After the shenanigans of last night's game, it was nice to see a solid, low-stress win from the Orioles tonight. The offense did what we've come to expect, hitting three home runs in the win, and starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was fantastic, pitching his first career complete game, and making it a shutout to boot.
Both offenses started off quietly tonight, but only one stayed that way through the entire game. Dylan Axelrod, starting pitcher for the Reds, retired the first eight Orioles he faced before Jonathan Schoop stepped to the plate with two outs in the third inning. Schoop has had a hot bat lately, and just yesterday he hit a bomb that landed in the Reds' bullpen. You don't often see home runs to the opposing team's bullpen, because that is really far away. Schoop's home run yesterday was measured at 434 feet, the third-longest home run at Camden Yards this year.
Why am I spending so much time talking about a home run that happened yesterday? Because Schoop did it again today! He took Axlerod deep in his first at bat and hit another home run that was too high and too far for Tommy Hunter to catch from the O's bullpen. This one measured 446 feet and is the longest home run hit at Camden Yards in 2014. The Reds in the bullpen refused to touch Schoop's homer; instead they covered it with a towel. That homer gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead, and it turned out that was the only run they needed.
They didn't stop there, though. David Lough started the game in center field with Adam Jones getting some rest in the DH spot tonight. Lough has been hitting a little lately (when he's actually allowed to play) and he did his part to show that he belongs with the slugging Orioles. He hit a home run of his own into the Eutaw Street seats to lead off the fourth inning. A few batters later Chris Davis joined the party, blasting a two-run shot to make the score 4-0 Orioles. Is Chris Davis finally starting to heat up? For realsies this time? Please, let it be so.
The final two runs that the O's scored came in the seventh inning, also thanks to Schoop. Relief pitcher Carlos Contreras came into the game and had no control. He walked the first two batters he faced, J.J. Hardy and Kelly Johnson. Both runners moved up on a fly ball out by Joseph, and came into score on a pretty double down the left field line from Schoop.
Speaking of Caleb Joseph, there was a scary moment in the fifth inning when he went chasing after a foul pop up near the O's dugout. When his feet hit the rubber on-deck circle they slipped and went flying out from under him. He flew into the camera well, just missing hitting his head on the pole and landing on his lower back. He wasn't hurt and everything was fine, but it could have been bad. Our leader, Buck Showalter, was having no more of that. He started barking orders at bat boys and by the next inning, the rubber on-deck circles on both sides of the field were gone. You'll just have to stand on the warning track now, boys.
I've barely mentioned Miguel Gonzalez yet, but perhaps I'm saving the best for last. This was possibly the finest start of MiGo's young career, as he was in control and efficient with his pitches throughout. Through the first four innings the Reds managed just one baserunner when Ramon Santiago walked in the third inning. Their first hit came with one out in the fifth inning, a single by Ryan Ludwick. Gonzalez coolly worked around it and Ludwick didn't move beyond first base.
The only bit of trouble that Gonzalez faced was in the eighth inning. Ludwick started the inning and reached on an error by Chris Davis. The ball took a nasty hop and he couldn't get a handle on it. Thankfully, that error didn't affect the game the way errors have of late. Skip Schumaker followed with a single that put runners on first and second, putting two runners on with no outs. MiGo got the next two batters, but then Jason Bourgeois hit a liner to J.J. Hardy's right at shortstop. Hardy managed to get a glove on it, but couldn't haul it in. With the bases loaded and two outs, you might have been remembering that grand slam that O'Day gave up last night. But never fear, because Gonzalez got a ground out to end the inning.
Gonzalez was at 96 pitches after eight innings, and Showalter sent him back out to get his first career complete game. Jay Bruce tried to mess things up with a two-out single, but Gonzalez came back to get Ryan Ludwick on a ground out to end the game.
What a night for Gonzalez. He was the recipient of the first pie the Orioles have dished out in awhile (I guess they save them for really special occasions now), and was a little emotional on the sidelines as he remembered his only other complete game, when he was playing for the double-A Arkansas Travelers in 2007. You've come a long, MiGo! Cheers to you!