Hello there and welcome to a somewhat different Weekly Wrap. Since there were only three games that count this past week, I'll cover some items from those and also discuss how the Orioles fared on the national stage in the Home Run Derby and All Star game.
Results and Standings
The Orioles dropped two of three to the Nationals to head into the All-Star Break at 44-44, 3rd place in the AL East and four games back. They scored 9 runs and allowed 12 in the series. Their predicted final record fell to 82-80.
Have a Game, Why Don't Ya!
Jonathan Schoop hasn't been back from the DL that long, but he's already made an impact. On July 10th, the Orioles scratched out two runs against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez and a parade of relievers. Meanwhile, the Nationals eked out the same two runs against Orioles starter Chris Tillman. In the bottom of the 9th inning, Tanner Roark entered the game to try and keep it tied. He struck out Jimmy Paredes and J.J. Hardy on six pitches and started off Schoop with an 87 MPH slider for a called strike. His second pitch was the same slider but well below the zone; Schoop took it for ball one. Roark then fired a 97 MPH fastball just below the knees. It was below the zone, but umpire Mike Estabrook called it strike two. The fourth pitch was a slider that missed low and away to run the count to 2-2. The fifth pitch was yet another slider, but this time Schoop was ready. He swung and cracked a home run to walk off the game and open the series with a win.
Clutchiest Relief Performance
Schoop's heroic moment wouldn't have happened if Zach Britton hadn't shut the Nationals down 1-2-3 in the top half of the 9th. Britton got Ian Desmond to ground out on the first pitch before struggling a bit with Jose Lobaton, who worked an 8-pitch at-bat to 3-2 but ultimately ended up grounding out as well. The third batter, Tyler Moore, flew out to center fi-- no, wait, he grounded out as well. Surprise!
Birds on the National Stage
As I'm sure you know, the Orioles had four All Stars this year: Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Darren O'Day. Machado introduced the national audience to the 2015 Orioles by participating in the Home Run Derby. He started the night off with a 410-foot blast and followed that up with a whopping 455-foot shot. His longest was a 469-foot bomb. He totaled 12 home runs, but his opponent Joc Pederson, the young center fielder for the Dodgers, smacked 13 to win the round. Machado had Orioles assistant hitting coach Einar Diaz pitch to him.
The Orioles acquitted themselves well the next day in the All-Star game. First up was Adam Jones, starting in left field for the first time since 2007. In the top of the second inning he faced Dodgers ace Zack Greinke who'd already struck out two batters. Jones did the same, but not before taking the first two pitches for balls. In the fourth inning, he faced Giants ace Madison Bumgarner and flew out to right field on a 2-1 pitch. I give him props for going the other way.
Jones was pinch-hit for in the top of the 5th by Yankees nemesis Brett Gardner, but not before another Oriole entered the game. In that same inning, Manny Machado pinch-hit for Josh Donaldson against Clayton Kershaw, literally the best pitcher in the game. Kershaw used his fastball to get two quick strikes on Machado before turning to his slow, looping curveball. Machado fouled off the first bender but made solid contact with the second one, lifting it to left field where it was unfortunately caught. It was a good showing, hanging in there against the best pitcher in the game and hitting the ball on the nose.
In the bottom of the 6th, the American League was leading 3-1 when Andrew McCutchen homered on the first pitch he saw from Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer. Cincinnati hero Todd Frazier grounded out to third base before manager Ned Yost brought in Zach Britton to relieve. Britton struck out Bryce Harper but then made a mistake. He fielded a slow roller by Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and threw wide to Mark Teixeira at first base, getting charged with an error in the process. Yadier Molina then hit a clean single to center that advanced Goldschmidt into scoring position. The next batter up was Troy Tulowitzki, one of the best hitters in the game today. I was a little nervous that Britton would give up a run here. But he made Tulo look silly, getting him to ground into an easy fielder's choice at second base. Inning over.
Machado batted again in the top of the 7th and made his mark. Facing former teammate Francisco Rodriguez with no outs, Brock Holt on first base, and the American League up 3-2, Manny acquitted himself very well. The first pitch was a strike that he took, and he fouled off the second pitch for strike two. Two balls went by before Manny fouled off another pitch, then he took another ball to make the count 3-2. On the next pitch, Holt stole second, waiting until the catcher Molina had the ball before breaking for the bag.
Manny, not one to let an AL East rival steal his spotlight, fouled off one more pitch before doubling the other way to deep right-center field. Holt scored easily and the American League was up 4-2. Manny became the fifth run after Mark Teixeira advanced him to third on a groundout and Prince Fielder hit a sacrifice fly. He left the game in the top of the 9th when 2014 ALCS rival Mike Moustakas pinch-hit for him.
Sadly, Darren O'Day didn't get to play. But you know the saying: "It's an honor just to be selected."
The Orioles resume the season with three-game sets in Detroit and New York.