On Friday night, as the Orioles celebrated their 60th anniversary season against the team from St. Louis, from whence they came in 1954, Orioles greats from near and far into the past were in the house to witness some modern day Orioles greatness. Maybe the O's wanted to put on a show for the franchise legends, or maybe they were just better than the Cardinals. They rode a parade of home runs to a convincing 12-2 victory.
Something magic happens every time you go. Sometimes if you're really lucky, you get more than one dose of magic. That was the kind of stuff the Orioles brought to the yard on Friday night, which, when you get down to it, is even better than milkshakes.
In the first inning of the game, the Orioles loaded the bases with no one out after a pair of singles and a hit batsman. This was a promising start that ended up turning into nothing. Cardinals starter Justin Masterson tightened things up, getting back-to-back strikeouts of Chris Davis and Nelson Cruz, the nominal heart of the order. After J.J. Hardy grounded out, the threat was over and the Orioles ended the inning empty-handed, with nothing to show for their trouble.
This is the kind of failure that can set the tone for a whole night. Or maybe, just maybe, it made them angry. Starting in the bottom of the second inning, the Orioles got their revenge. Though they say it's best served cold, it turns out that in baseball it's pretty good when revenge is warm too. Ryan Flaherty, of all people, got the party started, with a single. He was bunted to second by David Lough. Bunts are frustrating even when somewhat tactically sound. But with Flaherty in scoring position, Nick Hundley deposited a single into right field, scoring Flaherty for the first Orioles run.
After a Nick Markakis walk, the O's once again had two runners on. How would they squander it this time? Manny Machado went ahead and killed the rally - with his 12th home run of the season, a blast that soared into the Cardinals bullpen despite the best efforts of designated home run catcher Tommy Hunter. Just like that the score was 4-0.
Unlike some games where the Orioles score early and then go to sleep for the rest of the game, the Orioles kept piling things on in front of the near-sellout crowd of 43,743 fans who were there for fireworks, lasers, and Orioles greats. They got to see something special before the ceremony even began.
J.J. Hardy got himself in on the home run party to start off the bottom of the third inning, extending the Orioles lead to a measly 5-0. The bottom of the order managed to load the bases again, but the top of the order squandered it. Oh no! What if they regretted not getting those runs later?
Nope. Not this time. The home runs just kept coming and coming. Hardy homered again the very next inning, this time with two men on. It was 8-0 after Hardy's sixth homer of the year. An inning later, Adam Jones got in on the fun, blasting a ball into the left field seats for his 22nd home run of the season.
There was still more to come. Davis led off the sixth with a home run of his own, #20 on the year and #150 of his MLB career. Hardy walked, because why would they want to pitch to him? All that did was put a man on for Flaherty, who joined the parade with a two-run home run to left, his fifth of the year, putting the Orioles up by a 12-0 score after six innings.
While all of this was going on, O's starter Chris Tillman was pitching a gem of a game. He carried the shutout into the seventh inning before finally running out of steam. Tillman got two outs into the inning before giving up a home run to A.J. Pierzynski, his first blast as a Cardinal. The lead was still double digits: 12-2.
Tillman left to a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd. He was deserving of that kind of reception, as he only gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in 6.2 innings, while striking out seven batters. Tillman brought his season ERA down to 3.73 with this outing.
For the Orioles, the game marked the first time they'd hit six or more home runs as a team since September 26, 2012, a game in which they pasted the Blue Jays, 12-2. The last time they hit exactly six home runs was September 6, 2012 against the Yankees - another special game in Orioles history. That was Cal Ripken statue night. It felt like it could have been the playoffs that September night. That was the kind of atmosphere in the stadium on Friday night as well.
Every Orioles starter had a hit. Most had more than one. They had 15 hits in total and scored ten or more runs for the first time since April 24, when they scored 11 against Toronto. Hopefully they saved some for tomorrow. The Orioles preserved their MLB-best division lead of five games. They won their 66th game of the year, which is as many as they won in all of 2010.
Saturday afternoon's game has a scheduled first pitch of 4:05. Ubaldo Jimenez is expected to be activated from the disabled list to make the start for the Orioles. He'll be opposed by John Lackey of St. Louis.