What if Adam Jones is healthy again?
Just earlier today on Camden Chat, Jones was the plurality choice for the most disappointing Oriole of the season - and with good reason. He has been disappointing. That didn't matter in Tuesday's game against the Twins. Jones, batting with two outs and two men on in the ninth inning, was placed in that spot because Minnesota chose to intentionally walk Manny Machado to bring up the slumping Jones.
Jones made them pay. He ripped a two run single that put the O's up 5-3. With Zach Britton waiting in the wings, that's all you need.
Nor was that clutch hit the only good thing Jones did on the night. Perhaps even more encouragingly from Jones was the fifth inning home run he blasted off of Twins starter Jose Berrios. Sure, it was a mistake, a hanging off-speed pitch, but Jones clubbed the ball into the second deck, a towering shot that was estimated at 443 feet of distance.
In a post-game interview on MASN, Jones claimed that he's felt healthy for the last couple of weeks. The results just haven't been there - at least until tonight. If this is the start of Jones getting hot, the league had better watch out for the Orioles. They should have already been watching out, mind you.
Kevin Gausman has arrived (maybe)
For five innings of tonight's game, Kevin Gausman looked like he was cruising. There were not enough superlative words that you could offer for his performance. Then the sixth inning arrived, Brian Dozier hit a single, Trevor Plouffe launched a home run about as far as Jones did an inning previously, and suddenly Gausman's game didn't look so great.
Actually, when all was said and done, it was a quality start for Gausman - the bare minimum, six innings pitched, three earned runs allowed, but it was still an impressive outing. Gausman only allowed five hits and two walks over those six innings and he struck out nine Twins batters. That is dominant stuff.
Maybe it was dominant stuff because the Twins offense isn't very good. They're one of the worst scoring teams in the American League. So his looking good against them only says so much. But Gausman can only pitch in one game at a time - and through four games he's got a 2.16 ERA. That's pretty dang good. Maybe he's finally arrived. The Orioles really need him, so let's hope that's the case.
When Gausman left the game, the score was tied up, 3-3. Most of the time if the Orioles get six innings from their starter and he leaves with the game tied and the Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, Britton trio lined up, that's going to work out well for the O's. That's exactly what happened tonight.
Manny Machado arrived a while ago, is still here
Here is a complete list of batters who have a higher slugging percentage than Machado does right now:
(tumbleweed rolls past)
That's it. He's at the top of the list. Machado entered the day with a .691 slugging percentage - that was already the best. It's even higher now. After a game in which he went 3-3, including a home run, and walked twice, Machado is now slugging .722.
Nobody slugs .722! When Chris Davis hit 53 home runs, he slugged .634. When Davis hit 47 home runs last year, he slugged .564. Machado is above and beyond even that, and not to get too carried away with "on pace for" stuff, but Machado, with his tenth home run tonight in the Orioles' 31st game of the year, is now on pace to top 50 bombs for the year.
Which isn't to say that Machado is perfect. He added another TOOTBLAN to his tally in the third inning, the third Machado caught stealing of the season. It was all the more egregious because there were two outs, two men on base, and Davis was at the plate. It is the one dimension of his game that has been down this year. After stealing 20 bases last year, Machado is 0-3 this year. But who cares about that for tonight? The Orioles won the game.
A battle of the bullpens
This will nearly always favor the Orioles, and when Berrios was pulled from the game after five innings, it sure looked like it would do so again tonight too. In the end, all the O's had to do was outscore the Twins bullpen over three innings. It took them until the ninth inning to do it, but that's all it takes.
Brach was the only one of Rick Dempsey's favorite BOB trio to even allow a baserunner - a hard single that ricocheted off Brach's calf. Having allowed a baserunner, Brach struck out the next two Twins batters, including Joe Mauer.
O'Day and Britton had an even easier time than that. Each needed only nine pitches to set the Twins down in order in their respective innings. O'Day gets the win to go 2-0 on the year. Britton's save was his eighth of the season. They were good.
As good as those guys were, and as good as Machado and Gausman were, it was really the slumping Orioles who shined tonight. That was apparent throughout the game. Matt Wieters got two hits and drove in the first Orioles run. Davis had a three hit night. Jones went 2-5 and drove in three runs. That's good.
Even Joey Rickard, who has come back down to the ground recently, got into the act, sparking the ninth inning rally with a two out double off of Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen. Nothing that Jones did later in the inning would have been able to happen if Rickard hadn't gotten things started.
Every Orioles starter had a hit in the game except for Jonathan Schoop, who had an 11 game hitting streak snapped.
With the win, the O's keep themselves in a virtual tie atop the AL East. They sport the second highest winning percentage in the AL at .613. Their immediate competition, the Red Sox, obliterated the Athletics for a second consecutive night with a 13-5 win.
The finale of the series awaits tomorrow afternoon at 1:10. Tyler Wilson is scheduled to start for the O's, with home run machine Phil Hughes pitching for Minnesota - assuming it doesn't rain. Stay hungry.