The Orioles welcomed back Matt Wieters tonight for his first game since May 10, 2014, and it appears that having his bat in the lineup was just what the doctor ordered. And speaking of doctors, Adam Jones seems to be heating up after a month-long slump as the two O's veterans led their team to a 5-2 victory.
Caleb Joseph performed admirably in Wieters's place, but he has been overworked and possibly overexposed, and the return of Wieters could probably help him in the long run. We all love Caleb, and for good reason, but the truth is I didn't realize how much I missed Wieters until I saw him tonight. I've thought for awhile that if the Orioles are going to turn things around, they are going to need Wieters to step up upon his return. And tonight was only one game, of course, but Wieters was right in the middle of the action, just as we needed him to be.
A first-inning pop out with two runners on was all the adjustment time that Wieters needed to get back in the groove of the big leagues. He came to the plate in the fourth inning with Chris Davis on first base and went the other way for a double over the head of the left fielder. Davis scored from first as the ball bounced around and Wieters cruised into second base, then came in to score in the inning thanks to the hot bat of Ryan Flaherty He also added a sacrifice fly to provide an insurance run in the eighth inning. Not a bad debut!
Speaking of good performances, it looks like Adam Jones is coming alive again. When he came to the plate in the sixth inning with the score tied 2-2, he tried to bunt his way onto base, but popped it foul and out of play. On the very next pitch he hit a no-doubt-about-it home run, his second in as many games. I tell you, if Jones is back at the plate and Wieters holds his own, this team will up their runs-per-game in no time. Jones also had an RBI triple later in the game, though it really should have been scored as a single. Jones smoked the pitch into the right-center corner, and I was shocked to see that right fielder Brandon Moss was in position to cut it off. But instead of playing it on one hop and getting it back in, Moss let it go past him. That knocked in Travis Snider (who also had two hits tonight).
And finally in the offense department is one Mr. Ryan "Flash" "Flahrt" "Mr. Kendrick" Flaherty. Flaherty's bat has been hot when he's not on the disabled list this year, and that continued tonight. He added two singles and an RBI in the win.
No time for love, Dr. Jones! We've got dingers to hit!
Tonight's starting pitcher was Chris Tillman, who was coming off of a terrible start last Sunday in what has been a disappointing season so far for the so-called staff ace. Tonight wasn't easy for him, but the end results were good and he certainly looked better than he has in other recent starts.
After the Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning, Tillman exasperated us all by walking the leadoff batter. I was convinced he was going to give up the lead, but he did not (in this inning, at least). In the fifth he was singled to death early in the inning and gave up a few very hard hit balls late in the inning, and ultimately gave up two runs to allow the Indians to tie the game. We've reached a point in the season where it feels like the starting pitcher needs to be almost perfect for the team to get the win, so those two runs at the time felt bigger than they probably were.
With the lead back at 3-2 thanks to Jones's home run in the top of the sixth, Tillman started the bottom of the inning by immediately giving up a double to David Murphy. Come on, Tillman! Thankfully the Orioles have an awesome shortstop and Murphy made a mistake on the basepaths. He went to third on a ground ball to J.J. Hardy, so Hardy threw to third and easily got the runner. Tillman then made a nifty play on a ground ball back to him, and induced a ground out to first base to end the inning.
After Tillman retired the #9 hitter to start the seventh inning, he was pulled for T.J. McFarland. Teej pitched a stress-free 1 2/3 innings, and Zach Britton followed that with his 15th save of the year to seal the win. Wieters had a little bit of trouble with a couple of Britton's sinking 97-mph fastballs, but I'll cut him some slack since they probably don't have many pitchers like that at Bowie.
O's win! That's two in a row, so if you haven't already, go celebrate!