The dreaded 10-game west coast road trip is over, and the Orioles didn't do half bad. They finished with a 6-4 record and two series wins out of the three thanks to an extra-innings win over the Mariners today. The combination of Miguel Gonzalez's shaky stuff and the offense's troubles with runners in scoring position looked like it might doom the Orioles, but MiGo held tough and a 10th-inning sacrifice fly from Manny Machado set up the win.
Gonzalez gave up just one run in his six innings pitched, but against a better hitting team that may not have been the case. He allowed just one baserunner in the first but needed 21 pitches to finish it, and in the second inning he gave up three singles and a double, but thanks to a TOOTBLAN by the leadoff hitter Kyle Seager, the M's only scored one run. Seager hit a ball to right field that Nick Markakis played off the wall perfectly. It would have been a fine single, but Seager wanted more. He didn't get it, though, thanks to a good throw from Markakis to J.J. Hardy that beat Seager by a good margin.
The Orioles definitely got lucky as two of the next three batters singled, with one of them coming in to score on a double by Chris Taylor. James Jones lined out to second base and Gonzalez was out of the inning.
MiGo played with fire after that, but was able to keep the Mariners off the board. He allowed two baserunners each in the third and fourth innings before finally recording a 1-2-3 in the fifth. He walked one in the sixth inning, but got fly ball outs on the other three batters, and his day was done. All told he gave up eight hits and two walks in six innings, which isn't great. But he also allowed only one run, which is pretty good.
Starting today for the Mariners was Roenis Elias. Elias is a rookie lefty who entered today's game with a 4.41 ERA and a fastball averaging 91.5 mph. Oh no! It's Orioles' kryptonite! Sure enough, Elias retired the first six Orioles he saw, four on strikeouts. But the bottom of the order, which is filled with youngsters who perhaps haven't yet learned to fear the soft-tossing lefty, came through. Machado singled on a ball that second baseman Robinson Cano couldn't quite get a glove on, and moved to third on a double by Caleb Joseph. A single by Jonathan Schoop knocked in Machado and set the O's up nicely for a rally with runners at first and third with no outs. But the top of the order squandered it courtesy of a Markakis pop out and Steve Pearce GIDP.
The Orioles wasted a Nelson Cruz walk in the fourth, and couldn't score with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. Elias was pulled after five innings, and the Orioles stranded J.J. Hardy in the sixth inning after he doubled. They finally got on the board again in the eighth inning to pull ahead 2-1. A double by Adam Jones and walks to Nelson Cruz (intentional) and Hardy (unintentional) loaded the bases for Machado with two outs. Manny hit a ball into the hole at shortstop that Chris Taylor made a nice play to keep from going into left field. But his throw pulled Cano off of second and all runners were safe, with Jones coming in to score. Nice!
Unfortunately the lead was short-lived, as Darren O'Day had an uncharacteristically bad day. O'Day doesn't normally give up homers, with a HR/9 of just 0.4 this season. But today he did give up a homer, on a pitch on the inside half of the plate that Mike Zunino golfed into the left field seats. Nooo!
After a quick top of the ninth, Buck Showalter called on lefty T.J. McFarland to face the top of the Mariners order with the game on the line. I know that McFarland has improved this season, but it still made me uneasy to see him in that high-leverage situation. I would have rather seen Zach Britton, but Britton is the closer so you know, whatever. It all turned out OK in the end, so I guess what do I know? Well, I know that I'd rather have Britton face the top of the order and McFarland the 5-6-7 hitters, but I guess that's neither here nor there because McFarland was great outside of a walk to Cano (which is obviously what he wanted to do anyway).
That took us to free baseball, and Adam Jones wasn't interested in staying on the west coast for a long game. He started things with a double, and then the M's pitcher Yoervis Medina walked both Cruz and Chris Davis. It looked like he was pitching around Cruz, but after he walked Davis on pitches not even close to the zone, maybe he had just lost it. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Orioles fans who are still stuck in the losing era began wondering how they'd blow it. Well, they didn't! Hardy popped out, but Machado sent a long fly ball to center field that easily knocked in Jones with the go-ahead run. Caleb Joseph popped out to end the inning, but the damage was done.
After that all that was left was for Zach Britton to make us all swoon with his filthy, nasty pitching performance. All he did was strike out the side on 12 pitches, nine of which were fastballs between 97-99 miles per hour. The other three were unfair breaking pitches that clocked 84-85, two of which went for strike three on the batter. It was awesome. When did Britton start hitting 99? It was a nice way to end the road trip.
The Orioles are off tomorrow to fly home to Baltimore, where they get to play six more games against teams from the A.L. West. A three-game series with the Angels starts Tuesday at Camden Yards.