Tonight the Orioles won their second consecutive game and first game this year at Camden Yards with a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees. The bottom of the lineup provided the offense and it proved just enough to back another solid outing by Kevin Millwood and a surprisingly competent night by the bullpen. It wouldn't be an Orioles game without some 9th inning excitement as Alfredo Simon had to overcome a defensive miscue to notch his first major league save (and on the day he was recalled from Norfolk).
While Kevin Millwood was far from dominant, he manned up and did what he could to keep the Orioles in the game. The Yankees made him throw a lot of pitches, 112 in 5.1 innings. He held the Yankees to 2 runs, 1 each in the 3rd and 4th innings. Two singles and a groundout in the third put runners on 2nd and 3rd for the Yankees, and another error by 3B Miguel Tejada allowed one of those runs to score. It could have been a lot worse as after the error, Millwood walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases, but he got A-Rod to line out to third and Robinson Cano to fly out to right field to end the inning. The run he allowed in the fourth was on a solo HR by Jorge Posada onto the flag court.
Alberto Castillo relieved Millwood with 1 out in the 6th and was very impressive, pitching the rest of the 6th and all of the 7th, allowing one single and striking out three. Jim Johnson then pitched a very strong 8th inning, leaving just Alfredo Simon to finish the 9th inning. And it would be nerve wracking, of course.
The Orioles hitters spent most of this game stymied by Yankees starter Phil Hughes. With the exception of the 2nd inning, the Orioles couldn't get to Hughes at all. In the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, the Orioles managed no hits and just two walks against Hughes, and they missed their window to score big in the 2nd. Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton led off that inning with back-to-back singles, and after a fly out by Rhyne Hughes, Nolan Reimold walked to load the bases. Hughes was very obviously having trouble finding the plate, and Cesar Izturis took note, refusing to chase any pitches. He walked on four pitches, three of which weren't anywhere close to the plate. That would force in the Orioles first run of the game to give them a 1-0 lead and leave the bases loaded for lead off man Adam Jones.
Ok, sidebar! WHY is Adam Jones batting leadoff? I'm personally tired of hearing all of the lineup complaints. Not because they aren't warranted, necessarily, but there are only so many times we can rehash the same thing. But I can't get over Adam Jones in the leadoff position. Even last year when Adam was doing well at the plate, he was never the most patient guy. Even if Adam Jones gets himself together again, he will never be a guy with the OBP you want to bat leadoff. And right now the dude is struggling. Hard core struggling. It just makes no sense! ARGH! Ok, back to your game recap.
Bases loaded, 1 out, 1 run in, and Phil Hughes unable to find the plate with a map, a GPS, and a seeing eye dog. Adam Jones steps to the plate. After taking the first pitch on the inside corner for a called strike, he chopped at the second pitch almost in the same location, although a little more inside, and grounded it to Alex Rodriguez for a routine 5-4-3 double play. Inning over, rally snuffed. The Orioles wouldn't get to Hughes again. He pitched into the 6th inning, retiring the first two batters and, with 109 pitches, Joe Girardi opted to take Hughes out of the game. And that's when the fun started.
Boone Logan came into the game to face Luke Scott, who worked his second walk of the evening. That'd be it for Logan, who was replaced by Dave Robertson. Robertson hit Ty Wigginton and then allowed an RBI single to Birdland's newest hero, Rhyne Hughes. Not to be outdone by the newbie, Nolan Reimold singled to score Wiggy and put the Orioles up 2-1. Izturis then singled as well, scoring Hughes. With runners on first and second and two outs, Adam Jones struck out swinging and angrily slammed down his bat and helmet. That's not very productive, but after seeing Jones act cool as a cucumber all year regardless of his woes, it's nice to know he's as frustrated as the rest of us.
The Orioles would add their 5th (and turns out, winning) run in the 8th inning thanks to a pair of errors by two of the Yankees "core four." Leading off the inning, Ty Wigginton hit a ground ball to Derek Jeter that the captain just couldn't handle. The Orioles backup second baseman pinch ran for Wiggy and after Alfredo Aceves retired Rhyne Hughes and Lou Montanez (who had pinch run for Reimold in the 6th), the runner on first attempted a steal with Izturis at the plate. Jorge Posada threw the ball into center field, allowing the runner to advance to third. Izzy then lined an RBI single to right field, sending the Orioles into the 9th inning with a three run lead.
While the 9th inning was exciting (we can say exciting since they won, right?), Simon actually looked pretty good coming out of the pen. He threw hard and had good movement on his pitches, and Gary and Jim couldn't stop marveling at the fact that he'd had Tommy John surgery just one year ago. He struck out Curtis Granderson then allowed a single up the middle to Nick Swisher. It looked like a pretty good pitch, low and away, but Swisher went and got it. Pinch hitter Nick Johnson did what he does best and took a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate in Derek Jeter. Jeter struck out swinging, flailing at a pitch outside the zone. The fearsome Brett Gardner then grounded a pitch to shortstop and just as we all thought the game would be over, Izzy missed the ball. WHAT IN THE HEAVENS IS GOING ON TONIGHT? Izzy takes a bases loaded walk and has two RBI singles when normally he can't hit a lick, then he flubs a play in the field? Replays show that the ball took a bad hop at the last second, but even still, what a disappointment.
With the game extended and the lead cut to two, Teixeira jumped on the first pitch for an RBI single to right. Suddenly the lead was one and Alex Rodriguez was stepping to the plate. A-Rod also swung at the first pitch, sending a ground ball up the middle. Luckily the 2B was able to get there and flip to Izzy at SS for the final out. O's win 5-4, put it in the win column.