The baseball season is long. It's 162 games over six months. It's a daily grind. Teams get hot, teams get cold. Less teams qualify for the post-season than any of the four major sports, and that's true even if you count the 2nd wild card team. Most of the games played over the course of the season will turn out to be meaningless. So if you're a baseball fan, you watch for moments. The Orioles haven't had a whole lot of those moments this season. Jonathan Schoop's walkoff home run against the Nationals last week was a a moment. The doubleheader shutout of the Indians a few weeks back was another. And tonight, Chris Tillman out-dueling David Price brought us a moment.
Simply put, Tillman was fantastic tonight. His line was 8IP, 1H, 1BB, 8K, 0ER. Is that the best line by an O's starter this season? Maybe - I'm not going to go back and check. If not though, its very close. What's more amazing though is that it happened while one of the best offenses in the game was putting up their ace in their home field. Price wasn't bad either. If not for a Manny Machado home run that just barely stayed fair, it might have been a very different game heading into the ninth inning. Fortunately, tonight was our night. The ball stayed fair. The Orioles scored two more runs in the top of the ninth, but they weren't needed. The Tigers couldn't even come close.
Even though the 1st inning featured a TOOTBLAN by Manny, the Orioles still ran Price up for 22 pitches in the inning - a good sign. The bottom of the first featured the most action the Tigers would get all night. Ian Kinsler would single and get to third on a wild pitch, but couldn't score. Victor Martinez also drew a walk in the inning, but no runs would come around.
Machado's homer came in the third inning. Very little would happen after. For a game that only lasted about three hours, it sure felt like longer.
In the top of the sixth Adam Jones would get a leadoff double that was very close to a home run. Why is the side of the fence painted yellow? Shouldn't the point of the yellow stripe be to clearly draw the line between a ball in play and a home run? Why doesn't every ball park have a painted line on the top of their fences? If it hits the line or behind it - home run. The ball hits in the front of the line - in play. Much like the foul poles at the corners, this seems like it would greatly simplify these close calls.
In the top of the ninth the Orioles would add some insurance runs after base hits by Hardy and Schoop. With them on second and third, Caleb Joseph hit a shallow fly ball to center field that Anthony Gose almost caught, but didn't. The ball hit his glove, it doesn't get closer. But tonight, the baseball gods were kind to the Orioles - Gose missed the grab and Hardy and Schoop both scored. After that, Manny Machado would hit a ground rule double, but it was initially called a ball in play. Joseph, who was on 1st, rounded third because Windmill was waving him around. Had the ball actually been in play, he would have been out by about
3 miles 10 feet. But upon further review, the call was changed to a ground rule double and Joseph got to go back to third...the Windmill survives to windmill another day. Not that it mattered much - no further runs would score. The Orioles got what they needed though and went into the bottom of the ninth up 3-0.
Zach Britton, All-Star Closer, would come in for the bottom of the ninth and shut the Tigers down 1-2-3. That made 26 straight Tigers batters retired. Should Tillman have come out for the ninth to get the complete game? If the O's were in a better position the standings, I'd say yes. But when you're below .500 after the AS break you don't take chances. Buck made the right call here.
There were other moments in this game - Machado with a great throw to first base to get Cespedes out in the 1st. Schoop with a terrific catch of a line drive in the 8th. Those happen all the time with these guys though. But Tillman pitching like that tonight - in a game the Orioles desperately needed to win while going up against one of the league's best pitchers? That's not a game moment, it's a season one.