The Orioles won a game on Friday night in which all of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado hit home runs. There is nothing surprising about it when you put it like that, but it was a wild ride before things got to the end. When the smoke cleared from the best O's fireworks show of the year, they were winners over the Athletics, 8-6, in a 13-inning game that took nearly four and a half hours to play.
If the game was a rollercoaster ride, it was one that started out by dipping down almost right away. The Athletics got on the board first in the second inning, pulling together a BABIP dragon-aided two-out rally that saw a run score on the absolute cheapest bloop single to center field off the bat of Coco Crisp that you can imagine.
The situation almost got worse than that except after the next batter, Marcus Semien, singled almost to the same spot, Oakland designated Billy Butler rounded third base and chugged home. Butler is not fleet-footed Achilles. He was cut down at the plate, but still the O's trailed 1-0.
The no-hitter streak ends
You didn't have to sweat long wondering if the Orioles would get something stupid like getting no-hit in back-to-back games. J.J. Hardy broke the drought with a two-out single in the bottom of the second inning. Nolan Reimold, perhaps nervously noticing the continuing DFA scythe swinging through the corner outfield, followed with a single, but the O's did not end up scoring here. Junior Lake flew out harmlessly to right field to end the inning.
Against O's starter Ubaldo Jimenez, the Athletics were once again beneficiaries of batted ball luck in the top of the fourth inning. Crisp sliced an opposite-field double just out of the reach of Machado, which set the Athletics up with runners on second and third base with two outs. Jimenez walked Semien before center fielder Billy Burns chopped a cheap infield grounder that ended up being fielded by Manny Machado almost in front of second base.
Machado had no play at first base, but Crisp inexplicably tried to score from second on the play and Machado alertly fired home, where Crisp was tagged out like a nincompoop. The Orioles, nonetheless, trailed 2-0 at this point, and would fall further into the hole before all was said and done. Yet another luckily-sliced double by Josh Reddick in the fifth inning was followed by a Stephen Vogt home run - the one really damaging hit that Jimenez gave up all night.
When the book closed on Jimenez, he'd only pitched five innings, giving up four runs on nine hits and two walks. That doesn't look so good, but believe me, the odds of batted balls were not in his favor, and his night could have looked a whole lot better if a few balls went a few inches differently.
The Orioles remember they're facing Brad Mills
For the most part,the Orioles sucked at the plate until the fifth inning. A promising two on, none out rally in the fourth was snuffed out quickly by a Hardy double play, but in the fifth they finally struck. Lake led off with a double. The next two hitters made outs before Gerardo Parra was hit by a pitch, putting two men on for Jones.
Brad Mills, soft-tossing lefty, against Jones, well... there's a small margin for error there, and Mills missed it. Jones ripped a home run into the left field seats, his 20th of the season. That's five seasons in a row with 20+ home runs for Jones, who sits 23 homers shy of Brady Anderson on the all-time Orioles home run list. And tonight it pulled the Orioles within a run.
Jimenez had thrown 102 pitches in his five innings of work. You could almost feel from the get-go that it was going to be a game where they'd pray they wouldn't have to use seldom-seen Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia. Mychal Givens was the first to be summoned, and he did exactly what you could have hoped, pitching two innings and giving some inkling as to why the O's supposedly deemed him untouchable at the trade deadline.
What do you get when relievers keep you close in a game? You get chances for something magic to happen, and that's what the O's pulled out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Machado and Parra grabbed one-out singles, with Machado taking third on Parra's single and scoring on a Jones sacrifice fly. The play was absurd - Machado shouldn't have even been running, but Burns's throw in from center pulled Vogt off the plate and he wasn't able to hold on to the ball as he tried to tag Machado. The game was tied.
The most beautiful home run in all the land
Among the lessons that good parents impart upon their children is to watch the outfielders on a deep fly ball. If they look like they've got it under control, don't scream like an idiot at Fenway Park.
Sometimes there are home runs where the outfielders don't even bother to move. Against lefty reliever Fernando Abad in the seventh inning, Davis hit one of those home runs. The ball was crushed, gone off the bat, flying high into the Baltimore night sky. In right field, Reddick only slumped his head while above him the ball flew past and bounced onto Eutaw Street. That was Davis' 32nd home run of the season and it extended his all-time lead on the Eutaw home run category. His eight leads all players, ever.
The Orioles were ahead, 6-4, with Darren O'Day lined up for the eighth and Zach Britton lined up for the ninth. That's the way you want to see things happen. O'Day kept Oakland off the board in the eighth, and then it was time for those about to rock to be saluted. Britton entered the game.
The BABIP Dragon rides again
The Orioles were not done being screwed by the BABIP dragon. Britton got ground balls off the bat of the first five batters he faced and yes you already know that Britton facing five batters is bad. The first four of these never even reached the infield dirt and somehow two of them ended up as singles. Oh, and the fifth was a run-scoring groundout, which brought former Oriole Danny Valencia to the plate with a chance to drive in the tying run.
As fate would have it, Valencia was facing his former team on the same day that David Lough, the man for whom the O's traded Valencia, was designated for assignment. Valencia also hit a ground ball that just barely snuck past Jonathan Schoop and into the outfield. The game was tied. Good grief.
A ninth-inning rally by the O's got started with Parra and Jones each singling. Two on, none out, with the winning run at second? That sounds good. Except after Davis struck out and Schoop hit into a fielder's choice, it was instead first and third with two out and Hardy at the plate.
Hardy chopped a ball right at Oakland reliever Fernando Rodriguez, literally right at him, like it hit his foot and stopped in the freaking dirt in front of him and Rodriguez had no idea where the ball was, he thought it got past him, all of this playing out in slow motion as Hardy ran towards first (also in slow motion because he's Hardy) - finally Rodriguez saw the ball, snatched it off the ground and fired to first. No weird walkoff here.
Fast-forward to the end
On Baltimore radio just this morning, Dan Duquette was pressed on the ongoing presence of Garcia. He's the guy they avoid even at times where it seems to handicap them to be carrying dead weight in the bullpen - arguably twice in the last week. It seemed they avoided him again tonight, taking Brad Brach for two innings and Brian Matusz for one inning. Oakland didn't score. The Orioles didn't score.
Then it happened. Garcia came on for the 13th inning. Oh, no. What horror would befall us as this command-challenged fireballer would face the heart of the patient Athletics lineup? Well, as it turned out, Garcia needed only six pitches - five strikes - to get three easy-peasy ground ball outs. Huh.
With that inning recorded, Garcia was the pitcher of record when in the bottom of the inning, the O's had enough of all of this crazy BABIP business. Caleb Joseph hit a one out double because the baby has got to eat, and then Machado ripped a home run almost identical to Jones' earlier homer, ending the game with a sudden, awesome quickness. The Orioles were winners.
The Angels were losers to the Royals earlier in the night and the Rays also lost. That put the O's back in the first chaser's seat for the second wild card spot, 1.5 games back. Perhaps all hope is not lost on this season yet.
Chris Bassitt, who shut out the O's over seven innings in Oakland ten days ago, is set to pitch for the Athletics. The Orioles starting pitcher in the scheduled 7:05pm contest is the struggling Miguel Gonzalez. Momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. Get at it, Miguel.