Most days, Steve Pearce hangs out on the end of the bench for the Orioles. You sometimes have to wonder if Buck even remembers he is on the team as he stays on the bench behind someone like Delmon Young. Then he gets his chances, like on Sunday, with Chris Davis missing the game to be with his wife as she has their first child. Pearce made the most of his chance, turning in a 3-4 day as the Orioles beat the Indians 4-2, salvaging a split in the series.
The game did not begin with such glory looking apparent. The top of the first inning looked like some kind of continuation of yesterday afternoon's mess. Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez allowed the first three batters of the game to reach without recording an out, and you had to worry if he was about to turn in a dud outing one day after an ugly 9-0 shutout.
Runs scored on two consecutive sacrifice flies, one by Lonnie Chisenhall and one by the Governor of Brohio, Nick Swisher. The Indians took a 2-0 lead and did not score for the rest of the game.
The O's hitters faced off against Indians starter Trevor Bauer, the one-time Diamondbacks prospect who was traded because he wasn't Diamondbacks enough for them or whatever. In the MASN broadcast booth, Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer addressed this briefly. Apparently, Bauer is an introvert and rubbed the organization the wrong way. "There's nothing wrong with being an introvert," Gary intoned, "but there is something wrong with being a robot." Palmer chimed in, "Unless it's cleaning your floor while you're away." Thanks for clearing that up, guys.
As for the actual person Bauer who was on the mound today, he showed flashes of good stuff, striking out eight Orioles batters, but he missed enough that they caught up to him for four runs on six hits in 4.1 innings.
Pearce led off the bottom of the second inning with a single, the first O's hit of the game. He stole second as J.J. Hardy struck out. Pearce stealing bases, why not? The stolen base proved important when he scored on a Jonathan Schoop single to put the O's on the board.
It was Pearce who helped the Orioles pull the score to a 2-2 tie. Nelson Cruz stood on second after a two-out double and Pearce grounded a single into shallow right. The windmill that is Bobby Dickerson never wavered in sending Cruz on the play. He should have been out by a mile, and would have been if Indians catcher Carlos Santana's swipe tag into Cruz's chest didn't end up with the ball falling out. Pearce moved up to second on the throw, but Hardy struck out to end the inning.
The bats were quiet until the fifth inning. Machado led off with a home run that just barely cleared the out-of-town scoreboard, his second homer of the season. He also had two walks on the day. After Adam Jones struck out, Cruz followed with a home run into the Orioles bullpen, his 16th in the Orioles 48th game. One home run for every three team games would end you up with 54 over a 162 game season. That will do.
Many people celebrate the birth of a child by smoking cigars. The O's hitters celebrated the coming birth of the baby Davis by hitting a couple of home runs. Isn't that a unique way to mark the occasion?
It's amazing to look at Cruz's performance so far this season after what he endured on the free agent market. He was sitting there and anyone could have signed him for only a draft pick. Even after it became apparent that he would be settling for a one-year deal, someone could have had him. The Orioles got him for $8 million. Has anyone ever spent $8 million better? Maybe if you got in to Apple or Google on day one. I guess. Your stock portfolio isn't winning the Orioles any baseball games.
Anyway, the Orioles had a 4-2 lead after the pair of homers and that was all for Bauer on the day. Pearce greeted new pitcher Mark Lowe with a ground rule double to left center. Hardy added a single, but they would not get another run out of the remainder of that rally. They did not need one.
While all this was going on, Gonzalez navigated his way through six innings. He only gave up four hits, but also surrendered four walks and hit a batter. That's a lot of runners for six innings, but after the first inning, the Indians only advanced a runner beyond first base one time. That's really too bad.
The O's turned to the bullpen for the final three innings, getting a scoreless inning each from Preston Guilmet, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton, who only allowed two runners to reach between the three of them.
Guilmet went to 3-ball counts on his first two hitters, ending up with a one-out walk to ninth hitter Justin Sellers. He responded by striking out the next two batters to get out of the inning. Not bad for a guy who spent yesterday in roster limbo.
As Britton plowed through the Indians lineup in the ninth for his second save, the only tense moment came when Britton fielded a Baltimore chop and fired to first base to retire pinch hitter Ryan Raburn. After he fired the throw to first, he looked to be wincing. The trainer came out to check on him. He remained in the game, not even having to throw any warm-up tosses. Whatever it was, he was fine. With two outs, Britton had to face Sellers, who had basically no chance against 96-97mph sinkers. Sellers struck out looking and the game was in the books.
The win was only the second Sunday victory for the O's on the season, and it brought their record in day games up to an abysmal 6-12. Still, a win is a win. They are now 25-23 on the season and sit in third place in the division, 2.5 games back of the division-leading Blue Jays. They now head off to face NL Central-leading Milwaukee, against whom they will hopefully perform better than they have against the AL Central.
Game one of the series is Monday afternoon, starting at 2:10 Eastern. The enigma that is Chris Tillman starts the game for the O's, with Kyle Lohse taking the ball for the Brewers.