The Orioles used their bats tonight, coming from behind not once, not twice, but thrice to make up for a poor pitching performance from Chris Tillman and tally their fifth win in six tries this season, securing sole possession of first place in the AL East.
After throwing six no-hit innings last week against the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Tillman looked like a different pitcher this time out. He had a very tough first inning, needing
twenty-eight thirty-two pitches and allowing two runs on four singles before ending the inning on a double play by Don Kelly.
Chris settled down a bit after that, retiring the side in order in the second and third innings. He walked Miguel Cabrera to lead off the fourth inning, then got a little bit lucky. Victor Martinez hit a long fly fall to center field. Adam Jones raced after it and looked as thought he was going to make catch, but them something happened. It looked like the ball hit off of the heel of his glove and he couldn't make the catch, but he somehow kept the ball in the air as he went crashing into the wall. The ball hit the wall and Nick Markakis grabbed it. The umpire ruled it an out, saying that the ball never touched the ground, but it clearly hit the wall and should have been a hit. It wasn't a huge deal because Miguel Cabrera had gone back to first base and would have easily been doubled up, but it was obviously a bad play. It was also kind of hysterical. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out. Adam is lucky he didn't knock himself out. Tillman retired the next two batters to end the inning.
In the fifth inning, however, our old nemesis Alex Avila struck again, hitting a leadoff home run. Tillman retired the next two Tigers, but then walked the rapper Will Rhymes and gave up an RBI double to Brennan Boesch. That was it for Tillman, whose gave way to Jeremy Accardo. Tillman's final line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
Accardo pitched 1.2 innings, allowing one run in the top of the 7th inning after walking the leadoff hitter, that jerk Alex Avila. Ramon Santiago bunted him to second where he scored on a double from Brennan Boesch. That made the score at the time 5-4 in favor of the Tigers, and Accardo was replaced by Jim Johnson who was just fantastic. He pitched 1.2 innings and allowed just one hit and one walk, striking out three. The walk came after JJ had been sitting in the dugout for a half-hour while the O's staged their third and final comeback, so he's forgiven.
Speaking of comebacks, did I mention the Orioles had three of them in this game? Let's discuss.
After the Tigers went up 2-0 on Tillman in the first inning, the O's came back to tie the game in the bottom of the second. Vladimir Guerrero led off the inning with a fly ball to straight away center, the deepest part of the outfield. Austin Jackson leapt at the wall but it was just out of his reach and went over the fence for Vlad's first home run as an Oriole and 437th of his career. After Luke Scott grounded out, the slumping Adam Jones dropped a gorgeous bunt down the third base line. The Tigers had no chance. Then, after some footage of Jones and Robert Andino working on their base stealing, Adam did just that, swiping second rather easily. That put him in scoring position for Mark Reynolds, who promptly singled him in to tie the score.
After Tillman gave up his third and fourth runs on the night, the O's needed another comeback, which they got in the bottom of the sixth courtesy of Adam Jones. After Luke Scott and his healed groin doubled to the right-center gap, Dr. Jones hit a no-doubt-about-it bomb to left field for his first home run of the year. That tied the game again, only to be untied in the top of the seventh inning with Accardo pitching.
In the bottom of the seventh inning the O's staged the their third and final (and best) comeback of the game. Down by one run, Brian Roberts led off with a single up the middle. Nicky followed him with a walk, and after Derrek Lee struck out, Vlad hit a single to right field. Roberts scored easily and the Tigers right fielder Kelly made an absolutely terrible throw to the plate. It got past the catcher, allowing Vlad and Nick to move up to second and third base. Because there was one out and the Tigers wanted to set up the double play (and because Luke Scott scares the crap out of them), they intentionally walked Scott to load the bases. That brought Jonesy to the plate again and again he delivered. He hit a line drive to center that would have fallen in a lot of times, but Austin Jackson just catches everything out there. It was enough to put the Orioles ahead, though, as Nick tagged up and scored. With Felix Pie on first (pinch-running for Scott) and Vlad on second, Mark Reynolds doubled to left field. Both runners scored to give the O's a three run lead. Then, just to add insult to injury, Cesar Izturis singled in Mark Reyolds. You can't even get out Cesar Izturis, Tigers? Pathetic.
With the Orioles up by four runs, Johnson came back in to pitch the eighth and Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth to end the game. What a great night for baseball, am I right?
Zach Britton takes the mound for the Orioles tomorrow as they face the defending AL champions, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are the only team in baseball that is still undefeated, but that's just because they haven't seen the Orioles yet.
Some fun facts for you before you head off to bed: tonight the Orioles logged their fifth win of the season; in 2010 they didn't win their fifth game until April 30th. They also won their second series of the year. They didn't win their first series in 2010 until they played the Red Sox from 4/20-5/2 their eighth series of the year. They didn't win their second until 5/11-5/13 against the Mariners.