After being officially eliminated from the playoffs, the Orioles have decided to start playing some decent baseball again. Thursday night's game against the Blue Jays did not feature quite the same amount of offense as did the previous night, but they scored enough that they notched a narrow win thanks to a strong start by Miguel Gonzalez. The O's won the game, 3-2.
The final start of the season for Gonzalez was a good one, with him surrendering only two hits and a walk in the seven innings he pitched, while striking out five. The only run that he allowed was unearned due to a botched routine catch by Jason Pridie, who was playing left field. He ends the season with a 3.78 ERA, not as good as his numbers last year, but more than good enough to see him continuing to be a part of the O's rotation for another year.
Perhaps against a better team with more to play for, the O's might have had problems. There were few good hitters to be found in the Toronto lineup and it showed in how they performed. Still, part of baseball is keeping the bad teams from scoring runs too. The game still counts, giving the O's their 83rd win of the season.
It was another one of those games where the O's got some early runs and then went to sleep for the remainder of the game. Had Jim Johnson blown his tenth save to send the O's either into extra innings or down in flames, no one would have been surprised. However, they held on, despite a shaky appearance in the eighth inning by Tommy Hunter, who let the Jays score a run to bring the game back to a 3-2 score, and had men on second and third with only one out before bearing down to strike out the final two batters of the inning.
Rather than blow a save, Johnson instead pitched a scoreless ninth for his 48th save of the season. He allowed one hit and the runner never moved beyond first base. Two ground balls and a strikeout ended the game.
That early offense came from unlikely sources. The Jays held a 1-0 lead after the Pridie error, which Matt Wieters erased in the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run. The home run was his 22nd of the season, one shy of his career high with four games left to play.
The other two Orioles runs came in the third inning, with a rally that started with a bunt single by leadoff hitter Brian Roberts. Nick Markakis sliced a weak line drive just out of the reach of Jays left fielder Kevin Pillar, and it rolled all the way to the wall for an RBI double to give the O's a 2-1 lead. Adam Jones moved Markakis up to third with an infield single and Markakis scored on a sacrifice fly from Wieters. That was the end of scoring for the Orioles for the night.
Their runs all came against Jays starter Mark Buehrle, who had to exit the game in the fourth inning after Steve Pearce hit a line drive back to the mound that struck him on the calf. He walked off under his own power, but that will probably leave a mark. Buehrle gave up three runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings. He did not walk a batter, because the Orioles do not walk.
After Buehrle left the game, the Orioles only got one more hit for the rest of the night, a single by Markakis in the fifth inning. Chad Jenkins pitched 3.2 scoreless innings and Steve Delabar pitched a scoreless eighth.
Gonzalez was credited with the win in the game, raising his record on the season to 11-8 in 28 starts, with Buehrle taking the loss and falling to 12-10.
A day after an impressive debut, Jonathan Schoop had a rougher second game in the big leagues. He committed a throwing error, though it was one of those balls where, had he lacked the range to glove the ball, it would have just been a base hit. Still, he muffed an easy throw. He also went 0-3 at the plate, because the Jays actually threw him off-speed pitches. Welcome to the bigs, Schoop.
The final series of the year kicks off on Friday night as the Boston Red Sox, playing for home field advantage through the postseason, come into town. Scott Feldman starts the series opener for the O's, with Clay Buchholz taking the mound for the Red Sox in the 7:05 game.