The Orioles put together a fantastic win tonight, combining good starting pitching with a few good defensive plays and, like the Orioles we know and love from 2013, home runs. Four dongs total, including three by Chris Davis, who apparently announced during batting practice pre-game that he fixed his swing. Fingers crossed!
After looking lost at the plate for most of this season, tonight he looked like the hitter we saw for most of last year. After striking out ugly in the first inning, Davis singled in the fourth and then over his next three at bats launched the ball into the stands three times. The first time it gave the Orioles a 5-1 lead, the second time a 7-1 lead, and his third and final homer put the game into laugher territory at 9-2, the final score. He had five RBI on the night, scored four runs, and increased his slugging percentage on the season from .365 to .468. What a night for Chris Davis.
For your enjoyment, here are all three of Chris' home runs tonight:
Other stuff did happen in this game, even if all I really want to do is watch Chris Davis hit home runs all night.
Miguel Gonzalez made the start for the O's tonight and while I was hoping to see a seven-inning start, it was hard to argue with his results. He pitched through a rocky first inning that saw two singles, but didn't allow a run. In the third the Pirates got to him for three consecutive one-out singles, the third of which knocked in one run. Thankfully for the Orioles, the Pirates lineup after Andrew McCutchen fades pretty fast. Gonzalez got the next two batters to strand two on the bases.
After that, though, MiGo settled in and saw just nine batters over the next three innings (one single, one GIDP, five strikeouts, and two fly outs). He came into the seventh innings with 95 pitches thrown and gave up a home run to Ike Davis, prompting Buck Showalter to pull him from the game. All together his pitching line was 6+ IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 7 K. Not bad for a guy who has struggled this season.
Other than the pitcher's spot in the lineup, every member of the Orioles offense contributed in some way. The only Oriole 1-8 in the lineup without a hit was catcher Caleb Joseph, and he drew a crucial bases loaded walk that gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead in the game.
The O's scored in three straight plays in the fifth inning. It all happened so fast I barely had time to keep track, and it was awesome. With Manny Machado on first base via an infield single, Adam Jones doubled to left field. Manny flew around the bases and had a great slide at the plate to beat the throw. MASN was so busy showing a replay of the slide that they had to cut to Davis just as he hit the first pitch he saw into right field for his first home run. And while we were all busy celebrating that, Nelson Cruz hit the second pitch of his AB to center field for his 13th of the year. This was the offense I hoped to see!
After that fourth inning the rest of the offense was Davis, with a solo shot in the seventh and a two-run blast (with Jones on base by HBP) in the ninth. Davis was the star, but it was really the 3-6 batters who made a statement. Jones, Davis, Cruz, and J.J. Hardy reached base a combined 11 times with eight of the runs scored and eight of the RBI. Cruz and Hardy both reached base twice, Jones three times, and Davis four times.
I mentioned defense earlier. With the leadoff runner on in the fifth inning, Machado made a diving stop to start a great double play, and Jonathan Schoop helped out Zach Britton in the seventh inning with a fantastic leaping grab of a line drive.
Britton, Tommy Hunter, and Darren O'Day pitched in relief of Gonzalez and while none were as sharp as you'd like to see, they got the plays they needed to keep any more runs from scoring. Hunter in particular had a bad inning (you don't say!) relying on a bullet hit to J.J. Hardy to start an inning ending double play and save him.
Games like these are a lot of fun, and as Chris Davis said himself in his postgame interview, it's really nice to win by more than just one or two runs.
The Orioles finish up the short series with the Pirates tomorrow and look to sweep the season against them. Chris Tillman will be on the mound for the Orioles against Wandy Rodriguez for the Pirates.