When a starting pitcher comes into a game sporting a 9.88 ERA, they don't have to do a great job to seem impressive. I think Albert Einstein came up with that theory. Whatever its origin, it worked in Bud Norris' favor on Sunday afternoon. The other thing working in Norris' favor was the Orioles offense, which for one day at least remembered how to get hits, walks, and score runs. They beat the Indians, 7-3, in the rubber game of the series to come out of Cleveland with a series win.
It's amazing how much easier it is to win a baseball game when you score seven runs. The O's got started with a run in the top of the first against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco. Going into the game, they'd hit home runs in 21 of their 25 wins, so when Adam Jones blasted his tenth homer of the year with two outs in the inning to give the O's a 1-0 lead, that's about as good of a sign as you can hope for.
Norris avoided the Chris Tillman plan of letting a bunch of guys on base after he got a little lead. Actually, he sent the first three Indians down in order, and struck out the side in the second inning as well, though there was a walk and a single in there. A 1-2-3 inning followed in the third as well. For whatever reason, early in the game, Norris looked nothing like the guy who got lit up in spring training, in the regular season, and in his first couple of rehab starts.
Scoring in multiple innings = success
Orioles hitters even refreshed their memory that it's possible to score runs in more than one inning in a single baseball game. They got a two-out rally started in the top of the fourth inning when Jimmy Paredes, who's been ice cold of late, hit a single. J.J. Hardy followed with another single. Ryan Flaherty, the secret admirer of Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick (this is probably not actually true, but it would be cool if it was), worked a walk to load the bases. Hey, walks are cool!
So that was bases loaded with two outs. Options for scoring runs are much constrained with two outs. Manny Machado found one way, chopping a crappy grounder that was so bad that the only way Cleveland third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall could play it was to try to bare-hand it mid-air to throw out Machado. He was not successful in doing so. Paredes scored and the O's had another run.
The bases were still loaded for Travis Snider, the best .688 OPS #2 hitter in all of baseball. To Snider's credit, Carrasco gave him a pitch to hit and he drove a single to center, scoring two runs, though it was only an alert wide slide by Flaherty that kept the Windmill from claiming another victim. Snider got two RBI on this play but went 1-5 on the day, so now he's actually the best .677 OPS #2 hitter in all of baseball. The Orioles now led 4-0.
Staked to that four-run lead, Norris allowed back-to-back doubles to start the bottom of the fourth inning. That's not how you do it, Bud! He also hit the Governor of Brohio (Nick Swisher) with a pitch, which thankfully did not trigger any response by the Brohio Secret Service. There was no one out and the tying run was at the plate. Norris saddled up and struck out the next two batters before getting Michael Bourn to bounce to short to end the inning.
A unicorn is spotted
We've seen plenty of games where the O's seem like they fold up the tents after getting a few runs. This was not such a game. They added another run in the fifth inning thanks to the most sacred of unicorns, a Matt Wieters triple. Wieters led off the inning by hitting a ball over right fielder Brandon Moss's head. When it bounced off the wall, Moss misplayed the carom horribly, and Wieters, who'd essentially stopped at second base, gathered a head of steam and continued to third base. Good thing there's a day off tomorrow.
After Carrasco was pulled from the game, having worked only four innings plus one batter, Chris Davis followed with a warning track fly ball that was able to score Wieters and give the O's a 5-1 lead.
Norris had another couple of runners on base in the bottom of the fifth inning but he escaped without any damage done. Whether because he'd only last pitched on Wednesday, or just because Buck Showalter didn't want to take any chances, Norris came out of the game after the fifth, having thrown only 85 pitches. He gave up a run on four hits and two walks while striking out seven. That's not great, but it works.
Cleveland got another run in the seventh inning, in which the O's ended up using three relievers. Chaz Roe, who pitched a scoreless sixth, gave up a one-out single and was pulled for lefty T.J. McFarland with a couple of lefties due up. McFarland retired neither lefty, giving up a single and a walk to load the bases. The revolving door kept spinning, with Tommy Hunter entering next.
Hunter did not go boom. He got Ryan Raburn to ground out, which scored a run, the first charged to Roe this year, and struck out Moss to end the inning.
Wieters led off the ninth inning by crushing his first home run of the season. He was a single and a double short of the cycle. Through three games, Wieters is batting .417 and slugging .917. They really need him to hit well.
The O's are off tomorrow, although it'll still be a crucial day for the franchise's future, since it is the first day of the MLB Draft. They'll be picking three times tomorrow. The next game is Tuesday back in Baltimore against the Red Sox. Miguel Gonzalez and, yes, Eduardo Rodriguez are the currently scheduled starters.