Ubaldo Jimenez turned in another impressive start and the Orioles offense did just enough to earn the Birds a 5-4 victory at Camden Yards on Friday night.
However, the evening did not begin on the best of terms for the Baltimore boys. In fact, it looked like it would be a short outing for Jimenez as he allowed four runs in the first two innings.
An Evan Longoria two-run shot was the first blow in the opening frame. Then, rookie Richie Schaffer hit his first home run of the season in the second inning to drive in Steven Souza Jr. and double the advantage to 4-0.
That would prove to be all that the Rays could muster on this night as Jimenez settled down and ended up giving the O’s seven strong innings, allowing those four runs on seven hits and eight strikeouts. The best sign that it was "good Ubaldo"? No walks.
Despite the fact that it hasn’t been a great year for Chris Archer overall, it’s clear that the guy has what it takes to be a shutdown pitcher. That said, an opposing offense needs to make the most of their opportunities. The Orioles did not always do that tonight.
In the bottom of the first, two defensive flubs from Tampa Bay gave the O’s men on first and second with just one out. Chris Davis stepped to the plate...and promptly hit into a double play to kill the inning.
But even when the Birds slump, they can still hit massive dongs! And that is just what they did next. First, Pedro Alvarez hit his 21st of the season in the second inning. Two innings later, Davis mashed his 38th of the year. The two solo shots cut it to a 4-2 game.
That seventh inning
It felt as though the seventh inning was where the Orioles were going to win or lose this game. Well, they certainly didn’t win it...but didn’t lose either. Feelings are weird.
Singles from J.J. Hardy and Michael Bourn and then an Adam Jones hit-by-pitch loaded the bases with one out. And then...Kevin freakin’ Kiermaier happened. I’m really starting to hate that guy and also secretly wish he was an Oriole.
Hyun Soo Kim destroyed a baseball to deep center field. It looked like it was going to be a back-breaking grand slam. YEAH, BABY! But nope. Kiermaier was out there and he rose like a salmon from the rapids to pull off a Dikembe Mutombo-esque block. The ball was snow-coning in his glove and then when he brought it back onto the field, it fell to the warning track.
Kiermaier didn’t catch the ball, but he stopped the home run and froze all of the base runners. Just one run scored and it was as long of a single for Kim as you will ever seen.
But the Orioles still had just one out and two of their better hitters, Machado and Davis, coming to the plate. Neither one of them came through, striking out to Danny Farquhar to end the inning and still trail Tampa by a run, 4-3. But, it turns out, there would be one more chance...
Brad Boxberger is a good pitcher for Tampa, but on this night, Boxberger didn’t have "it". The righty came on for the eighth inning and just couldn’t fool the Baltimore hitters. His changeups dipped out of the zone and he struggled to locate much of anything.
Jonathan Schoop opened the inning with a six-pitch walk. Alvarez followed with a four-pitch walk of his own. Then, Matt Wieters was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. HERE WE GO!!!
J.J. Hardy tied it up by smashing a ball into the turf and grabbing an infield single as shortstop Alexei Ramirez had to gather the ball in shallow left field and just swallow it as Schoop crossed home plate. Still, bases were loaded with no outs.
Then, finally, the O’s went in front on a Bourn sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Nolan Reimold (who had pinch ran for Alvarez). After that, though, Jones popped out and Kim struck out. Yes, it was good to go ahead, but a few cushion runs would have been ideal.
On came Zach Britton, arguably the best closer in baseball. OK, it’s really not a argument. He’s the best. He’s got this...right?
Well, he did get the first two hitters with relative ease. But then Mikie Mahtook singled and Ramirez worked a 3-2 count. That means Mahtook could get an early jump. That is exactly what he did as Ramirez served a single down the left field line as Bourn gave chase.
Mahtook rounded second, got to third and just kept running. Bourn gathered the ball in left and delivered a perfect relay throw to Machado. The third baseman pivoted and fired a strike to Wieters, who blocked the plate and caught the ball with plenty of time, tagging Mahtook and ending the game. Orioles win 5-4. WOO! That was a big one and one of the best games of the Orioles 2016 season.
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Game three of this Rays series. It’s bobblehead day! Get your vintage bobble-boy or bobble-girl. Actually, don’t do that! I’m going and I want one. Don’t take my bobble from me!
Anyway, there will also be a baseball game. It’s Chris Tillman (16-5, 3.68 ERA) for the O’s and Matt Andriese for the Rays (7-7, 4.46). First pitch is 7:05 on MASN. You knew that. See you at the Yard!