felix Pie making a great catch to end the 5th). Zobrist started the top of the 6th with a single but was eliminated on a double play and Berken again faced just three batters. Despite a four run first inning, Berken finished the 6th with just 77 pitches. He was rolling out there, he looked great, it was awesome. In the 7th inning Berken got Upton to ground out for the first out before walking Dioner Navarro. It was his first walk of the night and he was only at 83 pitches, but Trembley pulled him. If you want to know my heat of the moment reaction, check out the game thread. I railed about it for awhile. Berken was pitching better than I've seen him the entire year but rather than give him a chance to get out of it, Trembley pulled him at the first sign of trouble. It was so disheartening. I subsequently got over it thanks to the Orioles offense, but thinking back on it I'm still pretty salty.
Speaking of the O's offense, what a night. They were down 5-0 after 2.5 innings and facing a very good Rays pitcher in Jeff Niemann, but they didn't let it get them down and they didn't waste any time. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Jeff Fiorentino and Felix Pie hit back-to-back singles in front of Brian Roberts. Brian, who was on fire in this game, hit his 52nd double of the year, scoring Fio and putting runners on 2nd and 3rd. With that double Brian broke his own record for most doubles in a season by an Oriole. So now, just like Derek Jeter, he'll make history every time he does it again! Nick Markakis has been struggling, but he managed an RBI groundout to make it 5-2.
The O's would come back in the 4th with another run. Matt Wieters got on base via a double (I know, right?) and scored when Cesar Izturis got his first hit of the night. In the 5th, Roberts led off the inning with a walk and after singles by Melvin Mora and Markakis, the bases were loaded for Matt Wieters. Wieters singled up the middle and Roberts and Mora came home, putting the O's up 6-5. This team doesn't quit.
Luke Scott got in on the action in the 7th inning with a vintage LUUUKE home run to the Eutaw Street bleachers. That pushed the O's lead to two, but if you know the Orioles bullpen the way that I know that you do, two runs isn't enough to feel at all comfortable. Luckily, the O's weren't finished. In the 8th inning Brian Roberts singled for his third hit of the game, but was erased on a Markakis fielder's choice. With Nick on second and two outs, Luke Scott took a walk and Matt Wieters stepped to the plate. He launched an absolutely gorgeous home run onto the flag court to give the Orioles a 10-5 lead. It was the 6th home run of the year for Wieters and the first one he has pulled. His power is mighty.
After Berken was removed from the game with one out in the 7th, Alberto Castillo and Chris Ray faced one batter each to finish the inning. Danys Baez pitched a very good 8th inning, but Jim Johnson continued with his recent troubles. He allowed a leadoff single to Aybar but was saved when Izturis made a great stop to start a double play. JJ then walked Dioner Navarro of all people, but got it together enough to induce Gabe Gross to ground out to Roberts to end the game. All's well that ends well, but JJ did not look good.
You can put this one in the win column as the Orioles continue to play hard in September. Jason Berken outlasted Rookie of the Year candidate Jeff Niemann for the win and looked good doing it. Tomorrow at 7:05 is game three of the four game series, Chris Tillman vs. Andy Sonnanstine.