Before the 2017 Orioles season began, it wasn’t very hard to imagine a lot of games ending up with an overwhelming offense papering over deficiencies at the back end of the Orioles starting rotation. Reality hasn’t turned out quite like that. The last game of the first half did follow that script, though, as the Orioles took down the Twins, 11-5.
With the win, the Orioles at least managed to salvage a split of this four game series heading into the All-Star break. Thanks to a lopsided Blue Jays loss, they’ve pulled up out of the previous tie for last in the division, and they continue to sit four games behind the Rays for the second AL Wild Card spot, with five teams to pass to claim the spot.
There’s work to be done in the second half, to say the least, but the team can get to go into the break feeling at least a little bit better about the way things are going. They could probably use the days off.
Sunday afternoon’s contest could have very well gone the same way that an unfortunate number of games this season have gone, with an early Orioles offensive burst being erased by an O’s starting pitcher immolating on the mound.
The early hitting was there for the O’s. They took advantage of a Twins starter who’s struggled this year, Kyle Gibson, against whom the Orioles scored six runs the previous time they saw him this season. They jumped out against Gibson again on Sunday afternoon, with the top of the lineup ambushing him for three runs in the first inning.
All three first inning runs scored when Adam Jones crushed a home run to deep center in Target Field. Seth Smith led off the game with a walk, while Jonathan Schoop singled to put two men on for Jones. This was the 14th home run of the season for Jones.
The O’s added another pair of runs in the second inning, with Caleb Joseph and Smith both picking up run-scoring hits off of Gibson. A 5-0 lead after batting twice! That’s pretty cool, right?
The thing to keep in mind is that Ubaldo Jimenez was pitching today. Jimenez was also pitching in that game where the O’s scored six runs off of Gibson previously, and he too gave up six runs that night as the O’s went on to lose, 14-7.
In short, you couldn’t feel safe with a five run lead. That misgiving proved justified with how Jimenez pitched, starting as soon as the second inning. Jimenez hit the first batter, Kennys Vargas, before getting two outs. Jimenez then proceeded to walk the 8 and 9 batters, loading the bases.
Just for good measure, Jimenez then walked Twins leadoff man Brian Dozier to force in a run. The Twins brought the tying run to the plate without ever getting a hit in the inning up to that point! And once they had done that, they got a pair of hits that drove in all three runs. They probably should have scored the tying run, too, but somehow Robbie Grossman couldn’t score from first base on a two out double.
So, thanks to Jimenez, it wasn’t a game where the O’s could coast to victory from the beginning. Luckily, the Orioles offense did not rest on its early inning laurels and they resumed scoring. Jones led off the top of the fifth inning with another home run, his 15th of the season.
The team went on to score three more runs in the inning, with the bottom of the lineup coming through. Joseph drove in another couple of runs with a double, with Ruben Tejada driving in Joseph right afterwards. That gave the O’s a 9-4 lead.
And still, Jimenez. He put two Twins on in the bottom of the fifth. The Twins, however, weren’t able to come up with the big hit to get back in the game. With 103 pitches thrown, Jimenez’s day was done after five. He gave up four runs on four hits and four walks. Not great, but thankfully, it was enough.
With the starting pitcher going short, the Orioles turned to Richard Bleier out of the bullpen to get them closer to the end of the game. Bleier breezed through 2.2 innings, with only one unearned run crossing the plate while he was in the game. The O’s found Bleier on the scrap heap and he will head into the break with a 1.48 ERA in 30.1 innings. He has been a success story so far.
The O’s offense combined for 15 hits in the game. Smith and Tejada each had three hits apiece, with Jones, Joseph, and Manny Machado having two apiece. Trey Mancini would have had a multi-hit game as well if the umpires in the replay center in New York had actually viewed the challenged play that was sent to them.
Jones drove in five runs in the game, in the process passing Ken Singleton for fifth place on the franchise’s career RBI list. Singleton had 766 driven in as an Oriole. Jones has now driven in 770 for the team. The next one is going to take a little bit longer. Boog Powell holds fourth place with 1,063 RBI as an Oriole.
Machado has now hit safely in six straight games, raising his OPS by 34 points over that span. He has a way to go before he gets to where the O’s need him to be. Hopefully he can carry over this streak into the second half of the season.
Zach Britton pitched the ninth inning, with manager Buck Showalter taking advantage of the lopsided score to give him another low-leverage tune-up outing. It took him 12 pitches to retire the side, getting two ground ball outs and one strikeout.
If you don’t want to think about the team at all over the next four days, I don’t blame you, but hopefully you’ll check in to Camden Chat during the time off. The O’s will get back in action on Friday against the struggling Cubs, opening the second half of the season with a 7:05 game in Baltimore.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for July 9, 2017?
This poll is closed
Adam Jones (two dingers, five RBI)
Manny Machado (extended hitting streak, dispatching slump?)
Caleb Joseph (2-5, three runs driven in)
Richard Bleier (2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 ER)