The Orioles played a tense final game against the Indians today, first blowing a four-run lead before coming back thanks to Hyun Soo Kim's first home run in the majors. The bullpen was shaky but effective and the Orioles ended their road trip on a high note with the 6-4 win.
The Orioles took advantage of rookie starter Mike Clevinger in the first inning, loading the bases on walks by Adam Jones and Chris Davis and a single from Manny Machado. Mark Trumbo worked a full count against Clevinger before hitting a bases clearing double to give the O's a 3-0 lead.
As is their custom, the bats went quiet after that. They wasted two baserunners in the second inning and went down 1-2-3 in the third before finally scoring their fourth run in the fourth inning on a sac fly from Ryan Flaherty. That gave the O's a four-run lead that they would, as previously written, blow in short order.
Trouble with Dingers
Early on in this game Chris Tilllman looked pretty good He faced just nine batters through three innings with only a walk allowed, but it all came undone pretty quickly after that.
The first batter Tillman saw in the fourth inning, Carlos Santana, drove a ball deep over the right field fence, then with one out Tillman walked Francisco Lindor. Walks are never a good idea, but they are especially bad when they come ahead of a guy like Mike Napoli. Napoli proved that immediately with a two-run homer to cut the O's lead to just one.
Two innings later Tillman gave up his third home run of the game, this one on a ball that was supposed to be down in the zone, but instead was up to Jason Kipnis. That tied the game at four runs each and resulted in Tillman having double his total home runs allowed. He had given up just three coming into the game.
Tillman's final pitching line was 6 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 K, 3 HR.
Kim! Hyun! Soo!
Hyun Soo Kim is finally getting regular playing time as today he started in his fifth straight game. In the four games leading into today he had gone 6-for-15 with two doubles. Pretty good!
Coming into the seventh inning, Kim was hitless with two strikeouts and a walk. He untied the 4-4 game with a line drive that left the ballpark very quickly. It was his first major league home run and it was not a cheap shot.
As is customary for a special circumstance home run, the Orioles gave Kim the silent treatment as he returned to the dugout. Kim adorably gave some air high fives as he entered, then hung out by the bench until his teammates finally converged to congratulate him.
The dinger gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead that they did not relinquish despite drama in both the eighth and ninth innings.
Drama in the Eighth and Ninth Innings
Despite pitching the full seventh inning, the Orioles stuck with Brad Brach going into the eighth instead of going to Darren O'Day. I assumed this was because O'Day has had trouble with lefties this year, but Buck Showalter said post game that O'Day is a little under the weather, which is why he tried to avoid using him.
Brach does not normally have trouble with lefties, but he also usually only works one inning. He immediately put the go-ahead runs on second and third with no outs meaning that O'Day had to come in anyway, but now he had to deal with two runners in scoring position.
I was a nervous wreck at this point, but thankfully O'Day was not. He was a stone cold bad ass. He got Mike Napoli to ground out to third base with the runners holding, then intentionally walked Jose Ramirez to set up the double play/avoid the lefty.
Indians' manager Terry Francona sent up lefty Lonnie Chisenhall to hit in place of Juan Uribe, and Chisenhall fouled off six straight pitches before taking an 80-mph slider right across the plate for strike three.
O'Day followed that up with a filthy strikeout of Yan Gomes to end the inning without the Indians scoring. Yes!
Zach Britton pitched the ninth inning with a bit more of a cushion thanks to a solo home run from Nolan Reimold in the top of the inning, but he still found himself in a jam.
The first two batters Britton saw singled, then Santana hit into what looked like a double play. Ryan Flaherty fielded the ball at third base an instead of just firing to Jonathan Schoop tried to tag out the runner coming from second. He missed and then threw a tad high to Schoop, who turned it as quickly as possible but it wasn't quite fast enough to get Santana out at first. He was originally called out but it was overturned on replay.
With the go-ahead run at home plate, Britton buckled down and looked more like the Zach we're used to seeing. He struck out Kipnis and before we even had time to worry about Lindor he had swung through three straight pitches to end the game.
O's win! They won two out of three series on their road trip, but thanks to the sweep in Houston their record was just 4-5. Tomorrow they start a four-game series against the Red Sox in Baltimore, which is about as big as a series can be in the first week of June.