The Orioles did something tonight that they have only done one other time this season, which is win their third game in a row. That means that tomorrow they'll get a chance to do something brand new for 2015: win four games in a row. Their win tonight was thanks to some outstanding defense and an awakening of bats as the Orioles scored 5 runs off of starting pitcher Rick Porcello.
Starter Wei-Yin Chen didn't have his best stuff, and on another night he might have been knocked around for five or so runs and out of the game in the third inning. But tonight was not another night. Tonight was the night of amazing defense.
The second inning of tonight's game was one of the most enjoyable single innings of baseball that I can recall watching in awhile. That's counting both the top and bottom halves, both of which were exciting for Orioles fans. Let's start with the top of the inning, which was a showcase of defense, though not a great inning for Chen.
First up was Xander Bogaerts, who hit a line drive over the head of Adam Jones in center field. Jones played it perfectly and fired back to second base to nab Bogaerts. The initial call was safe, but after a quick review it was overturned. It was a fantastic play by Jones on what looked like a no-doubt double. On the very next pitch we saw what looked like it might be another two-bagger, this time off the bat of Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval went the other way down the third base line, where Travis Snider fielded it in foul territory and gunned the ball in to tag out the slow Panda as he flopped into second base.
Just as the Red Sox knocked around Chen in the second inning, so did the Orioles knock around Sox starter Rick Porcello. The difference was that the Red Sox did not have an awesome defense to bail out their starting pitcher. First up was Chris Davis, who did the very thing so many fans have wished for over the last two seasons: he bunted against the shift. He probably would have been safe on the bunt, but for chuckles the catcher and pitcher tripped over each other as both tried to field it.
After Davis was wiped out on a force out and Travis Snider grounded out, the Orioles had Delmon Young on second base with two outs. Porcello was almost out of trouble, but then J.J. Hardy lined a double to left field. That knocked in Young, then Hardy came in to score on a single from Ryan Flaherty. Caleb Joseph struck out to end the inning, but the Orioles were up 2-0.
Both Chen and Porcello continued to look kind of crappy in the third inning as each team scored a run, then exchanged zeroes through the fourth and fifth innings. That's not to say either pitcher looked good; Chen had a walk and needed another outstanding catch from Jones to do so, and the Orioles were lining pitches all over the place that didn't fall in.
Showalter called on Tommy Hunter to get out the jam, and he did everything he needed to get the job done, but finally the defense faltered. After Hunter struck out Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli hit a ground ball to Hardy at shortstop that looked like a for sure double play. But on the relay Ryan Flaherty botched the throw. It bounced in front of Davis and took a nasty hop past him. The most frustrating thing was that Flaherty had all the time in the world to make the throw as Napoli isn't exactly a speedy guy.
So the inning wasn't over and a run scored, but Hunter got the next batter to ground out to end the inning. Hunter went on to pitch a perfect seventh inning as well, looking good while doing it.
In the bottom of the sixth inning those hard hit balls against Porcello finally started falling in. Davis hit a single that bounced high off of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field, then Young and Snider followed with singles of their own. Davis scored on Young's single, and after Young moved to third base on Snider's hit, he was knocked in by a long fly ball out from J.J. Hardy. Porcello was then, sadly, taken out of the game and the Orioles didn't score again.
After Hunter finished his nice night on the mound, Darren O'Day came in and pitched the final two innings to collect his second save of the year. It was a very fine night for both relief pitchers.
O's win, 5-2! Tomorrow they send Chris Tillman to the mound to try and collect their fourth win in a row and their first sweep of the season.