Legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver believed in three pillars: Pitching, defense, and three run home runs. If Earl were still with us, he would have turned 86 years old today. It is fitting that the Orioles thought to please his ghost with a dramatic three run homer by Jonathan Schoop to take the lead with two outs in the ninth inning in what suddenly became an 8-7 win.
At no other point in the game did the Orioles have a lead until then. For most of the game they looked to be heading towards yet another one of those frustrating road losses, the kind where their starting pitcher gives up a bunch of runs and the offense does little to nothing against the other team.
Yet with one Schoop swing, they took the lead, then it was time for those about to rock to be saluted as Zach Britton, the O’s near-flawless All-Star closer, was lined up to get another save. The Orioles stay a half game behind the Blue Jays in the division.
Wade Miley is still Wade Miley
The biggest reason the Orioles faced such a deficit early on was Wade Miley. When you trade for a starter who’s rocking a 5 ERA, you know what you’re going to get, and what you’re going to get is not a good pitcher. Still, the Orioles were surely hoping for better than giving up seven runs (six earned) in only 4.1 innings from Miley. Chasing the mediocre innings eater never seems to work out for the Orioles.
Yet Miley did not get much help from his friends. The unearned run was the first one the Giants scored in the game. Eduardo Nunez reached base when Mark Trumbo dropped a fly ball in right field. These are things that will happen from putting Trumbo in the field.
Miley could have helped himself by not letting backup catcher Trevor Brown - who was added to the starting lineup less than an hour before game time - deliver an RBI single. He might have also helped himself by not giving up an RBI single to Johnny Cueto (the pitcher, yes) in the fourth inning. Come on, man.
Still: It wasn’t all his fault. His fielders failed him again in the fifth inning. A blown double play opportunity and a blown pickoff gave the Giants extra runners. Of course, what really gave the Giants extra runners was Miley allowing three straight base hits to start the inning. After a walk to Brandon Crawford loaded the bases, Miley was lifted from the game.
His relief, Tyler Wilson, was initially no relief at all. Wilson gave up three straight singles, so all of the inherited runners scored on his watch. Some credit to Wilson, though, for holding the Giants from there, as he kept them from scoring any more runs beyond that. This seemed insignificant at the time, with the Orioles trailing 7-1, but later events showed it to be crucial.
The sleeping Orioles offense awakens
For six innings against Johnny Cueto, the O’s offense mustered all of six hits and only one run. The lone run came in the fifth inning when Matt Wieters opened with a leadoff single one of five (!) base hits he had on the day. Wieters eventually scored from second, driven in by an Adam Jones single.
That was it until the seventh inning. Once again, Wieters got things started, leading off with a double. Two deep fly balls moved him up to third and then across the plate. That’s "Wheels" Wieters in action - and he wasn’t done showing off the jets yet, either. A Jones sacrifice fly drove in Wieters for the second Orioles run.
Hit machine Hyun Soo Kim, picking up his third hit of the game, drove in the Orioles third run with a double that scored Pedro Alvarez, who walked in a pinch hit appearance. That’s a respectable offensive output against as good a pitcher as Cueto, giving some hope of a later rally against the Giants bullpen.
And boy, did the Orioles rally. They jumped all over Hunter Strickland in the eighth inning. Game observer Chris Davis, who struck out looking four times in the game, started the inning with a strikeout.
Trumbo made up for his earlier error by blasting his league-leading 34th home run of the season, making the score 7-4. Schoop and Wieters followed with singles to bring the tying run to the plate. The Giants changed pitchers to Derek Law, who was welcomed to the game with an RBI single hit by J.J. Hardy.
Honoring Ol’ Earl
They saved the best for last. Giants closer Santiago Casilla had no idea what hit him. Casilla might have even thought he was safe, with the game more or less in the bag. Kim lined out to start the inning, and though Machado got to second base after a single and an error, that was followed by Davis striking out for the fourth time for the second out.
Casilla seemed to have little interest in pitching to Trumbo. It’s a strategy you can understand, really. Don’t let the guy who’s leading MLB in home runs be the one to beat you, right?
That is a sound philosophy against ordinary, mortal baseball teams. Against the Orioles, who can ambush you for titanic dingers almost at any point in time, well... was Schoop so much more of a safer guy to pitch to? As it turned out, no. Schoop turned a hanging breaking ball into his 18th home run of the year, which led to this adorable version of the Machado-Schoop home run celebration:
After the home run, Wieters hit a stand-up triple. No, I’m not kidding. Wieters didn’t score, so this didn’t affect the outcome of the game in any way, but seriously: MATT WIETERS STANDUP TRIPLE. You know there’s magic in the air when that happens.
It couldn’t come too easy. Brown got himself on base with his third hit of the game. The tying run ended up in scoring position after Joe Panik hit such a high chopper that the Orioles had no chance at a double play.
Despite general wisdom saying that it’s an awful idea to intentionally walk the go-ahead run, the O’s did just that when Buster Posey pinch hit. Britton ran the count full on Denard Span to make things interesting and got a game-ending groundout.
The save was Britton’s 37th of the year. Brad Brach, brought in for the eighth inning once the game got close, picked up another win and is now 7-1 on the year. Casilla’s loss was his fourth, and his sixth blown save overall.
What looked like it might be a disastrous Orioles road trip ended up being 5-5. That’s not great, but if the Orioles were only .500 on the road, they’d lead the AL East by three games.
A deserved and needed off day awaits on Monday as the Orioles fly back to Baltimore with a crucial series against the Red Sox set to start on Tuesday. Yovani Gallardo and Eduardo Rodriguez are the scheduled starters for the 7:05 opener.