When a relief pitcher bats with the bases loaded, two outs, and the tying run on second base in the 14th inning, you know that a baseball game has gotten weird. The Orioles, fortunately, came out on top when all was said and done, beating the Dodgers, 6-4, in a 5+ hour game to close out their west coast road trip.
In the end, O’s closer Zach Britton, perfect in save chances so far this season, induced a little tapper from pitcher Chris Hatcher. Britton almost fired high to first base, but he didn’t, and the game was over, preserving his perfection. Thank goodness for that.
Before that, Jonathan Schoop was the hero. Batting against Hatcher in the top half of the inning, Schoop, hitless in the game up to that point, had both Manny Machado and Chris Davis on base ahead of him. Each had singled.
Schoop lined a ball that fell in front of Dodgers center fielder Trayce Thompson. Running with two outs, and thanks to the ball being misplayed a bit, both Machado and Davis were able to score on the play, giving the O’s the 6-4 lead that held up the rest of the way.
How the game got there
The game went on for long enough that nothing at the beginning mattered all that much. Starting pitchers Kevin Gausman and Bud Norris were gone from the game for a full nine innings before things ended.
If you only look at Gausman’s line in the box score, you’d see four runs in five innings, which doesn’t sound very good. And for sure, he made at least one big mistake, giving up a first inning home run to Justin Turner to put the Orioles in an early 2-0 hole.
The Dodgers touched up Gausman for two more runs in the fifth inning. It’s a bit harder to blame him for this one. Well, OK, it was Gausman’s fault that Chase Utley doubled and Corey Seager walked. Gausman induced the weak contact that he wanted from Adrian Gonzalez with two outs.
The ball had other things in mind and it floated right into the Bermuda Triangle between shortstop, center field, and left field. Adam Jones made a desperate dive and roll to try to come up with the catch. He came up short and looked a bit shaken up in the attempt. This put the Orioles down 4-3.
The O’s had actually grabbed the lead back from Norris and company. The first run was unexpected: Ryan Flaherty, starting in place of J.J. Hardy, drove in Mark Trumbo with a double in the second inning. They tied it up in the third as Jones led off with a single and aggressively took third base when Hyun Soo Kim singled behind him. That meant he could score on a double play ball hit by Manny Machado.
Trumbo gave the Orioles the lead briefly with a Trumbomb in the top of the fourth, though the 3-2 lead didn’t hold for long. Luckily, Trumbo wasn’t done being awesome for the day: He re-tied the game in the sixth inning, greeting the first Dodgers reliever, Casey Fien, with another Trumbomb. He now has 26 home runs for the year. That’s our All-Star coming up big.
A true bullpen parade
By the time the game ended, the Dodgers were on their ninth pitcher and the O’s were on their seventh. This left the Orioles in a bit better shape as the game went along because they were better able to ride out the long game - several relievers went for multiple innings.
It was actually Dylan Bundy who relieved Gausman in the sixth inning. Bundy racked up a couple of impressive innings, getting seven outs, all of which were strikeouts. He had to work around some trouble, ending up with the bases loaded in the seventh inning before getting two strikeouts to get out of the jam.
For extra difficulty he even started out Howie Kendrick with a 3-0 count with two outs and the bases loaded before battling back for the strikeout. Much as there was panic in certain quarters about Bundy’s lack of strikeouts earlier in the season, he now has 32 in 38 innings. No panic there.
All-Star Brad Brach picked up from Bundy with one out in the eighth and went on through a scoreless ninth as well. The O’s kept Zach Britton in reserve in case the O’s took a lead. It’s not always the smart decision, but it worked out in Wednesday’s game. Odrisamer Despaigne, Vance Worley, and Mychal Givens combined to pitch four innings and none of them blew the game.
Meanwhile, the Orioles successfully outlasted the good Dodgers relievers - Fien, Adam Liberatore, Joe Blanton, and Kenley Jansen, among whom the highest ERA is 2.66, pitched an inning apiece. That left them in position to win against Hatcher, who came into the game with a 4.75 ERA and failed the Matusz Test.
The Windmill lives again
The Orioles had what was at that point the go-ahead run cut down at the plate to end the thirteenth inning. What compels a third base coach to try to get a runner - even a fast-ish one like Joey Rickard, who’d pinch hit for Worley and singled - to score from first base on a two out single is one of those things we’ll never know.
What made it even worse is that the ball, hit by Jones, went almost right to Yasiel Puig in right field. Perhaps coach Bobby Dickerson was banking on Puig doing something screwball, as happens with him from time to time, but he hit the cutoff man and the cutoff man had the ball in to the catcher at home in plenty of time to tag out Rickard. This was a terrible decision that thankfully didn’t hurt the Orioles.
The pitchers came up huge when they needed to. Dodgers batters were 1-14 with runners in scoring position in the game, with the only hit being Gonzalez’s Royalesque two-run cheapie. The Dodgers stranded 16 men on base and actually out-hit the O’s, 16-13, in the game.
Trumbo had three hits and scored three of the Orioles runs. Jones, Kim, and Flaherty all had multi-hit games as well.
Was it a lucky win? Maybe. The Orioles weren’t much better with RISP, going only 2-11. They came up big in a big spot first, thanks to Schoop’s game-winning RBI double. Good teams get lucky wins. It’s not an accident the Orioles went in and beat Los Angeles, another good team, two out of three games. They are good. That's what good teams can do.
After all of that, the Orioles escape their west coast trip with a 4-5 record. It’s not great, but it’s not bad, and they’ll bring a division lead of at least 2.5 games back east with them.
They’ll next be in action on Friday night against the Angels, when the O’s will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Series-winning team.
Ubaldo Jimenez may end up being the starter for that team, which doesn’t scream celebration, but hey, who knows what’ll happen. Matt Shoemaker, who dominated the Orioles the last time they saw him in Anaheim, will pitch for the Angels in the 7:05 game.