It's a common cliche, "The team that won wanted it more." It makes sense. They likely tried harder and got the most out of the talent on the field. It's probably not always true, but it's plausible. But, what happens when neither team seems like they want to win? This was the scenario the Orioles and Rangers found themselves in Wednesday night.
The first inning was the premier of "The Luis Sardinas comedy show" in the field. With two outs, Sardinas dropped a can of corn pop up off the bat of Nelson Cruz. To Cruz's credit, he hustled it out and made it to second base. The next batter, Adam Jones hit a ball up the middle that first bounced off of starter Nick Martinez and then the glove of second baseman Rougned Odor, and finally into center field for a single. Cruz scored from second to put the O's up 1-0.
However, playing with a lead wasn't in Bud Norris' plans. The birds starter began things by hitting Shin-Soo Choo in the right calf with the second pitch out of his hand. He would be bailed out by none other than Sardinas, who grounded to first baseman Chris Davis to start a 3-6-3 double play. When it looked like Norris would get out of the inning in quick fashion, Mitch Moreland stepped in the box. He fell behind 0-2, but then fought back to work a walk. Up walked Adrian Beltre, the one guy in the lineup to not mess with. But good old Bud left a fat slider in the middle of the plate. Beltre sent it to right field for a round tripper, putting the Rangers ahead 2-1.
The second inning would be quiet all around, but Nick Markakis started the third off with a bang. He took the first pitch from Martinez to right field to tie things up 2-2. Manny Machado followed with a double to left field and then we had a second showing of "Sardinas comedy". Again, Cruz was at the plate and he sent a routine grounder to the shortstop. He gathered himself and chucked a wayward ball towards first base. The throw pulled Moreland off the bag. Cruz was safe at first and Machado was on at second. Jones cashed in with another single to center, scoring Machado to make it 3-2 birds. Davis would then walk to load the bases with no outs. J.J Hardy would get an RBI of his own with a sacrifice fly to right field. Cruz would tag up and score from third to extend the lead, 4-2. Jonathan Schoop then brought Martinez's best friend to the party, grounding into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Things wouldn't heat up again until the top of the fifth. Davis came up and crushed his eighth home run of the season. This one was of the solo variety and led to some antics from his teammates. It was now 5-2 Orioles.
Meanwhile, Norris was working his way through the Texas lineup. His only glaring mistake to this point had been the poorly thrown slider to Beltre in the first inning. And then things got real annoying when he had to face Beltre AGAIN with runners on. Who knew that was even legal.
Bud had gotten the first two hitters of the fifth inning out but then Sardinas decided to contribute to the Rangers cause. He singled to center. Then, Moreland smacked a ball up the middle. It riccocheted off of Norris' forearm towards a vacant third base. That made it runners on first and second with Beltre coming to the plate. SMACK! He sent another ball to rightfield. This one was a bit more towards center. Even so, it went over the fence and tied the game with one swing, 5-5.
Norris would exit the game with a right forearm contusion from the ball hit by Moreland. He was going to come out anyway as he had thrown nearly 100 pitches. At this time, there is no official word on whether it is serious enough to warrant a DL stint.
"He's fine," said Showalter after the game. "He was going to play golf tomorrow. That's out."
However, the O's wouldn't stay down. They responded in an sixth inning that nearly got away from them. Schoop singled to left field and then David Lough walked. Caleb Joseph followed and attempted to sacrifce bunt. He sent it right back to Martinez on the ground. He fielded it and tossed it to third base to force out Schoop. After that, with Markakis at the plate, Lough and Joseph were put in motion on a double steal. Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos fired to third to nab Lough. Markakis would save Showalter from a rare case of over-managing by singling to left field and scoring the oh so deft of foot Joseph and giving the Orioles a lead once again, 6-5.
That was all the Baltimore bullpen would need to maintain the lead. T.J. McFarland took over for Norris. The lefty looked as good as he has all year. He went 1.2 innings, gave up two hits, struck out two and held the Rangers scoreless. He was lifted in favor of Darren O'Day when Beltre returned to the batter's box. He would get Beltre to fly out to end the seventh inning and then throw up a zero in the eighth. He then made way for closer Zach Britton. He would struggle a bit by giving up two hits but managed to get Choo to ground into a double play and then struck out Michael Choice to end things with some nasty 96 mph fastballs.
The win is the fourth in a row for the Orioles. They go for a fifth and the sweep of the Rangers tomorrow at 8:05 ET. Chris Tillman, who is moving up a day to take Miguel Gonzalez's spot, will take the hill for Baltimore. Texas counters with the struggling Colby Lewis.
- Longtime player and coach Don Zimmer passed away this evening. He was never a member of the Orioles in any fashion, but he was a well-known figure in all clubhouses. He will be missed.
- Davis' home run was his first since May 23
- Kevin Gausman threw for Norfolk tonight. However, he was pulled after one inning and 26 pitches. He will be ready to pitch for the O's Saturday if Miguel Gonzalez is not recovered from his oblique problem.
- Showalter said it is looking like Gonzo will have a stint on the DL after the game.
- Manny Machado committed his seventh error of the year tonight. He had 13 all of last year.