Going into this series I declared it the biggest series that the Orioles have played the entire season. They did what needed to be done, winning two out of three, including a 3-1 win today in which Chris Tillman out pitched Justin Verlander and the offense dingered their way to victory.
We Were Promised Home Runs
With Justin Verlander pitching today’s game, it was unlikely going in that the Orioles were going to score a ton of runs. And they didn’t, but they did get to Verlander for three runs and knocked him out after five innings, which is about as good as you can ask for.
Verlander looked exactly as we expected him to look through the first two innings, but in the third inning the Orioles got contributions from unexpected sources. Caleb Joseph knocked a one-out double down the right field line, then Michael Bourn followed that with a two-run homer.
Bourn batted in the second spot today on account of his career hitting line against Verlander of .371/.436/.429 in 39 plate appearances. It’s easy to shake your head at that, but when it works, it works! The home run is the second that Bourn has hit since joining the Orioles.
Verlander looked to be in even more trouble in that inning as Machado singled and Davis walked, but Verlander picked off Manny at second to end the inning. Oh, Manny.
In the very next inning we got another dinger. With one out, Jonathan Schoop launched his 23rd home run to left field to give the Orioles a three-run lead.
The first two Orioles reached in the fifth inning, but they were unable to score another run as Verlander retired Davis, Machado, and Mark Trumbo to get out of trouble.
Verlander’s day was finished after just five innings,
It was hard to know what to expect from Chris Tillman today. He hadn’t started since August 20th, a two-inning, six-run mess that resulted in him being put on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis. Well, it looks like Tillman is feeling better. He put together a six-inning, one-run start today that was just what the Orioles needed.
Tillman worked around a one-out double in the first inning and pitched a 1-2-3 second before finding himself in a bit of trouble in the third. He had just been given a 2-0 lead by his teammates and he responded by giving up a leadoff double to Erick Aybar. He worked out of it, though, thanks in part to his defense. And by defense, I mean Adam Jones.
The second batter of the inning, Jose Iglesias, hit a flare to right-center that looked like it would fall in for a single. But Jones was positioned perfectly and came racing in from out of nowhere to make a fantastic catch. Then, with two outs and the runner still on third, Cameron Maybin hit a ball deep to center field. Jones raced back, back, back and just got there for the final out. Adam Jones is pretty good.
The only run the Tigers scored came in the fifth inning. After working around the plate for a lot of the game, Tillman finally walked his first batter to start the inning. He got the next two outs, but then back-to-back singles knocked in a run, but Tillman got Maybin to look silly on a pitch that he grounded to Jonathan Schoop at second base for the final out.
Tillman’s final inning was the sixth, and he went out in style with an easy 1-2-3. His final pitching line was 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K. He had a few high pitch count innings when he couldn’t seem to put guys away, but given that he just got back from the DL and that the Tigers are hardly slouches at the plate, I think we can all be happy.
The Hold-On-To-Your-Butts Bullpen
With Darren O’Day still injured and Brad Brach struggling, the back end of the bullpen hasn’t been as solid as we all hoped. With Tillman out after six innings, Buck Showalter’s plan was for Brach to pitch the seventh, Mychal Givens the eighth, and Zach Britton the ninth. And the plan...well it worked, but things got a little dicey.
After giving up a game-losing home run on Friday, Brach looked good today. He pitched a clean inning with one strikeout, and looked like the Brach that the team needs right now.
Givens, on the other hand, made us sweat. He started things off by nailing Iglesias in the back with a pitch, then with one out he walked Maybin with Miguel Cabrera on deck.
Miguel Cabrera stepping to the plate as the go-ahead run in a game as important as this is terrifying. To me, anyway. Givens didn’t look worried. On a 1-1 pitch he threw Cabrera a 97 mph fastball that was grounded harmlessly to Hardy for the inning ending double play.
After that, I relaxed. Because why not? Britton was coming in and Britton doesn’t let us down. My relaxed state did not last long. Britton walked J.D. Martinez with one out, and Justin Upton followed that with a sharp ground ball that hopped over Schoop’s glove for a single. Nooo! This is not what was supposed to happen!
Britton bounced back, though. He struck out James McCann, then pinch hitter Casey McGehee hit a high chopper to Hardy to end the game. What a nail biter!
The Orioles leave Detroit with a two game lead over the Tigers for the second wild card spot. A loss today by the Yankees also pushes them to two games behind the Orioles. And the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays in a wild 11-8 game, which means that the Orioles remain two games back in the division but pull even with the Jays for the first wild card/second place in the AL East.
Now the Orioles go to Boston where they play three games against the Red Sox, another huge series. They’re all huge at this point. Just keep winning!