Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
The Orioles overcame a vintage Wade Miley start with a flurry of offense that included 14 hits and four home runs, completing an unlikely four-game sweep of the Rangers with a 9-7 victory on Thursday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Having closed out that sweep, the team is now three games below .500 and three games out of a wild card spot, pending a west coast Yankees result later on Thursday. Four teams remain to pass in order to claim that wild card spot despite only the three game deficit.
Is that enough to put the brakes on the O's plans to be partial sellers at the trade deadline? Are they suddenly good again? Or are these reeling Rangers just headed in the wrong direction and the O's caught them at the right time? I suspect we'll have firmer answers to these questions after the Orioles play the 63-32 Astros this weekend.
Every Orioles win is fun in the end by virtue of it being a win, but that doesn't mean it's always fun along the way to get there. In fact, it took the Orioles a significant comeback in order to storm back from a deficit to take a large late lead that they did not end up holding onto as comfortably as anybody would like.
In fact, the game started out seeming like it would be nearly all Rangers. Texas scored five runs off of Miley in the first five innings of the game. It was very typical 2017 Miley, dancing around lots of runners on base, allowing a run here, a run there, and then one big blow: A three-run home run hit by Mike Napoli, his 21st of the season, in the fifth inning.
There is no good starting pitching outcome where the pitcher allows five runs, all earned. There is no good outcome where that same pitcher gives up seven hits and four walks in just five innings of work. Seriously, how do you walk that many batters? It's impressive in a frustrating way. It's not by accident that Miley leads all qualified MLB pitchers in the WHIP category. He's just... that.
However, unlike some other games this season where the starting pitchers dropped them into an early hole, the Orioles offense did not fold up and do little for the rest of the game. Facing off against Rangers starter Cole Hamels, who had been pretty good this season and especially good in his first three July starts, the O's were able to homer their way back into contention.
Team home run leader Jonathan Schoop got the O's on the board with a solo shot in the fourth inning, his 19th of the season. At this time, this left the O's trailing, 4-1. The next inning, a two run shot hit by Adam Jones brought the O's to a 5-3 hole, and three batters later, Mark Trumbo also took Hamels deep to make it a 5-4 deficit. Improbably, it was a brand new ballgame.
Jones delivered his 17th home run of the season, while Trumbo's was good for his 16th. The Orioles have five players with at least that many home runs. You'd better get your guess in for that 10,000th home run in franchise history contest. They're heading there in a hurry.
Homers may have brought the O's close to the Rangers, but it was the unusual (for them) circumstance of stringing together hit after hit that tied things up, gave them a lead, and staked them a few runs.
The bottom of the lineup chased Hamels from the game in the sixth inning with three straight singles. The last of these, hit by Joey Rickard, scored the game-tying run. That was enough for the Rangers to send Hamels to the showers and bring in Jeremy Jeffress.
When you bring a reliever into a key situation hoping he can extinguish it and that reliever already has a 5+ ERA, that's not always going to work out well. Sure enough, it didn't work. Jones welcomed Jeffress to the game with a run-scoring double to put the O's ahead. Later in the inning, Schoop followed by driving in two more runs with a single.
With a three run lead heading into the seventh inning, that set the O's up to run through the late inning Brach-O'Day-Britton combo, though it was in a different order with Darren O'Day handling the seventh and Brad Brach pitching the eighth. The O's stuck to this even after a Chris Davis home run in the seventh inning - also his 17th - put the game out of save range.
Zach Britton, possibly being showcased for a trade over the next week and a half, took the ninth inning. After two easy groundouts, it seemed like the game would end without any incident.
It wasn't to be so simple as that. Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos hit a double down the left field line. A wild pitch while Britton was in the process of walking Delino DeShields moved Chirinos to third. DeShields moved himself up to second base during the next at-bat due to defensive indifference.
That put two men into scoring position for Shin-Soo Choo, who grounded a ball up the middle that just barely snuck into the outfield. Mostly, good things will happen when Britton gets ground balls, but not always. Two runs scored on the play, with the tying run coming up to the plate afterwards. Britton got Elvis Andrus to fly out to the warning track in right field and the game was over.
Miguel Castro ended up receiving the win for pitching a scoreless sixth inning. The O's took the lead while he was the pitcher of record. Hamels was the losing pitcher, his first loss in ten starts this season.
The streak of three straight Orioles quality starts may have come to an end. The winning streak did not. Who are these guys? Surely the best-in-the-AL Astros will let us know one way or the other. That series opens on Friday night, with Mike Fiers and Ubaldo Jimenez the scheduled starters for the 7:05pm game.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for July 20, 2017?
This poll is closed
Adam Jones (2-5, HR, three runs driven in)
Jonathan Schoop (2-5, HR, three runs driven in)
Joey Rickard (2-4, two runs scored)