Once you've played a baseball game for twelve innings, you might as well just go ahead and win the dang thing. That's what Manny Machado decided on Tuesday night. He had just about enough of the game against the Angels, and so, when Cory Rasmus threw him a pitch, he went down and drove a pitch out into the outstretched hands of a fan several rows deep in the left field seats. The home run gave the Orioles a 7-6 walkoff win in the opening game of the series.
Although the Orioles smoked Jered Weaver for six runs in only five innings, the game was close, because O's starter Chris Tillman got similarly smoked, and not the delicious kind of smoke like you would find with sausage, but more of the harsh, chemical irritant kind of smoke. The game went back and forth for the first several innings, then froze in place after the seventh until Machado's walkoff.
In front of a spirited Camden Yards crowd of 36,882, many of whom were enjoying tickets at $8 off face value thanks to Adam Jones' performance at the Home Run Derby, the teams scored early and often.
After giving up a ground rule double to Albert Pujols, Tillman faced second and third with one out in the first inning. He managed to limit that damage, inducing an RBI groundout by Josh Hamilton and a harmless liner to left from Erick Aybar. That could have been worse.
The 1-0 Angels lead didn't last for long. It took all of three batters for Jones to tie the game with his 20th home run of the season. Earlier on Tuesday, Jones' mom posted a picture on Facebook of a shirt that had Jones holding a bat and implored him, "Mama says... slap shyt Jonesy! BOOM!" He listened to mama. Just like that, the game was tied. A walk and two hits later and the O's grabbed a 2-1 lead on a J.J. Hardy single.
The lead was not to last, because Tillman. He made the first of a pair of crucial fielding mishaps for the O's. Another ground rule double followed by a groundout left Tillman facing the tying run on third with one out. David Freese hit a comebacker to the mound, but Tillman botched his initial attempt to field it as the ball bounced off of him. He grabbed the ball off the ground, then, rather than take the safe out, fired an errant throw home that skipped away from catcher Nick Hundley. That let Freese get to second, though he might have scored on Kole Calhoun's subsequent double regardless.
The two runs in that inning were unearned, although they resulted directly from Tillman's error. The Angels led, 3-2. That didn't last very long for them, either. The O's got a run in the bottom of the second when Nick Hundley, who walked, rode his horse all the way around from first base to score on a two-out Machado double. It was an unusual display of speed from a catcher.
Tillman continued to hurt himself in the fourth. A terrible curveball with men on first and second and none out moved up both runners, with a Hank Conger sacrifice fly coming with one out to break the tie and give the Angels a 4-3 lead.
As they'd done all game, the O's offense counterpunched, though it was in unusual fashion: Ryan Flaherty and Hundley each walked, meaning they were on base when Nick Markakis drove a laser shot straight at the foul pole down the right field line. The ball ricocheted off the pole for an Earl Weaver Special. The home run part wasn't unusual, but the walks were.
Of the Orioles seven runs on the night, four of the runners reached base by a walk. The other three runs were the home run hitters: Jones, Markakis, and Machado. It's almost like good things happen when you get men on base in a lineup full of hitters with power.
Again, because he's Tillman, he couldn't allow this 6-4 lead to last for long, so he quickly remedied that by giving up a solo home run to Hamilton, only his sixth of the season, to pull the lead back to 6-5 in the fifth inning. That was enough for Buck Showalter to not bring back Tillman for the sixth inning, lifting him with only 89 pitches thrown. He gave up five runs, three earned, on six hits and a walk, while striking out six. It was not a good night.
Still, that's where the O's held the score until the seventh, when the defense cost them again. After Brad Brach allowed a pair of baserunners, the O's summoned Brian Matusz to face Hamilton, because he is the personal destroyer of lefty sluggers. Matusz didn't help his case by starting out 2-0 on Hamilton. He did get Hamilton to ground out weakly to short, though.
Unfortunately for the O's, second baseman Flaherty didn't break to the bag fast enough on the grounder. When Hardy looked to flip to second for the force out, no one was home, and by the time he threw to first, Hamilton was safe, with the tying run having scored on the play.
Some time around when Markakis hit the fourth inning home run, the Orioles offense went to sleep. They had a grand total of three hits from the 5th-11th innings combined, sending only three men to the plate in five of those innings.
That's less of a surprise when you consider that it came against a parade of five Angels relievers, with the highest ERA among them being a 2.43.
Finally, after four-plus hours of baseball, Machado had enough of all of that, blasting his 11th home run of the year to send the Orioles home winners. He received the customary post-game pie in the face. Ryan Webb, who pitched the top of the 12th, was the pitcher of record for the O's, raising his record to 3-1 on the year. Rasmus took the loss, falling to 2-1.
The series continues on Wednesday night at 7:05. Kevin Gausman gets the start for the O's, while the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California will send Garrett Richards to the mound. The game will be on ESPN, if you can stand it.