If the word "dong" used in the context of a home run in baseball bothers you, do not read the remainder of this article.
The thing about the Orioles is that you can stop them from hitting dongs for a little while, but not forever. There will be dongs and their arrival will be terrible, swift, and fierce. Any homer-less stretch is only lulling some poor fools into a false sense of security before an ambush of dongs.
So it was on Thursday night against the Red Sox. Somehow, the Orioles had won on Wednesday without dongs. A fluke or an accident. They cannot be contained for long, and they were not. The Orioles crushed seven home runs in the game, and as it turned out, they needed most of them in a 12-7 victory.
After all of the agony of the first two games of the series, the Orioles managed to split with the AL East-leading Red Sox and they end it exactly where they began: One game back of the lead.
A tale of two Ubaldos
You will be forgiven if your hopes for the Orioles winning this game were low, given that Ubaldo Jimenez was the starting pitcher. Yet Ubaldo can surprise you, at least for a little while, and so he did tonight - for a little while.
Jimenez was nearly perfect through three innings and he carried a no-hitter through four innings. Not all that impressive, of course, but positively un-Ubaldian. So were five shutout innings, which he did in fact throw.
The problem for Ubaldo is that he also pitched the sixth inning. There was nothing problematic about this. He did not enter the inning with a high pitch count. He was cruising. There was no reason to have anyone warming, until suddenly there was.
Jimenez faced six batters in the sixth inning. He retired none of these batters. There were five hits, including a two-run single by Xander Bogaerts that extended his hitting streak to 26 games, and a three run home run hit by David Ortiz that put the Red Sox up at the time by a 5-4 margin.
This swiftly erased any good feelings that may have been accumulated about the O's early in the game. Ortiz is looking a lot like Barry Bonds at age 40. The guy is batting .335/.415/.730 on the season. Wow.
The sixth and final hit was enough to chase Jimenez from the game at last. Jimenez failed the Matusz test today. He started with a 6.36 ERA and ended with a 6.59 ERA. He's into the territory where this starts to be extra horrible to witness as it unfolds.
They shall dong in the Yards and on Eutaw Street
Although an early Orioles lead was erased by Jimenez in the sixth, that does not make the dongs any less glorious. They hit two of them early, one in the fourth and one in the fifth, off of Red Sox starter Rick Porcello.
Mark Trumbo launched a majestic shot into the left field stands with Chris Davis on base - his 16th home run of the year. Adam Jones followed an inning later by ripping a home run into those same seats with Ryan Flaherty on base. That was Jones' sixth homer this season.
Things were briefly depressing in the sixth inning thanks to Jimenez, but Mychal Givens came on and stopped the bleeding, and, having done so, he opened the door to more dongs.
Trumbo ambushed Porcello a second time with one out in the sixth inning, tying the game at 5-5 and bringing joy back to Birdland. Make that #17 on the year for Trumbo, his fourth Double Trumboner of the season.
If you think that the Orioles were done hitting home runs, you haven't been paying attention this year. In the seventh inning, the Sox sent out reliever Robbie Ross, a lefty, to face a stretch of Orioles hitters that included two lefties. Flaherty walked, then Francisco Peña, making his Orioles debut, added a single.
Ross got out the next two batters, bringing up Manny Machado. Sox manager John Farrell chose to summon righty Junichi Tazawa to face Machado, a righty. This is good strategy in general but poor in Machado's case: Machado hits righties better.
What might Machado have done against Ross? The world will never know. What we do know is what he did against Tazawa. Immediately after a mound visit from his catcher, Christian Vazquez, Tazawa gave up yet another Orioles home run - a three-run shot that gave the Orioles an 8-5 lead. That was the 14th homer this year for Machado.
That was all the runs the Orioles would need, though it did still get interesting later, despite more dongs being piled on. As Tazawa continued into the next inning, he gave up a second home run, this time to Pedro Alvarez, who now has four on the season. Tazawa proceeded to walk Jonathan Schoop - a tough feat - and then allow Schoop to steal a base, an even tougher feat.
Time to try someone new! It was Noe Ramirez's turn to be the sacrifice. Peña welcomed Ramirez to the game with, you guessed it, a dinger! Peña clubbed a home run into the Orioles bullpen, where T.J. McFarland bungled the opportunity to catch it. These are the first two runs Peña has ever driven in at the big league level - he'd only notched seven at-bats before tonight.
Thankfully, the dropped catch in the bullpen did not prove to be a bad omen. The next batter, Jones, joined Trumbo in the multi-homer club. When this fury finally subsided, the Orioles were leading 12-5.
Meet the new Matusz
Called up today from the minors was veteran lefty reliever Brian Duensing. The Orioles needed some bullpen help, and what the heck, a seven run lead is a pretty safe time to toss a guy in there, isn't it?
The O's having such a huge lead was pretty crucial, actually, as the O's announcers on MASN alluded darkly to a number of O's relievers being unavailable in the game due to recent heavy use. Givens, who came in when the game was tied, pitched two innings and ended up getting the win. He's now 4-0. Brad Brach added an inning as well, when the game was still close.
In the ninth, it was not close. Duensing was the man to get things finished. Three straight seeing-eye grounders greeted him into the game, including one in which the Orioles hilariously got an out at second base because the ball got to Joey Rickard so fast that he threw out Chris Young, who may not have actually been paying attention.
Early series star Mookie Betts drove in a run with a single, really the only well-hit ball off of Duensing in the inning. An easy popout by Dustin Pedroia was the second out, then Duensing got Bogaerts to hit a line drive right at Nolan Reimold, the defensive sub in left. Reimold somehow muffed this ball, which was somehow scored as a base hit and not an error, scoring another run.
There was, thus, some brief drama as Ortiz lumbered to the plate, spat in his hands, and did whatever it is that he does to preen for an at-bat. Ortiz flew out to Reimold, who caught the ball this time, as you are supposed to. Game over, man. Game over.
The Yankees await the Orioles next, while the Red Sox return to Boston to face the surging Blue Jays. With a good weekend, the Orioles could end up back atop the division. In the 7:05 series opener tomorrow, Chris Tillman and Nathan Eovaldi are the scheduled starters. Join us for what will hopefully be a fun night!