Finally, the Orioles are back above .500. It’s taken more than two and a half months, and to get there on Monday night, it took an offense being capable of overcoming the latest disaster of a start by Chris Tillman. They did it, though. The Orioles beat the Mariners, 7-6, riding 16 hits to a narrow victory.
With the win, the Orioles gain a half game on the idle Twins, leaving them 1.5 games out of the second wild card spot. Since the win came over the Mariners, the O’s have now leapfrogged Seattle in the current wild card standings. Depending on the result out west later on Monday, the O’s could end the night looking up at just one team in the second wild card standings.
At this point in the O’s season, every win is huge. That’s even more true when the wins don’t come easy. The O’s hadn’t won a game in which Tillman pitched since July 17. Finding a way to win when he delivers the kind of performance he’s delivered all too frequently in the 2017 season is big.
The career story for Tillman has been struggle in the first inning. Tonight, he lulled everybody into a false sense of security with a perfect first. The spell broke fairly quickly. Former Oriole Danny Valencia homered off Tillman in the second inning to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. This was Valencia’s 14th home run of the season.
Fortunately for the O’s, they weren’t running into the best of Seattle’s rotation on Monday, and they were able to take advantage of that fact. Mariners starter Marco Gonzales was sitting on a 6.23 ERA entering this game - though that was only a four start sample size. By the time the O’s were done with him, that number rose.
In the bottom of the second, the O’s got the bases loaded for Welington Castillo, who put the O’s on top with a two-run single. This was the first of three hits on the night for Castillo. The pair of BFFs, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, came together to add a third Orioles run in the next inning. Machado doubled and Schoop drove him home.
Tillman has only given up fewer than three runs in three of his sixteen starts this season. It’s not enough for 2017 Tillman to work with. And indeed, it didn’t take long for him to blow the lead his hitters gave him. Tillman’s command abandoned him in the fourth inning as he issued first a one out walk to Nelson Cruz and then a two out walk to Valencia.
This brought up Ben Gamel, who, just to present you with a random fact that has nothing to do with anything, began the day having hit six home runs in 441 plate appearances in the 2017 season.
That’s actually not a random fact at all, because Tillman gave up a 414 home run to center field to Gamel, plating three runs and putting the Orioles in a 4-3 hole. Don’t get beaten by Ben Gamel! Tillman surely knows this. Having the ability to do something about it is another story.
Again the Orioles were able to rally to overcome a Tillman problem. Trey Mancini led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, moving up on a Chris Davis walk. The O’s loaded the bases one batter later with another Castillo single.
Craig Gentry might not be the guy you would want to see in that situation, but he kept the conga line moving with a single, scoring the tying run. Gonzales put the O’s back on top when he hit Tim Beckham with a pitch to force in the fifth Orioles run.
The Mariners had finally seen enough. They yanked Gonzales after he’d surrendered five runs on eight hits and two walks in just 3.1 innings. It’s a wonder the Orioles didn’t try to acquire this guy. He’s right up their alley.
The O’s were not able to get any more runs across in this bases loaded, one out situation. Mariners reliever Christian Bergman retired Machado and Schoop to end the threat. He could not keep the Orioles off the board, though: Adam Jones got a hold of a pitch and drove it over the center field wall for the 250th home run of his career and 25th of the season.
On top of the career milestone, that homer being his 25th marks the seventh consecutive season where he’s hit at least 25 homers. That is a new Orioles record, passing the six consecutive seasons with 25+ last pulled off by Cal Ripken Jr. from 1982-87.
Even for Tillman, six runs must be enough, right? Nope. In the sixth inning, Tillman was once again unable to throw strikes, walking Cruz and Seager with one out. That earned him a hook in favor of reliever Mychal Givens. It’s a tough situation to inherit, there, but it’s the reliever’s job to get the clutch outs. Givens, instead, allowed both runs to score by giving up a pair of singles.
It was Gamel who drove in both of the runs. “Ben Gamel randomly drives in five runs” sounds like the kind of game that the Orioles would lose, right? We’ve all seen this story before. But Givens got the outs he needed after the score was tied. The Mariners did not take the lead.
For Tillman, the final line was just three hits allowed in 5.1 innings. That sounds good, but he walked four batters, and two of the three hits were home runs. He was charged with six runs, all earned, and proved unequal to the task of lowering his already-high 7.75 ERA. You can be very bad and lower a 7.75 ERA. Tillman was worse than that.
Mancini led off the bottom of the seventh inning with his third base hit of the night. Right after him, Davis doubled into right field, and when Seattle’s right fielder Mitch Haniger bobbled the ball, the hustling Mancini was able to round third and score, putting the O’s back on top.
From here, Darren O’Day and Zach Britton took over and sped things along towards an Orioles-friendly conclusion. O’Day had to dance around two singles, while Britton gave up a one-out walk. It didn’t matter. They held the line. Britton picked up his 12th save of the season in the process.
The Orioles have now won five in a row. They will have a chance on Tuesday night to tie their season-high winning streak of six games. Now is the time to get hot, if they can manage it. Dylan Bundy and Erasmo Ramirez are the scheduled starters for the 7:05 game.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 28, 2017?
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Adam Jones (250th career homer and 7th straight season with 25+)
Trey Mancini (three hits, two runs scored)
Chris Davis (2-3, BB, drove in game-winning run)
Welington Castillo (3-4, 2 RBI)