The Baltimore Orioles took game one of the series with the Minnesota Twins tonight, overcoming a terrible game by starting pitcher Jason Hammel and holding on to first place in the A.L. East.
Guys, what are we gonna do with Jason Hammel? He just has not been the same pitcher this year, and tonight was his worst start of the season. He gave up one run in the first inning (thanks to a botched play by Chris Dickerson in right field), and his night only went downhill from there. In the second inning Hammel allowed the first three batters to reach base, putting the Twins in line for a big rally. He struck out the next two and was almost out of the inning when Joe Mauer singled up the middle to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. Hammel retired Josh Willingham for the third out but he had thrown 30 pitches in the inning and put the team in a hole.
The Orioles wasted a walk, a stolen base, and two singles in the top of the third inning, and in the bottom half the Twins were right back to smacking around Hammel. Morneau doubled and eventually came in to score on a sacrifice fly.
Hammel had his one and only 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, but he fell apart in the fifth inning. He hit Willingham to start things, then walked Morneau. Trevor Plouffe doubled to knock in Willingham, and Buck Showalter had seen enough. He replaced Hammel with T.J. McFarland. McFarland retired the side without allowing a hit, although one more run did come in on a ground out.
Jason Hammel's final line was 4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 6 K. He threw 87 pitches.
When Hammel exited the game, it felt like the game was as good as over. Twins starter Mike Pelfrey hasn't been all that good this season, but the O's couldn't get anything done against him through the first five innings of the game. They put runners on but just couldn't capitalize. That all changed in the sixth inning when the Orioles turned into a doubling machine.
The first batter up in the inning, Nick Markakis, doubled. Two batters later, Chris Davis doubled him in to get the Orioles on the scoreboard. Two batters after that, J.J. Hardy doubled in Davis, then Dickerson doubled in Hardy. Just like that the Orioles had cut the lead in half.
Pelfrey came out of the game after six innings and was replaced in the seventh by Josh Roenicke, son of former Oriole Gary Roenicke. Spawn of Roenicke did not have a good night. Not even a little bit. Nate McLouth joined the doubles party, then came in to score thanks to a throwing error that Trevor Plouffe made trying to throw out Manny Machado on a beautiful bunt single. Markakis singled in Machado, then Davis hit his third double of the night to knock in Markakis and tie the game at 6-6.
Meanwhile, the Orioles bullpen had another fantastic night. McFarland pitched a total of 2 2/3 innings, giving up no runs on two hits before being replaced by Tommy Hunter. Hunter, who has shockingly become one of the best parts of the bullpen, pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings with three strikeouts, and so the Orioles and Twins went into the 10th inning tied 6-6.
Anthony Swarzak came in to pitch the top of the 10th for the Twins. Hey, do me a favor. Say Swarzak out loud in the same voice as the Aflac duck. Now you can't stop hearing it, right? You're welcome.
Dickerson greeted Swarzak with single and was bunted to second base by Alexi Casilla. With one out, the Orioles decided doubles were so over and switched to singles to get the job done. McLouth singled, with Dickerson moving to third. Machado singled in Dickerson to give the Orioles a 7-6 lead. Markakis knocked McLouth in with a sacrifice fly, then Adam Jones joined the party by singling in Machado to run the score to 9-6.
Having finally taken a lead, the Orioles turned to Jim Johnson to do what Jim Johnson does. His 14th save of the year locked down the victory for the Orioles.
What a great game by the Orioles tonight, folks. They fell in a big hole but never gave up, and the offense and bullpen picked up their starting pitching.