It was a hot Sunday for the folks at Camden Yards, but that didn’t stop the Birds from attempting to grab the sweep from the Cleveland Indians. Read the details of the beautiful weekend matinee below.
On paper, this one seemed to be over before it began. Corey Kluber vs. Vance Worley isn’t exactly the most balanced matchup of the decade, but the "scrappy Vanimal", as he should be known from this moment moving forward, made it a contest.
Kluber was dominant early as he mowed down Oriole hitters at classic Kluber-pace. He allowed just one base-runner through the first three innings (Caleb Joseph single), while his counterpart in the home dugout struggled through the first trio of innings to reach the same results.
But, the Vanimal is the Vanimal for a reason. After three, he matched Kluber to send the ballgame into the fourth knotted at zero.
In the fourth, the Indians finally took advantage of Worley’s affinity to life in the danger zone. After Jose Ramirez walked to start the inning, Lonnie Chisenhall took advantage of the shift to squeak a grounder into left field to put runners on the corners with just one out.
With one out, Tyler Naquin laced a hard-hit liner over the head of Julio Borbon. The RBI double bounced off the wall and scored Ramirez, giving Cleveland their first run of the ballgame.
Worley did manage to work out of the jam with minimal damage, but not before Roberto Perez crushed a sac-fly to the warning track in the same frame. That made it 2-0 Indians, putting Worley at 73 pitched through four innings of work.
Luckily, in typical Orioles fashion, it didn’t take long for the offense to earn runs back in a hurry. In the bottom of the fourth, Jonathan Schoop led off with a mammoth double off the wall in left-center.
Manny Machado promptly followed with a screamer up the middle, scoring his pal Schoop and putting the Birds on the board. A few batters later, with runners on the corners after a Trumbo walk, Pedro Alvarez hit what looked to be a sure-fire double play to short.
But if there’s one thing to never forget, it’s that Alvarez’s speed keeps opposing managers across the MLB from sleeping every night. He managed to (after replay) beat out a nicely-turned attempted 6-4-3, scoring Machado and setting the score at 2-2 at the end of the eventful fourth.
Worley responded to the fireworks with a quick one-two-three inning, perfectly setting the stage for a go-ahead home run siren at Oriole Park. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Schoop again crushed an off-speed pitch, this time pushing the ball over the outfield fence. Just like that, the lead was shifted to the good guys.
Worley ended up retiring the last 11 batters he faced, marking the second straight night that the Orioles earned a seven-inning start.
As Worley worked, Kluber did the same. Both traded scoreboard donuts in the sixth and seventh innings, setting up the battle of the bullpens for the final two frames.
In the top of the eighth, Cleveland decided they couldn’t let Worley take home the ‘W’. They took advantage of a pair of hits and a Schoop error to push across a run against Brad Brach. Schoop and Ryan Flaherty would however help minimize the damage with a 4-6-3 DP.
In the bottom of the inning, with one out and Machado at first, Chris Davis took a 2-2 fastball inside... and then, this happened:
Woah! Davis thought he walked and flipped bat. Machado thought so, too, and is picked off 1st. That may be a 1st for me #Orioles— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) July 24, 2016
Machado wandered off the base and got caught napping, effectively snuffing out a potentially profitable inning. As the old saying goes, "ya can’t predict baseball".
Darren O’Day entered in the top of the ninth in his first action back with the Birds (no pressure, bud) and worked a perfect one-two-three inning. He struck out all three batters, setting up the bottom of the ninth for ... well, you know.
Pedro Alvarez led off with a horrid sequence of wild swings, but the third strike, swinging, went all the way to the backstop. It hit off the bricks and right back to the catcher Perez, but his throw bounced off of Alvarez’s head as he ran up the first base line.
He would reach, and after a Ryan Flaherty sac bunt, Nolan Reimold was called off the bench to do one thing: put the Orioles in the win column.
With two outs, on a 2-0 fastball right down broadway, Reimold absolutely crushed a game-winning home run to left-center field. Met by the rest of the squad at home plate, he was greeted with plenty of excitement - excitement that was sweeping across Baltimore.
The Birds are now 57-40, still sitting firmly atop the AL East!