The Orioles tonight combined a great game by starting pitcher Chris Tillman with a big inning in which the offense scored four runs to take the second game in their series with the Texas Rangers. The win guarantees them a 3-3 record on their road trip through Detroit and Texas and gives them the opportunity to take the series tomorrow night.
Nate McLouth, the inexplicable #3 hitter for the Orioles, manufactured the team a run in the top of the first inning. With two outs he worked Rangers' starter Scott Feldman for a six-pitch walk, then stole second and moved to third when Geovany Soto threw the ball into center field. That put him in the perfect spot to score when Feldman threw a wild pitch with Adam Jones at the plate. McLouth scored standing up, giving the Orioles their first run without even getting a hit. Well done, Nate! And stay tuned for later in the recap when he does something even better.
Tillman held that one-run lead for awhile, but you know that's not going to be enough to top the Texas Rangers. After facing just seven batters through two innings (a single by Adrian Beltre the only blemish), Tillman started the third inning with two quick outs before that pest Ian Kinsler hit a ball to left field that just barely left the park for a solo home run.
After a very quick fourth inning in which Feldman struck out Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis, the Orioles knocked Feldman around to the tune of four runs, beginning with a leadoff opposite field single by Mark Reynolds. Reynolds was replaced on the bases by Omar Quintanilla after a force out, and so it was Quintanilla who came around to score the go-ahead run on Manny Machado's triple that went past Josh Hamilton in center field. Just his 12th big-league game and he already has two triples? Nice.
Nick Markakis was no help to this rally, grounding out to the pitcher on the first pitch that he saw, but J.J. Hardy saved the day with a double to right field that easily scored Machado and put Hardy in scoring position for McLouth. Well, it turns out that Hardy didn't need to be in scoring position, because McLouth hit a no-doubt-about-it home run to right field to knock himself and Hardy in and make the score 5-1. It was a nice night for McLouth, for sure.
After the Rangers scored in the third, Tillman bounced back with three scoreless, allowing exactly one baserunner in each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. He started the seventh inning with a four-run lead and a manageable pitch count, but he wouldn't be able to finish it. After a one-out single to David Murphy, Soto came to the plate and hit a two-run homer to almost the same place that Kinsler had earlier in the game. That cut the Orioles lead to two at 5-3, but Tillman followed up the homer with a strikeout to Mitch Moreland. Strike three was one of of the most beautiful curve balls a person could hope to see, and Moreland swung through it helplessly.
Despite that great pitch, Tillman's night was over as Kinsler came to the plate. He was replaced by Darren O'Day who had an uncharacteristically bad night. He walked Kinsler and then gave up a single to Elvis Andrus, forcing Buck Showalter to go to Pedro Strop one out earlier than normal.
Strop came in to face the dangerous Josh Hamilton and immediately went to 2-0 on him. With the count 3-1, Strop threw a slider that ended up very low and inside and Hamilton swung through it for strike two. He came back with another slider, but this one stayed up and Hamilton crushed it. It went a mile, but thankfully it was foul. So what do Strop and Wieters do? Come back with another slider that was close to Hamilton's feet, easily ball four if Hamilton could resist swinging. He couldn't, though. and that was strike three. Awesome.
I haven't mentioned the Orioles hitting since the fifth inning because after the fifth inning, the offense was non-existent. They knocked Feldman out of the game after five innings, but three Rangers relievers combined to pitch three innings in which the only baserunner was on an infield single by Adam Jones in the eighth inning. It wasn't much of a single either, as it died in the infield grass without the Rangers being able to make a play.
Thankfully they didn't need any more runs. After his masterful strikeout of Josh Hamilton, Strop came back and pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz. And Orioles closer Jim Johnson shut it down in the ninth with three easy outs. JJ being JJ.
O's win, 5-3! And the good news is that the Yankees and Rays also lost tonight, bringing the Orioles within one game of the Rays and just five behind the Yankees. August baseball!