Today's game was a close one, and after the first two games of the series it was refreshing to see. Chris Tillman lasted only five innings again, and was effective if inefficient. He allowed at least one baserunner in each inning and only one came around to score. Jordan Zimmermann, starting for the Nationals, looked like he had the game well in hand until the seventh inning. Going into that inning he'd retired the O's in order in every inning other than the second, but one swing by Vladimir Guerrero put the O's back on top and ultimately gave them the series victory.
Tillman worked around trouble all afternoon (or, for the first five innings, since he only made it that far). He gave up a double in the first inning, a single in the second by Michael Morse (who got thrown out by Matt Wieters at the plate, the silly boy). A walk and a double put two runners on in the third inning, but Tillman struck out the next two batters to end the threat.
The fourth inning was the ugliest by Tillman on the day, and the one inning when the Nationals got a runner home. Jayson Werth doubled to lead off, then Wilson Ramos walked. After Morse hit a fly ball to right for the first out, Tillman loaded the bases by hitting Danny Espinosa. He got the second out with a fly ball from Ivan Rodriguez that Nick Markakis caught in foul territory, but then Alex Cora hit a ball that deflected off of Tillman towards 3B Mark Reynolds, but there was no play and one run scored. Roger Bernandina flied out to Markakis to end the inning.
Tillman faced four batters in the fifth inning, and left the game with 97 pitches. His final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
Jordan Zimmerman had an easier go of things with the Orioles' offense. After going down 1-2-3 in the first inning, the Orioles tried to stage a two-out rally in the second. Luke Scott walked and Mark Reynolds doubled to right-center, the ball bouncing into the stands. That put runners on second and third with two outs, but J.J. Hardy lined out to end the inning. The Orioles wouldn't have another baserunner until the the seventh inning, when Nick Markakis lined a single to right field. Zimmermann got ahead of the next batter, Guerrero, 0-2, then tried to finish Vlad with a curve ball. Vlad said, "thanks!" and smoked the ball to left field for a two-run homer. That gave the O's a 2-1 lead, and Zimmermann wouldn't get out of the inning. After Matt Wieters grounded out for the first out of the inning, Scott singled and the Nats opted to bring in Tyler Clippard to finish things off.
Clippard got Mark Reynolds to pop out, but then walked J.J. Hardy and Robert Andino to load the bases. Felix Pie came to the plate with the chance to break the game open, but instead he flailed at strike three and the inning ended. Oh, Felix.
The Orioles bullpen, tasked with pitching four innings, turned in a stellar outing today. Jeremy Accardo relieved Tillman and allowed a lead off single, but then retired the next three batters. Jim Johnson pitched around a single to Ian Desmond in the seventh, and Koji Uehara looked filthy pitching the eighth. He needed only ten pitches, and as it usually does, the gamethread began buzzing with the desire to see Koji return for the 9th inning. It didn't happen of course, because Gregg is the closer.
Gregg went 0-2 on the first batter he saw, Ivan Rodriguez. But he then went to a full count, because that's what Gregg does. But Rodriguez helped him out by grounding out to second base. Next up was professional pinch hitter Matt Stairs, and Gregg did walk him. It wouldn't be a Gregg appearance without a walk! That brought Roger Bernadina to the plate and the tying run on first. Gregg also went 0-2 on Bernadina before throwing three straight balls to load the count. This guy, I tell you. Just as I was imagining Gregg walking Bernadina as well, he was the recipient of some divine intervention.
Bernadina took a called strike three and Brian Bixler (pinch running for Stairs), took off for second base. Oh, Brian Bixler, you silly boy. Matt Wieters, doing what Matt does, nailed Bixler at second to end the game. How embarrassing. Didn't anyone tell these guys about Matt Wieters?
Game over. Series over. The first game of this series was super embarrassing, but the Orioles redeemed themselves in the last two. It's a day off tomorrow, then the Royals come to town.