Another Orioles win at Camden Yards last night, though one with a rather unfamiliar feel. The birds had their leadoff man back after over a year on the disabled list. The offense put together an impressive night. And the bullpen—the one area of this team that we’ve learned to count on, day in and day out—struggled, to the point where after building a 6-run lead, the O’s had to hold on for dear life to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Brian Roberts’ first game back at the major league level, alone, would have been reason enough to be excited as an Orioles fan. The small crowd at Camden Yards gave Roberts a nice ovation as he strode to the plate for the first time since his concussion in May of 2011. After he ripped a 3-2 pitch to center in that first at bat, the crowd went nuts. Roberts would go on to collect 2 more hits in his 4 at-bats, and added an important sac-fly in the 6th.
Down 1-0 in the 2nd, the Orioles struck against Pirates starter Brad Lincoln (3-2). Adam Jones led off with his 11th double of the season. A Matt Wieters ground out moved Jones to 3rd. Lincoln struck out Wilson Betemit, and Mark Reynolds stepped in, facing a team he owned throughout his National League days. Reynolds deposited his 4th home run of the season into the seats in left, and the Orioles had a 2-1 lead.
The Orioles mounted a 2-out rally in the 3rd, when Jones blooped a single to center, scoring JJ Hardy, for a 3-1 lead.
Jones added his 18th home run of the year in the 5th, and finished the night with 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBIs, and was a triple away from hitting for the cycle.
The Orioles added 4 more in the 6th. Roberts’ sac fly scored Steve Pearce, who’d reached on an error. JJ Hardy added an RBI hit, and Chris Davis blasted his 11th home, and it looked like a laugher for the Orioles, up 8-2.
Wei-Yin Chen, meanwhile, was cruising. Through 6, Chen (6-2) had allowed just 2 runs on 6 hits, and was staked to a 6-run lead. 4 pitches into the top of the 7th, however, he was in trouble. Clint Barmes singled to left to start the inning, and Alex Presley doubled, moving Barmes to 3rd. After Neil Walker’s RBI groundout, Buck Showalter lifted Chen for Luis Ayala. Pirates star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen’s bid for a hit turned into an out, thanks to a great play by rightfielder Ryan Flaherty. Presley tagged and scored on the play, bringing the Pirates to within 4, at 8-4.
Perhaps feeling nostalgic, Showalter brought Kevin Gregg in to close the game out in the 9th, albeit in a non-save situation. In the spirit of nostalgia, Gregg gave O’s fans a huge scare, issuing a 1-out walk to Presley—a .235 hitter—and yielding an opposite field home run on a hanging curve to Walker—his 4th in 216 at bats. Showalter turned the game over to closer Jim Johnson, who struck out McCutchen, and got Casey McGehee on a ground out to end the game.
The birds and Pirates continue their interleague series Wednesday night at Camden Yards, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05.
- Lots to be happy about. Jones: 4-5 with a homer and double. Reynolds: 2-4 with a homer. Davis: 2-5 with a homer. 2 hits from Hardy. Chen threw well. Another shutdown performance from Johnson. But the night belonged to Roberts: 3-4 with an RBI in his first game in 13 months. Plus, a shaving cream pie in the face, courtesy of Jones.
- Endy Chavez had to be pulled with a strained hamstring after a bunt single in the 6th. No word on how much time he’ll miss, if any, but the Orioles can ill-afford any more injuries.
- Speaking of injuries, pitcher Brian Matusz hurt himself taking bunting practice in the cages before the game. Matusz fouled off the bunt, and the ball hit him in the nose. X-rays came back negative, and Matusz insists he’ll be well enough to make Wednesday’s start, as scheduled. Either way, this is bad news. At worst, Matusz’s swelling forces him to miss the scheduled start. At best, Matusz needs to learn how to bunt.