Tonight was the kind of night where the pitching coaches on both sides hang their heads. It was the kind of night where even a five-run lead is suspect. That's what you get when a good pitcher's off his game and a mediocre pitcher faces an offense that's looking to bounce back after a slump and some tough losses.
Chris Tillman looked sharp early but gave up six runs in 5 1/3 IP. Aaron Harang never looked sharp as he gave up seven runs in 5 IP, four in just the first inning. When you mix in meltdowns by relievers, you have seven home runs and plenty of scoring.
Things looked good from the start. Tillman set down the Mariners 1-2-3 in the top of the first, and the O's hung four runs on Harang in his half. Tillman breezed through the second inning but ran into trouble when he faced the bottom of the order in the third inning. Justin Smoak walked and Michael Saunders brought him home with a two-run shot. 4-2 O's. Humberto Quintero walked and was forced at second on a fielder's choice by Brad Miller. Nick Franklin struck out, but Kyle Seager walked, and Kendrys Morales singled to bring home Miller. Raul Ibanez finally struck out to end it, but it was 4-3 O's and a tough inning for Tillman.
The middle innings were a blur of scoring. Chris Davis hit one onto Eutaw Street in the third to make it 5-3 (he's baaaaaaaaaack!!), and Ryan Flaherty added a needs-umpire-review dinger in the fourth to make it 6-3. But Quintero homered in the top of the 5th to bring it to 6-4, and although Adam Jones singled home Manny Machado to make it 7-4, Michael Morse doubled home Morales to make it 7-5. Tillman exited but was charged with a sixth run when Morse moved to third on a Justin Smoak single and scored on a sac fly by Michael Saunders.
7-6 O's, and after the four-run lead to start the night, this one was feeling tight. But not to worry. The bats answered right back when J.J. Hardy, Henry Urrutia, and Ryan Flaherty all singled against Brandon Maurer in the bottom of the sixth. Nate McLouth came up, and I was just hoping he'd work a walk or tap a single somewhere. He did tap a ball, but he tapped it really hard into the right-center seats for his first career grand slam. The stadium went wild and it was 11-6 O's.
Troy Patton had relieved Tillman in the sixth and stayed on to get the Mariners in order in the top of the seventh. K-Rod pitched the eighth and gave O's fans a ride; he gave up solo home runs to Morales and Morse but struck out Ibanez, Smoak, and Saunders. 16 pitches and 14 for strikes. Yowza.
You know the story; Jim Johnson, back to his old form as of late, worked the ninth inning for his major-league-leading 38th save. Not what you want when your team scores 11 runs, but a W is a W. It was his 10th consecutive scoreless appearance.
The O's move up to 61-49 while the Mariners drop to 50-59. They may soon regret not trading away Morales, Ibanez, or Morse -- but not tonight. The series continues tomorrow when Erasmo Ramirez takes on new acquisition Scott Feldman.