For those of you who believe in jinxes, it's possible I jinxed today's game when, in the seventh inning, I began pondering Wei-Yin Chen related puns to put in the headline of today's recap. I had decided on "Wei-Yinpressive" but thanks to the events that unfolded after his exit, that no longer seems appropriate. Instead, please enjoy my clever play on words regarding tonight's hero, Taylor Teagarden, who hit a walk-off two-run homer in his first game in an Orioles uniform.
First, let's talk about Chen for awhile. Because on a day when the Orioles needed good starting pitching, he provided it. He walked the Tigers leadoff batter, Austin Jackson, in the first. Three batters later, Prince Fielder doubled Jackson in to make the score 1-0 on favor of the Tigers. Then, beginning with Delmon Young, who he got on a pop up to end the inning, Chen retired an impressive sixteen batters in a row. He was perfect in the second, third, fourth, and fifth innings, and got the first two batters in the sixth.
You might say that Chen gave the Orioles offense a chance to take the lead. And take the lead they did. They tied the game in the first inning thanks to doubles from Nick Markakis and Jim Thome (with J.J. "Automatic Out" Hardy between them) to score a run, but Max Scherzer retired Adam Jones and Matt Wieters to end the inning.
They tied the game in the first, and untied it in the second. With Chris Davis on first base and two outs, Robert Andino popped his 5th home run of the year. Well done, Dino! Markakis followed that with this second double of the game, but he was stranded due to the fact that he hits in front of Hardy.
The O's fourth run came in the third inning, as Jones and Wieters singled with one out, and Davis hit a slow ground ball to second. The Tigers tried for the double play but Davis beat the relay throw to second and Jones came in to score. That made the score 4-1, which is where it remained until the top of the 9th inning.
With two outs in the sixth inning, Chen walked Ramon Santiago to end his streak, and then Miguel Cabrera singled. That made Fielder the tying run, but he generously hit a fly ball on Chen's first pitch that left fielder Davis caught in foul territory.
With 108 pitches, Chen was finished for the day. Ideally you'd like him to go deeper into the game but with the way the Orioles pitching woes have been going, it was a good day indeed. Unfortunately, it wouldn't last.
The Orioles had a great chance to score some insurance runs in the eighth inning as Tigers reliever Darin Downs walked the bases loaded with one out. Nick Markakis, who had already had a good day at the plate, ran the count to 2-2 but then grounded into a double play. What rotten timing. If only one of his doubles could have come just then! The non-clutchness of the inning would come back to bite the Orioles in the ass, for sure.
After Darren O'Day and Pedro Strop pitched one scoreless inning each, Jim Johnson came into the game in the ninth inning to seal the win. It didn't quite work out that way.
Cabrera singled to lead off the 9th against Johnson, then the dangerous Fielder flew out to left. That brought Delmon Young to the plate, who hit a ground ball to third. Defensive replacement Ryan Flaherty played the ball using what we call some of that olé BS and it went past his glove into third base. As the rest of this inning unfolded, FOX took every opportunity to show lingering shots of Flaherty to remind us that this was all his fault.
So with runners on first and second and one out, JJ continued to struggle. Jhonny Peralta singled in Cabrera, then Brennan Boesch doubled to right field and Young scored. JJ tried to walk Alex Avila, but he swung at ball four for the second out. Quintin Berry (aka Adam Jones BFF) singled to left field. The ball fell in front of defensive replacement Endy Chavez, who did better than Flaherty. Pinch runner Danny Worth scored the tying run, but Chavez made a good throw to Wieters to get Boesch for the third out.
Well, that happened. It's tough to get mad at JJ because while he did stink, every reliever stinks sometimes and JJ has been so fantastic this year. But man, what a rotten time for this to have happened. The Orioles have had big troubles of late, and they really could have used a nice, easy win.
The Orioles went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, as did the Tigers in the top of the 10th. The interesting note there is that Miguel Socolovich made his major-league debut in the 10th and retired Austin Jackson, Ramon Santiago, and Miguel Cabrera. Welcome to the bigs, Miguel!
Wieters led off the tenth with a walk and was replaced with pinch runner Steve Pearce, who moved to second on sac bunt from Chavez. Unfortunately, the only thing that did was open up first base for the Tigers to intentionally walk Mark Reynolds, as Flaherty's spot in the lineup was next. Steve Tolleson pinch hit and grounded into a double play to end the inning. Oops.
Socolovich came back out for the 11th inning, and in hindsight that was a bad idea. The first two batters singled, and after he got two outs he was pulled from the game with runners on the corners. Troy Patton came in to face Avila, who singled back up the middle to make the score 5-4.
With a lead, the Tigers brought in their closer Jose Valverde. It wasn't a good day for closers in Baltimore. With one out, Markakis hit his third double of the day. Nice, Nicky! Valverde went 3-0 on Thome and decided to walk him intentionally to set up the double pay and face Adam Jones. Jones was like, "pshaw," and singled to left on the first pitch. Markakis came around to score and re-tie the game. With two runners on, you gotta like your chances with Wieters at the plate! Oh, wait, he got pinch run for! Instead it was Teagarden, who had not seen major-league pitching since August 20, 2011. He looked totally over matched by Valverde and struck out to end the inning.
Oh, good. MORE INNINGS!
Matt Lindstrom pitched a super fast top of the 12th inning, as he needed only six pitches to get out of the inning. He did allow a hit to Cabrera, but who doesn't? The 13th wasn't as kind to him. A double, a walk, and a wild pitch set up Berry for to hit a two-out RBI single that again put the Tigers on top, forcing Buck Showalter to bring in his second-to-last reliever, Kevin Gregg. Gregg needed just two pitches to end the inning.
I'll admit it, at that point I was convinced that not only were the Orioles going to lose, I was mad at them for now making me watch even more innings of them being terrible. I am very happy to have been wrong.
The O's sent the top of the lineup out to face Joaquin Benoit. After retiring Markakis on a comebacker, Benoit faced 0-for-summer Hardy. FOX color man Billy Ripken prattled on about how one big hit could break Hardy out of his slump. Well, I don't know if he's out of his slump, but he did get the big hit. Hardy hit a homer to left field to tie the game, and it was a beauty. An absolute bomb. J.J., I'm sorry I called you an automatic out before! I was just joshing!
With the game tied 6-6, I thought it would be a swell time for Jim Jam to mash his first tater as an Oriole. Instead he struck out. Sigh. Adam Jones took one for the team and headed to first base as the winning run with two outs, but the problem with that was that the guy at the plate, Teagarden, had looked pretty bad in his first at-bat. Not so this time! On the fourth pitch of the at bat he hit a fly ball to the opposite field. It's going, going, and off the groundskeeper shed for a homer! Wow! What a way to introduce yourself to Baltimore.
Jones came around from first to score the winning run and Teagarden followed him, his new teammates beating the crap out of him at home plate and almost ripping off his shirt. In his postgame interview, he was triple teamed by Jones, Reynolds, and Andino for the rare three-person pie'ing.
Welcome to Birdland, Taylor Teagarden. So far, so good.