A familiar story for the Orioles played out at the start of Friday night's game. Their starting pitcher got blasted early, a lead that seemed like it must surely be insurmountable with how they've been hitting lately. They got nothing for a few innings against a struggling starter and started to rally... where the script flipped was that the O's bullpen held the line and the Orioles offense did what it does against Detroit's bullpen: Scored tons of runs. When all was said and done it was the O's who were on top, 8-7.
The game had the feeling of one of THOSE games from the very beginning. Many games feel this way. Three batters into the game, Wei-Yin Chen had allowed a double and two singles, including a comebacker that struck him, and the Orioles trailed 1-0 before an out had even been recorded. Oh, no. Nothing good comes from this. Except in the year 2015 when Victor Martinez is the next batter, and that was the case. Martinez obliged by grounding into a double play and Chen struck out J.D. Martinez to move things along.
His struggles did not cease there. The particulars are too painful to relate, but let's just fast forward to the conclusion, when Chen began the top of the fourth inning by surrendering back-to-back home runs to bottom-of-the-order hitters James McCann and Jefry Marte, which sent the Orioles into a 6-0 deficit. Two batters later, after a single by Rajai Davis, Chen was out of there, punted from the game after giving up six runs on 10 hits in only 3.1 innings of work. Yeah, he walked none and struck out six, but ten hits in a game is bad any way you slice it.
There was nothing to say about bad luck for Chen, either. He was just bad. He left the Orioles with what felt like an insurmountable deficit - to me, anyway. The Orioles hitters had some other things to say.
It took until the fourth inning for the O's offense to put a run on the board, this despite Tigers starter Buck Farmer coming into the game with an ERA of 9.22. Even the first run they scored only plated thanks to an error by Marte, the first baseman, who simply whiffed on a ball that hopped past him. That allowed Matt Wieters to score from second base to leave the O's trailing "only" 6-1 after four innings.
The fifth inning started quietly enough, David Lough grounding out to second base, but then Farmer lost control of his pitchs and the game. He issued a leadoff walk to Manny Machado. Jimmy Paredes singled, putting two men on base for Adam Jones, who is awesome even on a bad day, and Friday was not a bad day. Jones blasted a pitch into the Orioles bullpen to cut the deficit to 6-4. That was it for Farmer, chased after 4.1 innings after giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits.
Death, taxes, and the Tigers bullpen sucks
Nothing could be more heartening than the sight of the bullpen door swinging open and a Tigers reliever strolling in. When the O's forced the Tigers to tap their relievers in the fifth inning of the game, you had to have a feeling something good might happen, and sure enough, it did. Lefty Ian Krol gave up a single to lefty Chris Davis, the first batter he faced, then walked Matt Wieters. Just like that, the tying run was on base for J.J. Hardy.
Hardy hit a little chopper to the third base side, which Krol fielded before wildly firing a throw in the general direction of first base. The errant throw skipped away, allowing Davis to score and Wieters to get to third. The play, scored a single, extended Hardy's hitting streak to 14 games. Krol got out of the jam with no further damage, but the score was only 6-5. It was only a matter of time.
That time came in the very next inning. With the Tigers having traded their closer, Joakim Soria, that meant there was space in the bullpen. The space was taken up by a reliever, Jose Valdez, who was called on to make his major league debut after Krol walked Lough to begin the bottom of the sixth inning. No big deal, Valdez, you've just got to get out Machado to start your career.
Instead of get Machado out, what he did instead was serve up the go-ahead home run to put the Orioles ahead, 7-6. That was Machado's 22nd home run of the season. Every time he hits a home run it's a career high for him. He's the man. Give him all the money.
Two batters later, poor Valdez still hadn't gotten anyone out and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had seen enough, pulling him from the game with an ERA of infinite and no batters retired. This was the greatest Valdez-related disaster since the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. By the time it was over, the Orioles were up, 8-6.
They shall Roe the day
With Chen getting bounced early, the Orioles had a pair of freshly called-up relievers who were asked to do real yeoman's work. Mike Wright had to enter in the fourth inning of the game, and when he was pulled after an inning due to a left calf cramp, Mychal Givens, who woke up today as a member of the Bowie Baysox, had to come on for a while. Givens flashed some potential that showed why the O's apparently labeled him untouchable. The two of these guys combined for 2.2 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed.
Things got hairy again with Chaz Roe pitching in the seventh inning. Jose Iglesias greeted Roe with a single and he gave up a double to Kinsler that nearly rolled all the way to the wall. In center field, Jones made a great slide to get in front of the ball and fired in to Jonathan Schoop, who fired in turn to Matt Wieters, allowing Wieters to tag out Iglesias, attempting to score on the play. Thanks for the free out!
Darren O'Day and Zach Britton combined to close the door, neither one making you sweat much even if the tying run did end up on base at different points in time.
The Tigers out-hit the Orioles, 16-11, in the game, and outhomered them, 3-2. The Orioles were helped by two unearned runs that proved crucial in the outcome of the contest. Their starting pitching in the non-Chris Tillman department really needs to get things together heading into August. For tonight, don't worry about it. The Orioles are winners.
The Yankees are blowing out the White Sox, so the O's won't gain any ground there, but the Twins have already lost to Seattle, putting the O's back within a game of the second wild card spot. The Tigers await again tomorrow, a 7:05pm scheduled start with Anibal Sanchez and Kevin Gausman as the starting pitchers.