On paper, Sunday’s pitching matchup in between the Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays looked like a massive mismatch, almost unfair. Rays’ ace David Price was going for his 15th win, tops in the majors. Against the Orioles here in 2012, Price was 2-0, allowing just 11 hits and 2 walks in 14.1 innings, and pitching to an ERA or 0.63.
For the Orioles, Miguel Gonzalez was making his ninth major league appearance, and sixth career start. Each of those appearances had been, at least, pretty good, except one: July 25th at Camden Yards, against the Rays. In that one, he was hammered: 2.2 innings, 7 hits, 7 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 home runs allowed. But if those numbers foreshadowed a tragedy for the birds Sunday, Gonzalez set out to re-write the script.
The right hander, cut by Boston in December, was largely viewed as organizational depth when he signed with the Orioles in March. In reality, he’s become something of a savior to a rotation mangled by ineffectiveness, inconsistency, and injury. Sunday, he turned in his best performance to date. And it’s a good thing he did, because his teammates were completely shut down by the ace on the other side of the diamond.
Price pitched as an ace is supposed to pitch; 8 innings, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks, 2 hits, and no earned runs. In the third, he gave up a single to Robert Andino. Andino was then thrown out on the back side of a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play with JJ Hardy batting. After that, Price retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced, into the eighth inning. The Orioles could muster up just a two-out walk to Hardy in the sixth against the dominating lefty. The game was entirely under Price’s control. At least, half the game was.
The other half belonged to Gonzalez. While not quite as dominating as his All-Star counterpart, Gonzalez still matched Price, zero-for-zero. He threw 7 innings, striking out 4 and walking 4, giving up just 2 hits and no runs.
The Orioles bullpen, too, was nearly perfect on the day. Darren O’Day replaced Gonzalez to throw a perfect eighth. O’Day was aided by a great barehanded pick and throw by Andino at third on Elliott Johnson’s bid for a bunt single leading off.
Troy Patton replaced O’Day in the ninth and gave up a leadoff hit to Matt Joyce. Buck Showalter went to Luis Ayala (W, 3-3) in relief of Patton. Sean Rodriguez laid down a sac bunt, moving Joyce, the would-be game winning run, into scoring position with one out. But Jeff Keppinger hit a come-backer to Ayala, who had Joyce caught between second and third, for out number two. In the rundown, Keppinger moved to second, and the Rays had another chance to end it, with two outs and the winning run at second. Ayala, though, struck out Ryan Roberts on three pitches, and through 9, there was still no score.
In the tenth, a pair of unlikely offensive heroes emerged for the O’s. With one out and reliever Joel Paralta on the mound, Mark Reynolds worked his way back from an 0-1 count, for a walk. Omar Quintanilla struck out, for out number two. Next up was O’s catcher Taylor Teagarden, who’d helped guide Gonzalez through his seven strong innings, and helped Ayala wiggle out of a pair of at-bats with the winning run in scoring position. Now, with the chance to deliver on offense, Teagarden would deliver the game’s winning hit.
Paralta(L, 1-4) jumped ahead of Teagarden, 1-2, but he could not close the door. Teagarden worked the count full, important because it meant Reynolds was off with the pitch on 3-2 with two outs. On the seventh pitch of the at- bat that featured three foul balls, Teagarden finally got a ball out over the plate, an 89 MPH fastball away, and he did not miss it.
Teagarden belted one into the gap in left center. The ball hit the perfect spot on the warning track, nearly short-hopping the fence. Reynolds easily made it all the way around the bases to score, and make it 1-0, Orioles.
Jim Johnson threw a perfect, eight-pitch, 1-2-3 ninth for the save (32), and send the Orioles after a terrific, 4-2 road trip to New York and Tampa.
The birds welcome Seattle to Camden Yards Monday. Chris Tillman (4-1, 2.70), the former Mariners’ farm hand, takes on Jason Vargas (12-7, 3.71). Game time is 7:05.
- Gonzalez/O’Day/Ayala/Johnson combined for 10IP, 0ER, 2H, 6K, 5BB.
- Teagarden picked up his third Orioles hit. Two of them have been game winners.
- Reynolds reached base twice Sunday, including once in the tenth when he scored the winning run. He did not strike out, and did not strand a base runner.
- The O’s were 0-5 with RiSP, and left 6 on.