Inspired by Taylor Swift re-releasing her own songs as (Taylor’s version), Camden Chat writers will be spending the rest of 2023 re-releasing some Orioles game recaps and giving them better endings. Let’s rewrite one of the more embarrassing blunders in recent Orioles history, when Todd Williams gave up a game-winning single on an attempted intentional walk of Miguel Cabrera.
If a midweek game occurs between two non-contending teams, and only 20,000 people are there to see it, did it really happen? Well, yes, technically, but it’s not an experience that will go down as much more than a spreadsheet entry in the long history of Major League Baseball. Any other outcome would have required something out-of-the-ordinary to occur on this night at Camden Yards, and that was not the case here. Just two sub-par teams playing a relatively dry extra-inning game. Move along.
This game was dictated by a pair of strong pitching performances, despite both starters entering the night with ERAs above four. Kris Benson and Scott Olsen both made it into the eighth inning at Camden Yards, but neither would factor into the eventual decision as the O’s won in walk-off fashion. But before we get there, let’s recap the action that got us some “free baseball.”
Florida was on the board early. Alfredo Amezaga led off the top of the first inning with a double into right field. A long fly ball from Hanley Ramirez allowed Amezaga to tag up and trot over to third base. Another fly ball, this time off the bat of Mike Jacobs turned into a sacrifice fly, scoring Amezaga for a quick 1-0 lead to the visitors.
That would prove to be all the Marlins could muster against Benson, but it wasn’t exactly a dominating performance for the O’s starter. He was unable to record any strikeouts in his eight-inning outing, he had just two three-up-three-down innings, and he put runners in scoring position in five different innings.
At the same time, Benson kept the damage minimal. The only extra-base hit he allowed was to Amezaga in the top of the first, he issued only two walks, and got some help from a pair of double plays. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, which is handy for Benson because his Orioles career so far hasn’t been all that good.
It would take the Orioles until the fifth inning to even the score. To that point they had amassed just one walk and one hit, but had yet to truly threaten Olsen on the mound. That changed with one swing of Ramon Hernandez’s bat, a solo homer to right field, knotting the to score at one run apiece.
The O’s wouldn’t get another hit until the eighth inning, when, once again, Hernandez went deep. This time his long fly ball left the park via center field, another one-run shot, to give the hosts their first lead of the evening.
That was just the start of the Orioles’ scoring in the inning. A walk to Jeff Conine would be the final pitch of Olsen’s day. He made way for Logan Kensing, who would face just one hitter (Luis Matos) and give up a single. In came Taylor Tankersley from the Marlins’ bullpen. He too would have a rough outing. Brian Roberts welcomed him with a walk. Melvin Mora followed with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to drive in Conine. Miguel Tejada scored Matos on a single into center. And finally Javy Lopez used a base knock into center to bring home Roberts. When the dust settled the Orioles had managed to take a 5-1 lead.
Just when you thought the Orioles had this one in the bag, their bullpen fumbled it away. LaTroy Hawkins was brought on to relieve Benson and face the middle of the Marlins order. He managed to record just one out, sandwiched between singles from Miguel Cabrera and Jeremy Hermida.
O’s manager Sam Perlozzo turned to his closer, Chris Ray. It didn’t go great. Josh Willingham inched the game closer with a sacrifice fly to score Cabrera. Pinch hitter Joe Borchard stepped in for Matt Treanor, a move that immediately paid off as Borchard homered to right field, making it just a one-run deficit. And the cherry on top of the trash sundae came when Wes Helms also left the park, tying the score at 5-5. In just minutes, the O’s four-run lead had vanished, and this game seemed headed to extras. Unless...the Orioles could walk it off in the ninth!
They could not. But they did put a runner in scoring position as Matos walked and stole second before a lineout from Roberts threw water on that potential rally.
Todd Williams came on to pitch the 10th inning for the O’s. The righty has been in rough form. He’s allowed a run in each of his last two outings, serving up five hits and managing just one strikeout in that time. Things got sketchy right away as Ramirez led off the inning with a bunt single before Jacobs grounded out to give the Marlins a runner in scoring position with one out and Cabrera stepping into the box. That’s where things got sticky for a moment.
Perlozzo wisely instructed Williams to walk Cabrera on four pitches. The young slugger entered the day with a monstrous .339/.435/.567 batting line for the season. You don’t let that guy beat you. Williams obliged, softly tossing in the would-be ball one of the at-bat. But the offering wasn’t as firm or as far away from the plate as these pitches tend to be. In fact, it was downright close to the strike zone. Cabrera saw an opportunity. He swung at the loopy lob. Disaster was around the corner. Fortunately for the Orioles, the ball came just off the end of his bat and fell foul. As awful as the pitch was, it was just far enough away to make it tough on Cabrera to square up. Can you imagine how many times THAT would have replayed throughout history if he had actually squared it up? Wild. Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about it.
The swing turned the Cabrera at-bat into an 0-1 count. Despite his own failure, Williams was now ahead in the count. That changed the equation a bit. Now, it made more sense to go after Cabrera. The O’s reliever hunkered down and actually pitched. This time it worked out. Cabrera flew out to shallow center field, and Ramirez stayed put at second base. Cody Ross was next up and Williams made quick work of him, striking him out to end the threat. Whew!
Already running low on bullpen arms and hoping to reserve closer Joe Borowski for a save situation, Marlins manager Joe Girardi turned to righty Matt Herges to face the middle of the Orioles’ order. Melvin Mora led off the frame. After seeing a few pitches just miss the strike zone Mora got hold of a Herges fastball and took it deep to the short porch in left field, just beyond the reach of the left fielder Ross for a walk-off solo homer to send the weary Orioles faithful home happy with a 6-5 win.
Did the Orioles deserve to win? It doesn’t really feel like it. Benson was good without overpowering stuff, but the bullpen had a nightmarish game. Hawkins and Ray stunk, and Williams was lucky to not pay for his bone-headed intentional walk attempt. But it was all erased by a power surge from the lineup. Just like their starter in this game, the O’s were more lucky than good, but sometimes that’s all you need.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for June 22, 2006?
This poll is closed
Ramon Hernandez (two home runs)
Melvin Mora (walk-off homer)
Kris Benson (ND, eight innings, one run)