The best way to get over a tough loss is to win. The Orioles came out on Saturday night firing with both barrels, scoring four runs between a pair of first inning home runs off former Oriole Jason Hammel. They added on runs as the game went on, runs they'd end up needing, ending up with a deceptively close 8-4 victory over the Athletics in the second game of the series.
Revenge is a dish best served 23 hours later. The O's had much to avenge on Saturday, the tough loss being only one part of it. There was also the fact that they were hit three times by pitches on Friday, including one pitch to J.J. Hardy's head and another that hit Adam Jones in the shoulder, very near to his head. The best way to get even for something like that is, contrary to faux-macho doctrine, not plunking someone else, but on the scoreboard.
Jones and Hardy had their revenge before the first inning was even over. Jones batted with two men on and none out and he crushed a ball to left field to open up the scoring festivities. That was the 17th home run of the year for Jones, giving the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Two batters later, Hardy launched one to left field as well, a solo shot for his fourth homer of the season. The O's led 4-0 after the first half frame.
For the second straight night, the team teed off for home runs against Oakland's prized starter acquisitions. Hammel in particular looked more like 2013 Jason Hammel than the version who'd been pitching in Chicago all season. It's almost like when you take an NL pitcher and put him in the AL, there are going to be adjustments to be made.
Things were even worse for Hammel than for Jeff Samardzija on Friday. Hammel was chased from the game without recording an out in the third inning. It was a starting pitching performance reminiscent of Tommy Hunter in that role in one key area: Five Runs, All Earned. An RBI double from Chris Davis chased Hammel from the game. A's reliever Dan Otero stranded runners at second and third with none out to limit the damage.
As the batting order turned over, the O's showed Otero who was the boss, and it wasn't Tony Danza. A single from Nick Markakis, who ended up 4-5 on the night, followed by a double from Steve Pearce, once again set up second and third. This time, however, the batter was not Nick Hundley, who ruined the third inning chance with a GIDP. It was, instead, Jones, whom you know, if you've been paying attention, is the man.
Jones's shoulder was not yet avenged. He cracked a single up the middle, scoring two runs and giving him five RBI for the game. That set the Orioles to a 7-1 lead, more than they would ultimately need, although it did come closer than it needed to in the end. Just for laughs, Jones stole second base, although he did not come around to score.
Staked to such a lead, you might hope for a deep outing from the Orioles starter, but alas, this was Wei-Yin Chen's night to start. His effort was enough to win if only because the Orioles batters hammered Hammel. Chen gave up a solo home run to Brandon Moss for the first Oakland run, and allowed two more runs in a long Oakland fourth inning that pushed up Chen's pitch count.
After five innings, with Chen having allowed three runs on five hits and a walk, and more importantly, with his pitch count entering the Chen Danger zone at 86 pitches, that was enough for O's manager Buck Showalter, who summoned Brad Brach to hold the line.
Brach was good for two innings, giving up a run thanks to a double from Josh Donaldson, who came around to score on a single by Jed Lowrie. That was Lowrie's third RBI of the night. That's cute.
In all, the Orioles had 13 hits in the game, and, unusually for them, they walked five times. In addition to Markakis, the O's got multi-hit games from Pearce (3-4), Jones (2-4), and Davis (2-4). The top six batters in the lineup each had at least one hit.
One advantage for the Orioles in chasing Hammel so early is that they increased their chances of bringing the game into Jim Johnson territory. During the 2012 season, you wanted every game to get into Johnson territory. Those days are long gone. His awful performance this year has led him to be the most garbage of garbage men. Johnson quickly showed why, giving up a leadoff homer to Davis, then walking Hardy.
The insurance run was enough that Showalter did not automatically summon Zach Britton at the top of the ninth inning, preferring to try to have Darren O'Day, who'd pitched a scoreless eighth, finish the game. O'Day got two outs into the ninth before his fortune ran thin. A walk to Moss and a single to Stephen Vogt later and O'Day was out of there.
If the lead was 7-4, you would have sweated more with what would have been the tying run at the plate, especially when Britton opened up with a 3-0 count on Nick Punto. Britton dialed it up and Punto looked at a couple of strikes before swinging through the third strike to end the game, with the tying run stuck on deck. It was a less comfortable 8-4 win than most, but after Friday night, we know not to get greedy about wins.
The rest of the division all won on Saturday, so the O's hold their place four games up on both Toronto and New York.
Sunday will bring the rubber game of this three-game series, with a 4:05 Eastern scheduled start time. Kevin Gausman starts for the O's, with Sonny Gray getting the ball for the Athletics.