After the Orioles were swept by the last-place Chicago Cubs to complete their first losing road trip of the season, they needed a win like tonight. Everything worked well for them in this game. But while they got the home runs tonight, and they got the pitching, what people will be talking about is the catch made by Adam Jones in the sixth inning. He not only robbed Evan Longoria of a three-run home run, he also threw out Matt Joyce trying to tag up and go to second. It was a thing of beauty. So before we go any further, let's have a look:
Are you finished swooning? OK then, let's move on.
Jones made that catch in support of starting pitcher Chris Tillman, who had been pitching a strong game but started the top of the sixth inning a little rusty. Prior to that he had looked good through five innings, though his defense had let him down in the third as he gave up his only run of the night. In that inning Yunel Escobar reached on an infield single that would have been a fantastic play by J.J. Hardy if first baseman Steve Pearce could have hung on to the ball. And on the next play, Jonathan Schoop muffed a catch at second, again thrown by Hardy. That error put runners on first and third with no outs for the Rays. Tillman induced a double play ball from Sean Rodriguez that allowed the unearned run to score from third.
The Orioles didn't allow the unearned run to matter for long. In the bottom of the third inning Nick Markakis broke an 0-for-21 skid with a two-run home run into the Eutaw Street seats. And the next batter, Pearce, hit a no-doubt bomb to left field to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
Jake Odorizzi, who started for the Rays, wasn't sharp at all tonight. The O's broke the game open in the fifth inning as they sent ten batters to the plate and scored six runs. The highlight of the inning was back-to-back-to-back jacks that started with an Earl Weaver Special from Delmon Young followed by solo homers from Hardy and Chris Davis. When the dust cleared, the Orioles had a 9-1 lead and had knocked Odorizzi out of the game after just four innings plus five batters.
As you would imagine, a ten-batter inning in which six runs are scored takes awhile. As such, Tillman had quite some time on the bench while the offense was racking up hits. That brings us back to Tillman's rustiness, which brings us back to Jones's catch.
Pinch hitter Brandon Guyer singled to left field, the third hit allowed by Tillman and the first to leave the infield. Tillman followed that with a walk to Matt Joyce, and while the game didn't feel in danger on account of the eight-run lead, it was starting to look like Tillman might not last much longer. That especially seemed true when Longoria hit a ball to center field that looked like it might get into the O's bullpen for a three-run home run. The amazing catch by Jones and even more impressive throw to second base to tag out Joyce thwarted the rally. Tillman got a ground out from James Loney to end the inning, then pitched a perfect seventh inning to end his night on the mound.
With only 84 pitches thrown, Tillman surely could have gone at least one more inning. But with neither Zach Britton or Darren O'Day appearing in the series against the Cubs, Buck Showalter opted to give each of them an inning of work to close out the game. They did so without drama.
The feelgood win halts a three-game losing streak and while they didn't increase their division lead (the Yankees also won), they did shave their magic number to 28.