You don't have to play under a full moon or after midnight to have a strange baseball game. There are a lot of games that are, let's face it, run-of-the-mill affairs. You see one of them and you've seen them all, in a way. The Orioles and Angels did not play one of these games on Saturday night. It was a strange one from start to finish, and luckily for the O's, most of the strange happenings worked out in their favor as they shut out Los Angeles/Anaheim, 5-0.
Ubaldo Jimenez no-hit the Angels through 5.2 innings and pitched eight scoreless innings and this was probably only the fourth-strangest thing about the game. There were multiple runs taken off the board due to replay challenges at the plate, there was a home run caught by a reliever, Chris Davis stealing a base and Manny Machado failing to steal one, and surely the grand-daddy of them all, Matt Wieters effectively getting a double out of a little nubber hit to second base.
What the heck? No, it's all real.
PROTIP: When sliding into home, actually touch home
Though Jimenez carried his no-hitter into the sixth inning, he actually lost the perfect game with a hit batsman on the very first batter of the game. That was David DeJesus. Oh, great, you had to think right away - THAT Ubaldo showed up. Yet much like you should never judge a book by its cover, you should also not judge a starting pitcher solely by his first inning. I mean, you know, unless it really sucked, but Jimenez only faced four batters, so that's fine.
The Orioles had themselves a little rally in the second inning and it looked like they were going to get on the scoreboard in that inning. Jonathan Schoop hit a one out single. Schoop fired up the jets on a J.J. Hardy double, helmet flying off as he hoofed it around third base. Many times, third base coach Bobby Dickerson sends a runner and you're screaming "NO!" at the television. This was not one of those sends.
The sliding Schoop beat the ball to the plate and was initially ruled safe, but a replay showed that Schoop somehow managed to slide towards home plate with his left foot in the air, never touching home plate, while his right leg dragged on the ground and stopped just shy of home plate, so the catcher's tag did actually get him before he touched the plate. The call was overturned. It was another one of those moments that made you think, what ELSE can go wrong with this team right now?
The lesson from The Crow
Here is the lesson: It can't rain all the time. Not even when the Orioles manage to seem like they're disappointing you by only getting one run out of a first-and-third, nobody out situation - and that one run came not from a base hit but from an RBI fielder's choice. That gave the O's a 1-0 lead in the third inning.
As it turned out, that was the only run they would need the whole night. Ubaldo's partial no-hitter kind of snuck up on you, which probably had something to do with the fact that he had a few early baserunners thanks to the HBP, a third inning walk, and a fourth inning Manny Machado error, but in spite of all of that, after each inning the scoreboard popped up with a zero under the hit column for the Angels.
Meanwhile, the Orioles were adding to their run total. Machado atoned for his error by smashing a home run into the O's bullpen the very next half-inning. That homer was his 24th of the season, which is good for a tie for 13th in MLB. Not too shabby. Darren O'Day caught the home run with a glove that was on his right hand. I haven't figured it out yet either.
An inning later, after Jimenez set the Angels down 1-2-3 in the fifth, Wieters had his weird moment. With Chris Davis on second base after a leadoff double, Wieters rolled over on a ball and grounded it towards second, as he tends to do when batting lefty. But he busted it down the line (as much as he can) and the ball rolled into enough of a no-man's land that the pitcher had to cover. Angels starter Garrett Richards caught the ball and failed to actually touch first base.
Following this, the entire Angels infield stopped paying attention to Wieters, who noticed this and then dashed for second base, sliding in easily ahead of a wild throw and tag attempt. Richards was charged with an error for the catch on the play, but we all know what really happened. Matt Wieters got an infield double, and it was awesome.
This sequence ended up with the O's getting their third run of the game when Schoop plated Davis with a sacrifice fly. Davis actually successfully touched home.
Bob Milacki et al pop open the champagne bottles
Jimenez lost the no-hitter with two outs in the sixth inning when Kole Calhoun doubled. There have now been 8,792 days since the last Orioles no-hitter. Ubaldo, however, still went on to have a great game, the kind of game the Orioles desperately needed from him after recent rotation struggles. He came out for the eighth having already thrown over 100 pitches, but Buck Showalter never wavered in his faith for his starter and Jimenez set down the Angels in order, 1-2-3.
The final line for Jimenez over eight innings was no runs on two hits and a walk, plus two hit batters. He struck out six, throwing 118 pitches, 76 of which were strikes. That is Good Ubaldo - and he got some good Orioles offense as a reward.
The Orioles ended up with five runs. Three of them scored on plays where an out was made. Two were the result of home runs. They went 2-10 with RISP in the game, plating no runs on either of the two hits. It was weird, but when you get things like Davis walking and then stealing a base to get into scoring position, well, that's weird too. That happened in the eighth inning, taking the game out of save situation range, when Schoop once again drove in Davis with a sac fly.
Last, but certainly not least, Caleb Joseph punctuated the night the best way he knows how, by ensuring that his young child will eat. Walker Joseph has gotta eat, all know, and his dad knows it more than anyone. The elder Joseph also hit a home run into the O's bullpen, his 10th of the year. He is now batting a downright respectable .258/.329/.452 for the season.
Out of save range, the ninth inning ended up being O'Day's inning, and it too was weird, because O'Day didn't look so great. He gave up three hits, but lucky for him and us, after allowing back-to-back singles to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, O'Day got David Murphy to hit a not-deep fly ball to Adam Jones. Trout tagged and headed for home on the play and at first he was ruled safe. On further inspection, Trout made like Schoop earlier in the game, sliding over the plate before he touched it. Joseph tagged him out while Trout's foot was still in the air. Whoops!
The Angels were down to their last out just like that, and although Erick Aybar added a single as well, the tying run got no closer than in the hole for them. The Zach Britton jets were not scrambled. Thanks to all of the runs they added on through the game, the Orioles didn't have to sweat it.
The O's winning combined with a Blue Jays win earlier on Saturday means that Toronto now has the top wild card spot. The Angels would be the road wild card team. The Orioles are the closest team out of it, two games behind. They'll have a chance to pull a game closer in the rubber game of this series tomorrow afternoon, that is, if they can manage to do anything at all against the junkball of Jered Weaver. Miguel Gonzalez starts the 3:37 game for the O's.