A day after the Orioles lost a game in part because they didn't get enough of Zach Britton in the game, they nearly lost one in which there was way too much of Britton. Whether out of desperation to lock down a win or just because he was the freshest reliever, the O's went to Britton for a five out save against the Mariners. Things were entirely too interesting, yet when the dust settled, the O's were on top with a 3-2 win.
Baseball is a funny game sometimes. Really only four Orioles had good games on Monday. Since one of them was starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, they didn't end up needing a whole lot more than that. Good thing too. Three runs does not hold up in many games, but luckily for the Orioles, it was enough this time.
The Orioles struck first in the game, getting on the board in the top of the first inning against Mariners starter Vidal Nuno. Adam Jones announced his presence in Seattle with authority, blasting a home run to deep center field that some poor fan attempted to catch with his hat. The fan did end up catching the ball in the hat, but then he lost the hat and the ball. Jones' 18th home run of the year put the O's on top 1-0 early.
That lead did not last for long. Seattle outfielder Franklin Gutierrez led off the second inning with a home run of his own, his fifth of the season in only 27 games played. Gutierrez was basically the only Mariners player who had a good night, and yet that was nearly enough for the Mariners to at least tie the game late.
After the early homer, Chen settled down. Nuno ran into more problems, another difference in the game. The O's plated a second run in the fourth inning. Jones continued his Make Mariners Fans Miserable Tour 2015 in the fourth inning, grabbing a one out double. The next batter was Chris Davis... hold on a second, you need to see this.
If Chris Davis’ ridiculous mustache doesn’t get us on a roll, then nothing will. pic.twitter.com/1DED0q4fXG— Paul (@stomperspc) August 11, 2015
Well, Paul, I've got some good news for you. Davis hit a single that found its way into right field, where waited former Oriole Nelson Cruz. Jones came around third base chugging for home on the ball, with Cruz firing a missile back into the plate to try to nab Jones. The Bobby Dickerson windmill worked out in this case. The throw was just enough up the line that Jones had a chance to sneak in behind Seattle catcher Mike Zunino to put the O's back on top, 2-1.
After scoring, Jones stood up and pointed out to right field as if to tell his old teammate, "Nice try!"
Matt Wieters added another single to keep the rally going there. The next two batters, Jonathan Schoop and Junior Lake, were unable to do anything with that scoring chance. The Davis hit was the only one with runners in scoring position in the game, though the O's only had four chances to begin with.
Spurred on to glory by whatever is growing on his face, Davis added another run to the Orioles' tally in the sixth inning. Facing the fresh-out-of-the-bullpen Mayckol Guaipe, Davis said screw all this BABIP stuff and crushed a majestic, titanic, beautiful dong. That's home run #30 this season for Davis, also good for his 82nd RBI of the year, second only to Toronto's Josh Donaldson.
As it turned out, the insurance run proved to be crucial. There was no need for the third run while Chen was in the game, because he rocked. Chen cruised so much that manager Buck Showalter even brought him out to start the eighth inning with Chen having already thrown 97 pitches. Chen placed a sombrero on the head of one-time god-tier Yankees prospect and present day ice cream sandwich-thrower Jesus Montero before walking Mark Trumbo. It seemed like one man getting on base was what Showalter was waiting for.
The final line on Chen saw him give up only a run on three hits and two walks in 7.1 innings. In that time, he struck out five batters. That'll work.
When you absolutely, positively got to strike out everybody in the room
Showalter did not mess around with any inferior relievers. He went straight to the closer Britton. Why? I don't know why. A person could spin out a narrative about how he chose to go to Britton because he knew he needed a win tonight, dang it. That's one of those things that sounds pretty but is probably wrong.
Britton made Zunino look stupid before giving up a bad luck Baltimore chop into left field to Ketel Marte, who's really missing out on a branding opportunity by not wearing #1. So the tying run was at the plate, but no big deal - Britton just blew a pitch that registered 99 on the Seattle gun by Kyle Seager, then pulled the string with an 86 slider that dove away from Seager for the strikeout.
It was the ninth inning where things really got interesting. The inning began with a routine grounder by Cruz to shortstop J.J. Hardy. For only the second time all year, Hardy mucked up the play, allowing Cruz to reach and putting the tying run on the plate for the tandem of Robinson Cano and Franklin Gutierrez. Britton responded by getting an easy bouncer right back to Hardy, who, given a second chance, cleanly fielded and flipped to Schoop, who loaded his cannon arm and blasted the ball to first for the double play.
Down to one out. Easy, right? Not quite. Gutierrez hit a double to deep center that would have probably been a home run in many parks. Then, with Austin Jackson at the plate, Caleb Joseph suddenly forgot how to catch the ball. A wild pitch moved Gutierrez, an irrelevant run, to third base, and then as Jackson struck out swinging, a passed ball let Jackson reach base despite the strikeout. Gutierrez scored. That meant that Montero came to the plate representing the winning run.
At length, Britton was done messing around. He struck out Montero on three pitches, finally ending the game in a relatively brisk 2:36. In locking down five outs for his 28th save of the season, Britton threw 36 pitches. It would be a surprise to see him for the rest of the series. Hopefully the Orioles can win without him.
The Orioles have yet to either win or lose consecutive games in the month of August. They'll look to break that streak tomorrow against the Mariners. The 10:10 scheduled start will see Chris Tillman pitching for the O's, his first game back after a rolled ankle had him pushed back a couple of days. Taijuan Walker pitches for the Mariners; he has a 4.67 ERA on the season, essentially guaranteeing the O's a loss in Tuesday's game.