There are few problems with the Orioles so bad that a seven-inning quality start can't make you feel better about them. A day after a Jason Hammel disaster, Scott Feldman faced the same team and pitched the kind of game that Orioles fans dream of every time out. Chris Davis and Adam Jones each added a home run to power the O's to a 7-4 victory - and a series victory - over the Blue Jays as they head into the All-Star Break.
With four days looming with no Orioles baseball - no, the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game don't count, even though Orioles will be in them - the victory tastes all the sweeter because there would have been nothing but anger and bitterness.
Sunday's game was the kind where the O's struck early and often. They wasted no time threatening against Toronto starter Josh Johnson, with Nate McLouth and Manny Machado singling in the first two at-bats of the game. When you put men on base for Jones and Davis, good things will happen. Jones' one-out single drove in McLouth, and Davis cleared the bases with a double.
In a meaningless stat alert, this gave Davis 30+ home runs and 90+ RBI before the All-Star Break, only the second time that's ever been done in MLB history. The first time was Miguel Cabrera, whenever he hit his 30th home run.
J.J. Hardy added an RBI single to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead after one inning.
Reversing the usual Orioles starter trend, Feldman took this lead and essentially said, "Don't worry, guys. I've got this." He held Toronto to one hit through three innings, with a shaky fourth that he recovered from fine to hold the Jays to two runs when they were threatening more. For extra flair, he struck out O's nemesis J.P. Arencibia to end the inning.
Two runs may sound worrisome out of a four-run lead, but the Orioles did not go quiet after a strong first inning. Their third inning saw the unicorn of Jones taking a walk. What happens when you walk a batter in front of the MLB leader in home runs? The answer is that he goes opposite field on you, because he is Chris Davis, and he will hit homers in any direction. Emilio Bonifacio futilely chased the ball to the fence, but when Davis gets that swing, it doesn't matter. Good-bye, home run, his 37th of the year, a measly 373 feet to left.
Jones added a home run of his own, a solo shot to deep center that was his 19th blast of the year. Jones' day powered his slugging percentage back up over .500. As much criticism as Jones sometimes gets and deserves, it's easy to forget he is a very good baseball player. 19 home runs at the All-Star Break? All of our oxygen would be spent talking up what a great power threat Jones is, if only Davis wasn't hitting all of the home runs all of the time.
Davis has 37 home runs in 96 team games. He homered in four straight heading into the break. He could cool off with the break, sure, but every time he's seemed to cool off, he gets hot again. His .717 slugging percentage would be 26th-best in a single season in all of MLB history. He is being mentioned in the same sentence as Roger Maris for what some (including Davis himself) see as the legitimate home run record.
Feldman rolled through the fifth, sixth, and seventh (!!!) without allowing any more damage, and not only did he finish seven, he came out for the eighth. He was lifted for Tommy Hunter after getting out Bonifacio on a grounder, then allowing a single to Jose Reyes. Hunter allowed the runner to score, which closed the book on Feldman with 7.1 innings pitched, five hits, one walk, three earned runs, and seven strikeouts. He threw 110 pitches.
Seven strikeouts to one walk? A sub-1.00 WHIP on the day? More than seven innings pitched and still a quality start! Be still, my beating heart! Feldman worked the ground balls, with eight ground ball outs. Add that to seven strikeouts and that's 15 of the 22 outs he recorded. That will play in Camden Yards, and that will get you a well-deserved standing ovation every time. 34,478 came out to watch the Sunday afternoon contest.
Despite going into the ninth inning with a four-run lead, the Orioles still needed to summon Jim Johnson. Hunter allowed a double and a single to start the ninth, and he was lifted. Johnson had a three-run cushion and needed three outs. A man was on first. He struck out Arencibia, then allowed a single to Brett Lawrie, which brought the tying run to the plate with one out. That was Bonifacio, who hit into a fielder's choice. Johnson struck out the dangerous Reyes to end the game and pick up his 33rd save.
Feldman earned the win, his first in an Orioles uniform, to raise his AL record to 1-1. Josh Johnson took the loss, dropping to 1-5 on the season.
All of the O's runs scored were charged against Josh Johnson, who pitched six innings and gave up seven earned runs on seven hits. He also struck out seven and walked one.
The win sends the Orioles into the All-Star Break with a 53-43 record. They are five games back in the AL East, with Boston still to play. They are in third place, staring up at the Rays, who are two games ahead after winning nine of their last ten headed into the break. In their 96th game last year, they lost, 3-1, to the Cleveland Indians, to drop to 51-45, seven games back in the East. Hunter was the starter and ended the game with a 5.57 ERA. After giving up a run in 0.2 innings today, he has a 2.41 ERA this season.
Four days off, really? Yes, the next game isn't until Friday, when the Orioles will travel to Texas for an 8:05pm start.