From the outset, this appeared to be a matchup of ace vs. "staff ace." You could be forgiven for counting Chris Tillman out in this contest and perhaps being content to take three of four in this series. Tillman's always been sort of looked down upon for not living up to the hype he brought east from the Mariners organization and he certainly didn't earn any new fans for his slow start to this season. To his credit, Tillman has tinkered, adjusted and consulted with his coaches to refine his change up and develop a sinker and the results have begun to bear fruit. On the other hand, Sonny Gray has been a beast this season. A well-educated, baby faced beast. His exploits have been well-detailed elsewhere, and yet...Gray has never won at Camden Yards. Suffice it to say, both Tillman and the offense must have been aware of the fact that runs might be at a premium this evening.
If the Orioles felt urgency at the start of the game, it was not apparent early on. Tillman's command looked a bit off early on he seemed to take his time to get the first three outs. For their part, the offense seemed to embark on another patented rage-inducing hackathon. Hearts sunk when Danny Valencia hit a no doubt about it shot off of Tillman in the second, but at least Jonathan Schoop put any no hitter concerns to bed in the bottom of the inning. The Orioles never really looked like scoring until they mounted a little two out rally in the bottom of the fourth. Chris Davis reached on an error when Eric Sogard lost a ground ball hit right at him. Schoop singled again and then Steve Clevenger took an 0-2 pitch into the bleachers for an Earl Weaver Special to put the Birds ahead 3-1. The O's would load up the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, but were not able to capitalize.
O's starters have seemed to give back runs following innings in which they score with irritating regularity this season. While it was awfully nice of Tillman to keep things clean in the fifth, he gave up a homer to Mark Canha on an 0-2 count to lead off the sixth. The Orioles regained their two run lead in the sixth following a single by J.J. Hardy (!!!) and a double by Caleb Joseph (again, with two outs). After Gray walked Manny Machado, Mike Aldrete had seen enough...wait. Did I mention this game was kind of weird, too?
It featured not just one interference call, but two. Josh Reddick was awarded first on catcher's interference in the third inning and Sam Fuld was called out on interference in the fifth. Both Fuld and manager Bob Melvin were ejected for arguing with umpire Brian Knight. Beyond the ejections, watching the pratfalls that seem to comprise a day at the office for the A's defense is quite a thing to behold. A flying Burns? A falling Canha? All that and then some.
At any rate, Tillman was solid, the bullpen did its thing and
, save for a Chris Davis miscue, the defense worked like a well-oiled machine.
Sweeps are Birdland, my friends.