The Orioles beat the Blue Jays 2-1 tonight to take another series and go 3-1 on their short road trip. J.A. Happ mostly shut down the offense for eight innings, but a big two-run homer from Caleb Joseph made the difference.
Happ had a 4.25 ERA going into this game, but he pitched well against the Orioles in June, allowing just one run in six innings. He was even better against them tonight with only five hits allowed in eight innings and 12 strikeouts. Seriously, Orioles. He's not that good. It's perplexing how the Orioles tend to shut down against pitcher that other teams handle easily, but since the O's won tonight we'll set that aside.
It's not that the Orioles didn't have chances to score. They had runners on base in each of the first three innings. Nick Markakis doubled to start off the game and Manny Machado was hit by a pitch to put two runners on with no outs, but the O's couldn't do anything with it. Chris Davis doubled with one out in the second and was stranded. And a Markakis leadoff walk and Nelson Cruz two-out single were wasted in the third.
But in the fourth, they finally got the best of Happ. With J.J. Hardy on second base, Joseph hit a no-doubt-about-it home run to left field. It's the fourth home run in as many games for Joseph, something that's only been done by two other Orioles catchers (Ramon Hernandez and Gus Triandos). No O's catcher has homered in five straight games, so I look forward to seeing Caleb make history tomorrow night.
The two runs were all that the Orioles would get, as Happ retired the next fourteen Orioles before coming out of the game after eight innings. Thankfully, two runs were enough. Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez didn't have his best night, but he managed to get through six innings. He only gave up four hits and two walks, but he had trouble putting batters away efficiently. Eight of the 24 batters he faced saw at least five pitches, and four of those batters saw between seven and ten pitches each.
Gonzalez got a lucky break in the fourth inning when Colby Rasmus hit a ball that went over the right-field fence for an automatic double with two outs. Danny Valencia was on first base and likely would have scored easily if the ball hadn't jumped the fence. But it did, so he had to stop at third. Gonzalez got Ryan Goins to fly out for the third out, stranding Valencia.
The only other trouble Gonzalez had was with Anthony Gose, who hit his own no-doubt home run to start the fifth inning. That cut the lead to 2-1, but MiGo retired the next five batters to end his night. His final pitching line was 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB 4 K, 1 HR. He threw 104 pitches.
The bullpen needed to pitch three innings without allowing a run for the Orioles to win, and they did just that. Andrew Miller, Darren O'Day, and Zach Britton each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the game for the Birds. Miller and Britton were perfect, and O'Day allowed one baserunner as he walked Jose Bautista. Ball four was a very close pitch that had me saying, "Come on, ump!" from my living room, but when I checked the pitch f/x, it was indeed a touch outside. Regardless, the walk didn't hurt anything as O'Day got the next batter easily.
With the win the Orioles again give themselves a five-game lead in the A.L. East. The Yankees won today so they are also five games behind the Orioles. The O's return home tomorrow to face the St. Louis Cardinals. The game will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Orioles with throwback uniforms, Hall of Famers, a laser show, and hopefully another O's win.
*I'm counting the entire Nationals series as one, because I don't know how else to do it with the rainouts and such. If you count the one game on Monday against the Nationals as a series, it's six straight, but that just seems wrong.