What a difference a day makes. Just like that, the miserable feelings from Friday are washed away as the Orioles survived a tense ninth inning rally to beat the Blue Jays, 4-2, on Saturday afternoon at Camden Yards.
The game was noteworthy from the beginning as it marked the return of both J.J. Hardy and Yovani Gallardo from the disabled list. It was, at the same time, a source of anxiety. What if the disabled list trip wasn’t enough to fix whatever was ailing the Orioles starter?
Gallardo answered those questions almost immediately, hitting 90 miles per hour as he struck out the first batter of the game. That’s a big difference from the guy who was starting games off by throwing 85mph slop in towards the plate, and maybe even something approximating the guy the Orioles thought they were signing.
The BFFs get the Orioles on the board
With Gallardo holding the Jays off the board in the first inning - though he did put two men on with two out - the Orioles had a chance to score first in the bottom of the inning.
For reasons known only to manager Buck Showalter, the resident BFFs on the Orioles, Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado, were respectively at the 2 and 3 spots in the batting order. There was some magic unlocked in this combination and it started from the beginning of the game.
With one out, Schoop reached base on a double, and his buddy Machado followed up with a double of his own, putting the O’s on the board. This was a quirky play: Machado didn’t get an RBI because Schoop only scored because of a throw. Whatever, the run still counts.
Machado moved himself up to third base when Chris Davis grounded out to the right side of the infield. This proved to be crucial as it gave Machado the opportunity to race home when knuckleballer R.A. Dickey tossed in a pitch that catcher Josh Thole could not corral. Machado slid in ahead of a tag by Dickey for the second O’s run of the game.
Gallardo manages to be good enough
You might have liked it if the Orioles had scored more runs with the opportunities that they were presented. Across the whole game, they only went 1-8 with runners in scoring position. The Jays were even worse, going 0-6 in those situations. It made for a tense game, but one where Gallardo and his bullpen friends were able to do enough for the O’s to win.
And one should not get carried away with the fact that Gallardo pitched "well enough to win" - though he did get the win - because he gave up four walks and five hits in only five innings of work. It WAS good enough, especially with Gallardo negotiating some tough spots in the first and third inning to minimize the damage.
One of the two runs scored by the Jays against Gallardo was a home run hit by Ezequiel Carrera on a hanging changeup. You have to work to let Carrera hit a homer - it was only his third of the year. After that, Gallardo allowed a double to Josh Donaldson before issuing walks to consecutive batters.
Not an ideal situation there, bases loaded and only one out, but Gallardo bore down and got both Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki to strike out to end the threat there.
The O’s looked to add some more runs in support of Gallardo in the third inning. Joey Rickard led off the inning with a single. Adam Jones followed by hitting a deep fly ball that was caught at the fence near the 373 foot marker in right center. Unfortunately, Rickard got himself into TOOTBLAN territory and was doubled off of first base.
The next batter was Schoop, who blasted his 11th home run of the year. Thanks to Rickard’s miscue, this was only a solo shot. Yes, yes, I know, there’s no guarantee Dickey would have thrown the same pitch or Schoop would have made the same swing if Rickard was still on base.
At any rate, the O’s led 3-1 after this third inning homer. This proved to be important as the Jays added their second run off of Gallardo in the top of the fourth inning. After Gallardo walked Kevin Pillar to start the inning, the dangerous Devon Travis ripped a line drive that just kept on sailing over Jones’ head in center field.
Jones went to the ground after the ball got past him. He picked the ball up near the fence and fired back in towards the cutoff man. Jones overthrew Hardy, tempting Travis to run to third... but it’s entirely possible Jones was just throwing to the second cutoff man - Schoop, a few feet beyond Hardy - who loaded his cannon arm and fired to Machado at third, where Travis was tagged out easily.
Schoop giveth and Schoop taketh away. An error later in the inning cost Gallardo some pitches, but it didn’t hurt the Orioles on the scoreboard.
Fast forward to the end
That was about it for the excitement until close to the end. The Orioles had two men on with one out in the fifth and couldn’t score. Mychal Givens came in for the sixth inning and stayed for the seventh as well. Though Givens gave up a single to Thole leading off the seventh, breaking an 0-24 slump for Thole, he kept the Jays off the board.
In the eighth, the O’s added an insurance run thanks to the Schoop-Machado tandem once again. Both of those gentlemen singled back-to-back to start the inning against Jays reliever Jason Grilli. It was the third hit of the game for each of them. Between the two of them they had six of the nine O’s hits and they scored all four of the Orioles runs.
Schoop even aggressively took third on Machado’s single with some heads up baserunning. Two men on for the big boppers in the heart of the order is what you want in order to get some insurance. Davis did not help out much, striking out for the first out.
OK, no big deal. Mark Trumbo can still hit dingers. He can also hit fly balls into the Bermuda Triangle in right field. Carrera came running in and got a glove on the ball but couldn’t make the catch. Schoop scored easily but Machado did not have a good read on the play and was thrown out as a force at second base.
Still an RBI for Trumbo on the fielder’s choice. Matt Wieters walked to again put two men on with two out, but Pedro Alvarez popped out and that was that.
You would, in ordinary circumstances, feel very good about having a two run cushion for Zach Britton in the ninth inning. However, Britton, who last pitched on Tuesday, was not any kind of sharp in his outing. He ran the count full before striking out Pillar, ran a 3-1 count before giving up a single to Travis, then walked pinch hitters Darwin Barney and Russell Martin to load the bases for reigning AL MVP Donaldson.
That’s hold on to your butts territory. Don’t doubt Zach, dear reader! He got Donaldson to ground into a double play, Schoop to Hardy to Davis, game over. Line up for those handshakes.
Was it a GOOD outing? No! He only threw eight strikes out of 23 pitches. Let’s hope we don’t see problems like this again. But he kept the Jays off the board and picked up his 21st save in the process and that ain’t nothing.
They’ll look to take it back up to three games over the Jays as they try to take the series on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles will have to do it without Machado, who has dropped the appeal of his four game suspension, I guess just to get it over with, and will begin serving tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Kansas City headhunter Yordano Ventura negotiated a reduction of his already-weak suspension to eight games. No, I’ve never heard of that before either.
For the 1:35 game in Baltimore, the Jays will send out Marcus Stroman, their worst starter by ERA, while the O’s will look for a good start from de facto staff ace Chris Tillman.