On April 25th, 2015, Baltimore erupted. The unrest that had been brewing in the city turned into violence that Saturday afternoon, and the violence brought itself right to the doorstep of Oriole Park. Before the events of this April, it was easy to forget that baseball really doesn't mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. Apparently it's even hard to forget now, which leads to garbage like this article in the Baltimore Sun pleading for Chris Davis to save the city. The thing is, I'm not remotely qualified to write about everything else that went on that day in any sort of public space. I'm not even going to try, because if I did I might end up posting some complete and utter nonsense like that Sun article. But what I am qualified to write about is baseball. The events outside the gates are what most people will remember about April 25th, but overshadowed by those events (as it should have been) was a really good baseball game. It was a night I'll never forget.
The O's came into this one riding a five-game losing streak that dropped their record for the season to 7-10. The pitching match-up on this night was Wei-Yin Chen vs. Justin Masterson. The good guys struck first right off the bat - Alejandro de Aza led off the game for the O's with a double over the head of Mookie Betts in center, and Jimmy Paredes, still in the midst of going bananas at the beginning of the year, followed him with an RBI double to the left field corner. Paredes moved to third on an Adam Jones swinging bunt, and a sac fly by Chris Davis gave the Birds a 2-run lead.
That lead didn't last for long. Wei-Yin Chen is good, but he's always had a knack for immediately giving up momentum-killing runs as soon as the Orioles score. This night was no different. Chen walked Hanley Ramirez on four pitches, then threw a fastball right down the pipe to Mike Napoli that got smashed for a home run off the right-field foul pole. Just like that, the game was tied. The Red Sox tried to take the lead in the top of the fourth, but Hanley Ramirez tried to score from second on an Allen Craig single to shallow left with two outs. Even a soft two-hopped throw by De Aza couldn't save him, and Ramirez was thrown out easily on a play where a better throw would've gotten him by 20 feet.
In the bottom of the fifth, the tie was broken by - who else - Jimmy Paredes. The Orioles' DH took a first-pitch hanging curveball and knocked it into the right field seats for his third homer of the year. Paredes ended up 4-5 on the day, bringing his batting average up to .400 and his OPS to 1.219. Sigh. Anyways, that 3-2 score held up until the ninth thanks to what ended up being an excellent 8-inning start by Chen.
Zach Britton came in to close out the game, but this was one of those handful of nights in 2015 where BABIP and bad luck got the best of him. After walking Dustin Pedroia and striking out David Ortiz, two consecutive infield singles loaded the bases. Funny how balls always seem to find a hole after you walk the leadoff guy. Britton got the ground ball he needed, but Manny Machado threw wide on what should've been a game-ending 5-3 double play.
The O's went down quickly in the bottom of the ninth, and Brad Brach came in for the tenth. On the very first pitch he threw, Xander Bogaerts hit a towering fly ball into the left field seats to put Boston on top, 4-3. Koji Uehara came in for the save, and Adam Jones led off the inning. He hit a looping line drive to right field that should've been a single at best, but Allen Craig did the one thing you can't do in that situation: he dove, turning a single into a triple. Next came Chris Davis, who hit a deep fly ball to left field, and just like that the game was tied.
That brought up David Lough, who had entered the game earlier as a pinch runner. This prompted a friend I was with at the game to start joking about the idea of David Lough hitting a walk-off homer. No one seriously thought it would happen, but Koji did his best to change that by throwing this pitch:
Oh my God, Koji. https://t.co/LDQI08YwZw— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) April 26, 2015
That'll do it. Koji made a mistake but Lough, to his credit, didn't miss. He ripped the ball onto the flag court for a walk-off homer. It was one hell of a game, and one the Orioles badly needed after losing five in a row. I'm not going to act like this win affected a single thing about what was happening in Baltimore that week, because it didn't. But it was a terrific baseball game, and one I'll never forget. April 25th will always be remembered mostly for what was going on around the stadium, not inside it. But even if it was played on a different day, this game would still have been remembered as one of the best of the season for the 2015 Orioles.