This season certainly seems to be turning around. It took a little while, but the Orioles got their first sweep of the season tonight by beating the Red Sox. They've won four in a row now and six of their last seven. They're still one game under .500, but they haven't been there since last month. Maybe most importantly, they pushed the Red Sox down to a firm spot at the bottom of the division. The Red Sox are now seven games back in the division...this late in the season, that's going to be a tough hole for them to climb out of. Not exactly where the preseason favorites to take the division crown expected to be.
Things got off to a great start for the Orioles tonight. Chris Tillman didn't allow a baserunner through the first three innings. For those three innings at least, Tillman was looking good. The defense helped him out for some of the plays, but he looked much more like the pitcher we all expected him to be. It ended up being a somewhat short night for Tillman at 5.2 innings, but it wasn't a terrible one...something to build off of. It's possible Buck may have left him in longer but his pitch count escalated quickly because that's what the Red Sox do to pitchers. You could say its a good quality for a team to have, and it probably is, but it hasn't seemed to help them too much in the win/loss column.
The Orioles offense also got off to a strong start. Adam Jones hit a solo HR in the first, as his offense continues to show improvement after a slump in May. In the second inning, a series of base hits by Davis, Hardy, and Pearce gave the O's the 2-0 lead. Nolan Reimold got his first big league HR of the season to make it 3-0, and some hits by Jones and Young, along with some help from Wieters, made it 4-0 through three innings.
After all that though, the Red Sox started coming back. Chris Tillman loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fourth. We saw the Orioles work out of this jam twice in consecutive nights against the Rays a couple weeks ago, and after a fly out by David Ortiz, I kind of thought they might do it again. Unfortunately a sac fly by Napoli and a double by Pablo Sandoval put an end to that idea. The O's defense has been great in this series, and even though Reimold missed getting to the double by Sandoval, I'm not sure there was much more he could have done. The ball was in the perfect spot to evade Reimold and Jones, and Reimold sprinted at it the entire time. The inning would end with the score at 4-3.
But Manny Machado would extend the Orioles lead with a solo HR in the bottom of the fourth to make it 5-3. This is something the Orioles did a couple times tonight...the Red Sox would score, and the Orioles would get the run back. In the top of the sixth, the Red Sox would score again off Brad Brach (who relieved Tillman) to make it 5-4. And then in the bottom of the seventh, Manny Machado would score again after reaching second on an error and eventually a sac fly by Wieters. Of course, David Ortiz would make it a one run game again in the eighth with a solo HR.
The thing about having a great closer though, and Zach Britton is becoming a great closer, is that a one run lead is all you need. Zach Britton came in again for the save and got it easily. He did allow a single on a very close call that had to be reviewed, but struck out Dustin Pedroia for the third out. It was Britton's 17th save this season. He didn't get many opportunities early on, but is building that total quickly.
The Orioles look to keep their win streak going as the Yankees come to town this weekend. It's going to be tough - the Yankees are surprising everyone by actually being good. But it's the perfect opportunity to gain more ground in the division standings.