The Baltimore Orioles survived another horrendous Tommy Hunter outing tonight, this time coming back to score the tying run in the bottom of the ninth after he blew the save and the lead in the top of the inning. A game-winning double in extra innings by Steve Clevenger brought the team all the way back to capture their fifth straight win and increase their lead in the A.L. East to 1 1/2 games over the New York Yankees.
Pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was the second straight O's starter to make it seven innings, although it wasn't the prettiest game you've ever seen. He had a very quick first inning before giving up a solo home run to George Springer in the second. The third inning was u-g-l-y, and not only because of the pitching. Jonathan Villar hit a one-out single to center field that Adam Jones misplayed, allowing him to get to second. Villar then stole third base and it looked like Clevenger had time, but he double clutched and the throw was just a touch late.
After a walk to Altuve, Fowler singled in the second run for the Astros. Gonzalez struck out Jason Castro, and as he worked to Matt Dominguez, the runners pulled off a double steal. Thankfully it didn't matter as Dominguez popped up for the third out.
Gonzalez didn't allow another run, though he had a few rough innings before it was all said and done. Despite allowing two baserunners in each of the fifth and sixth innings, he kept his pitch count relatively low and was able to come back out for a 1-2-3 seventh inning. All told it was a successful outing for old MiGo. He gave up just two runs in seven innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
Unfortunately, the Orioles offense wasn't interested in providing Gonzalez with any run support tonight. They put two runners on in each of the first two innings without scoring a run, and then became unable to solve McHugh. They went 1-2-3 in the third and fourth innings, and only a Steve Pearce walk kept them from doing the same in the fifth. They finally broke through in the sixth thanks to Adam Jones.
I wouldn't say that Jones is completely out of the slump that he's been mired in for most of this season, but his power is starting to come around. With two outs in the sixth, he launched a fastball to center field that landed in the seats. It cut the Astros lead to 2-1 and was the first sign of life from the Orioles offense pretty much all night.
The Orioles tied the game in the very next inning thanks to some Astros shenanigans. J.J. Hardy started the inning with a line drive over the leaping shortstop. Steve Clevenger came up looking to bunt, and he laid down a terrible one. It went right back to the pitcher and should have been an out at second base, if not a double play. But McHugh couldn't stay on his feet and ended up pathetically trying to flip the ball to first base while sitting on the grass. Both runners were safe.
After that bit of good luck, Steve Pearce lined a single up the middle to load the bases. It was Pearce's third time on base, the first two coming by walk. Everyone keeps saying that the Orioles haven't missed Davis much because of Pearce, but I can't help but wonder where this team would be if he had been getting regular at bats all season.
Anyway, so the bases were loaded with no outs, the Orioles down by one. McHugh did everyone a favor by throwing a wild pitch. Hardy ran in with the tying run and the two Steves moved up to third and second base. The Orioles were primed to go ahead by a few runs, but the bats fell apart. They couldn't even hit a long fly ball. Two ground outs and a strikeout later, the inning was over and the game was still tied.
Gonzalaz was out of the game after seven innings, and at the very least he was off the hook for the loss. Zach Britton followed Gonzalez and pitched a great eighth inning, needing just 10 pitches despite giving up a leadoff single.
With the game still tied in the bottom of the eighth, Nelson Cruz untied it on the first pitch he saw. The ball landed far over the center field wall. It was gorgeous. Unfortunately, they weren't able to add on. Jones, Matt Wieters, and Hardy went quietly to end the inning, and Buck Showalter handed the one-run lead to Tommy Hunter.
The thing is, one-run leads and Tommy Hunter don't really mix. He has been getting lucky in nearly game he's pitched in, and tonight his luck ran out. Back-to-back one-out hits led to runners on second and third. A ground ball to second base resulted in a rundown between third and home for the second out, but kept two runners in scoring position. But Tommy just couldn't get that last out. Jose Altuve singled to score both runners and put the Orioles in a 4-3 hole. Thanks for nothing, Tommy.
The damage was done, but Buck Showalter pulled Hunter to make sure it didn't get any worse. Troy Patton came in and intentionally walked Dexter Fowler (after starting the at-bat with three unintentional balls), but got the last out on a pop up to left field. Just as the final out was secured, the rains started pouring down and the game was halted for 55 minutes.
At first it looked like the post-rain-delay portion of the game would be quick. Both members of Team Steve were quickly retired, and Jonathan Schoop was the O's last hope. He hit a ground ball to Jonathan Villar at shortstop. It looked like it might be the final out, but Villar couldn't get a hold on the ball to make a throw. With that, the Orioles had life. And they didn't let go.
Next up was Nick Markakis, who laced a single to left field. The tying run was in scoring position for Machado, who took a four-pitch walk. That is not a joke! He walked!
Normally Nelson Cruz follows Manny, but he had been lifted for David Lough in the ninth inning. That was probably a good call, since Lough made a long run to catch the final out of the ninth (even though, in fairness, Manny probably would have gotten there if he didn't). But nobody wants Lough up to bat with the game on the line, so Delmon Young pinch hit. He didn't exactly get all of the ball he hit, chopping it to the shortstop. But Young busted it down the line and beat the throw. He beat the throw! Schoop raced home to score the tying run!
Sadly they couldn't end it there, as Adam Jones popped out to end the inning. But after a scoreless top of the 10th courtesy of Ryan Webb, the O's were right back at it. Wieters grounded out weakly, but Hardy hit a ball to shortstop that again Villar coudn't handle. Poor Villar had a rough couple of innings.
Clevenger stepped into the batter's box and smacked the first pitch just inside the foul line in right field. Hardy took off from first base, and while he is a lot of things (including handsome), he is not fast. But he motored around the bases faster than usual as the ball rattled around in right field. Hardy rounded third and slid in with the winning run before the throw got anywhere near him. O's win! O's win!
Wow, what a night. The Orioles again pulled off a crazy one-run win and nearly gave us all heart attacks in the process. They'll go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon with Chris Tillman on the mound. Do it for your moms, O's!