These are the types of performances that give the Baltimore fanbase so much to dream about. The game at Camden Yards featured two teams that didn't seem to belong on the same field. Those are strong words and baseball changes each day, but tonight, the Orioles looked like a squad that belongs among the baseball elite.
The scoring began early and often tonight in Baltimore. Nick Markakis forced an impressive eight-pitch walk. And then, Steve struck. He took a 90 mph fastball from Joe Saunders to deep left field for the first Orioles home run of the game, making it 2-0 to the Birds.
The O's weren't done there. Nelson Cruz grounded out but then Adam Jones added to the lead by golfing a slider down the left field line and extended the lead to three runs. 3-0 Orioles.
It was more of the same in the second inning when home run-challenged J.J. Hardy smacked a belt high fastball to the power alley in left center for a solo shot to make it 4-0. That was a lot of offense for two innings. The Baltimore bats needed a rest and went scoreless in the third inning.
Jonathan Schoop began things in the fourth with a single up the middle and into center field. Then Caleb Joseph and Markakis were retired on a fly out and line out, respectively. Then, it was Steve's turn. He would slow things down this time around. He saw two more pitches than before and picked out an 82 mph changeup to send into the Baltimore night sky. It just squeaked into the first row. It was his second bomb of the night, his third and fourth RBI and made the score 6-0.
The Rangers would finally manage to get on the board in the top of the fifth inning when Leonys Martin, aboard from a walk earlier in the inning, would score on a throwing error by THIRD BASEMAN Chris Davis on a Michael Choice ground ball. The ball was to Davis's right. He took a step back, fielded and fired to Steve at first base. It pulled him slightly off the base. A look at a review shows that it is possible that Steve's cleat may have just held onto the bag. Alas, it was questionable and manager Buck Showalter did not challenge. 6-1 Orioles.
The lead would be pushed back to six runs immediately. Hardy singled to center field. Schoop followed with a double. Joseph would add the insurance run with a sacrifice fly to right field. Rios bobbled the ball and failed to nab the not so fleet-footed Hardy. 7-1 Orioles.
Following this inning, Saunders' night was over. The former Oriole hero was done after five innings of seven run ball in which he gave up nine hits, walking and striking out two.
The game would finish up with a first look at Ramon Ramirez. He was factory sealed from Norfolk and showed well. His fastball sat in the high eighties and low nineties, and featured a nice changeup with good late dip. He struck out two and walked one in a scoreless ninth inning to wrap up the W for the Birds.
While the story of the night seemed to be the Orioles offense, Ubaldo Jimenez was fantastic tonight. This is not the Texas lineup that we have seen for the past half decade, but nonetheless, Jimenez was dominant. He threw 116 pitches to go eight innings, striking out seven. Get this, he walked just one batter the entire game. This is what he can do when he throws strikes? Please, please give us this Ubaldo more often.
It is arguable that this was Jimenez's finest outing of the year. By far, it was the best he has looked in the home whites. He is now 1-6 in Baltimore in 2014.
But man oh man, Steve! He hit another two home runs and now boasts a .327 batting average. His post-game interview with the Jims showed almost no personality. But he is Steve. He isn't paid to talk, he is paid to, well probably sit on the bench, but for now he is tearing it up.
Davis was OK at third base. On the Orioles post game show on MASN Rick Dempsey said that he was "fantastic". I wouldn't go that far but he wasn't bad. He covers less ground that Machado and he isn't used to that angle for a throw but he has plenty of arm strength for the position and that error was a close call.
In the ninth inning, Steve was removed from the game. Davis moved across the diamond to first base and Ryan Flaherty entered to play third base. This will likely be the formula used for the next four games with Manny Machado suspended.
The Orioles will try to stay on track tomorrow against these same Rangers. The game is at 7:05 at Camden Yards. Be sure to tune in after the US/Belgium soccer game. Nick Martinez will be on the mound for the Rangers. At the moment, the O's website has no starter listed. It is suspected that T.J. McFarland will make the spot appearance.
-Meanwhile in Boston, Jake Arrieta threw 7.2 hitless innings with 10 SO and one walk. Ri-freakin-diculous.
-It was this day five years ago when the Orioles beat the Red Sox 11-10 after falling behind 10-1. Where were you?
-Toronto did not play tonight, so the Orioles are now just one game back of first place in the AL East.