Not even the Orioles starting Wade Miley was enough for the Blue Jays to find their way out of the desert. Not even with Aaron Sanchez, their best starting pitcher, on the mound, could they reach an oasis. Miley came through with a quality start and O’s hitters socked four dingers on the way to a 6-4 win in Toronto on Friday night.
The Orioles are now 7-2 on the season, a great start for their crucial AL East-heavy April. It’s too early to say for sure that they’re for real, but so far they’re riding last year’s formula to success. Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, and Seth “Dad” Smith all delivered homers on the way to a victory.
That’s not to say it was easy all the way. There was a time the Orioles trailed, and the frightening mortality of closer Zach Britton continued. The game ended with the go-ahead run at the plate. Britton escaped and the Orioles won the game. They don’t have to give the win back.
The starting pitching reverse lock
Put simply, Sanchez was good last year and Miley wasn’t. Nor was Miley good in his first start of 2017. On paper, who should win this game was obvious. Reality is not always so simple.
Things looked like they were going in the Jays direction early on. Though the O’s scored first, that was only a run plated on a wild pitch. Still counts, but not a sign Sanchez was going to give up monster hits.
That lead did not last long. In the bottom of the second inning, Miley ran into some problems, not all of his own making. Kendrys Morales started off with a single. Troy Tulowitzki’s double gave the Jays men on second and third with nobody out. Disaster seemed imminent, especially once Justin Smoak drove in the tying run and the rally just kept on going.
A rare misplay by Manny Machado turned a sure inning-ending double play into one where the Jays scored what was then the go-ahead run. From there, Miley was able to get things under control, striking out the next two batters to shut down the rally.
The Jays added a third run against Miley when Smoak launched his first home run of the year in the fourth inning. With Sanchez starting to cruise, that seemed like that would be that.
...until it wasn’t. As it has done many times before in recent years, the Orioles offense struck abruptly and terribly (for the Jays).
Schoop led off the fifth inning with his second dinger of the season. Hyun Soo Kim, returned from his Australian walkabout to play left field in this game, followed with a double, putting him on base when Sanchez served up a tater to Hardy. Yes, Hardy! This was the go-ahead shot, putting the Orioles ahead, 4-3.
Nor was Sanchez done giving up dingers, because Davis led off the sixth inning by blasting off to deep center against him. Sometimes it’s just not your night. Though Sanchez allowed “only” seven hits in 5.1 innings, three of them were homers, so he gave up five runs, all earned.
Miley, on the other hand, recovered from his second inning stumble to make it through six innings, giving up only five hits, and crucially after his first start, walking none. Three earned runs are on his ledger, but that’s only because of the dumb “you can’t assume the double play” rule - it could have easily been just two. Miley also struck out eight Jays batters. At least for now, it seems, the Jays offense is THAT bad.
Hold on to your butts with Zach Britton
Yet even the struggling Jays bats can get a rally going against the Orioles closer right now. If you’ve watched or listened to any of his saves, you’ve probably been mighty nervous after the way he spoiled us last year. So it was again on Friday night.
Whatever it is that has been happening to Britton happened again. Pitches way out of the strike zone, pitches getting elevated, batters getting on base and stress levels rising. He has looked more like George Sherrill than Britton.
The O’s had another run to work with since Smith worked a long at-bat off of Jason Grilli in the top of the ninth and ended it with a homer. That made Britton’s outing slightly less nerve-wracking, but only slightly.
Russell Martin led off with a single against Britton. No big deal, right? Britton even got two outs following that, retiring Smoak on a liner to center and striking out Jarrod Saltalamacchia. With Devon Travis and his long 0-for coming up, that should have been that.
But Travis poked a single into right field, scoring Martin and marring Britton’s 0.00 ERA, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Kevin Pillar. He, too, hit a single, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. Who could it be but Steve Pearce, the once and future Oriole, who keeps hitting scary fly balls off of Britton?
Pearce worked the count full, putting up enough of a fight to make the looming presence of Jose Bautista in the on-deck circle seem like a real threat. Finally, Britton ended things with a pitch that rode inside. A half-hearted swing and a miss by Pearce almost took everyone by surprise, like, that was it? Yes, that was it. The Orioles were in the win column once again.
The O’s have built up a 7-2 record despite whatever the heck is the wrong with Britton and might be wrong with Darren O’Day, who gave up two hits in a scoreless seventh. They remain in first place despite mighty slumps by Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo, both hitless on Friday. It turns out they are catching the Blue Jays at just the right time.
The series resumes on Saturday afternoon at 1:07, so sleep fast, as manager Buck Showalter likes to say. The winner of the fifth starter competition for the Orioles has turned out to be Alec Asher. He will be starting opposite Jays starter Marco Estrada as the Orioles look to seal a series win in Canada.
Home plate umpire Dale Scott took a Trumbo foul ball off the mask in the eighth inning. He ended up having to be taken off the field on a cart and the game finished with only three umpires on the field. Wishing him a speedy recovery from any injury he suffered there.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 14, 2017?
This poll is closed
J.J. Hardy (go-ahead home run)
Chris Davis (2-3, walked, homered)
Adam Jones (2-4 with a walk)
Brad Brach (totally dominant eighth inning)