There are lots of things people can say and have said about the 2012 Orioles: They’re playing over their heads. They’ll fade. They do it with smoke and mirrors. They’re really just not that good. One thing, though, that cannot be said about them is that they can’t overcome adversity. They’ve replaced more than half of their rotation, more times than once. They started the season without their All-Star leadoff man, and the guy who replaced him was basically the MVP of the league, until he got hurt after 16 games. He never came back, but the All-Star did…in June…for 17 games, before he was lost for the rest of the season.
Their Gold Glove right fielder, and #3 hitter missed a month, and when he came back, he became the leadoff man for the first time in his career. The veteran slugger they traded for to add some pop? He lasted 18 games and drove in 6 runs. Their ace went down with a knee injury. He’s missed about 3 weeks, and will miss at least 3 more. They’re platooning in left with a guy who hadn’t seen the majors in 5 years, and a guy who was cut by Pittsburgh after hitting .140. They made no moves at the trade deadline. They can’t field. They can’t run. They don’t manufacture runs. They hit into too many double plays. And yet, after overcoming their latest round of adversity Tuesday night, here they are, 4.5 games out of first place in the American League East.
The Orioles spotted the Seattle Mariners five runs in the first Tuesday. And, by spotted, we mean, literally, handed five runs over to the opposition. It was another ugly beginning for young left hander Zach Britton. Mariners leadoff man Dustin Ackley hit a comebacker on the game’s fourth pitch the Britton could not handle, and we were off and running with an error. Two strikeouts later, Seattle’s cleanup man Jesus Montero hit a sharp grounder that third baseman Wilson Betemit couldn’t handle. It went down as a hit, but it was a play that should have been made, and really the second extra out the O’s gave the M’s in the first.
The Mariners are not a good hitting team, but they are a major league team, and given extra outs, a major league team will usually cash in. And the Mariners did. Kyle Seager picked on a 93 MPH fastball down the middle and blasted it into the right field seats for his 12th home run, and a 3-0 Seattle lead.
The Mariners picked up two more in the second on a one out homer from Miguel Olivo (8), followed by three consecutive singles from Munenori Kawasaki, Ackley, and Treyvon Robinson. A small but already restless Camden Yards crowd started buzzing for Buck Showalter to make a move to the bullpen, but he stuck with his lefty, who got out of it without further damage.
The Orioles put together a two-run second of their own. Matt Wieters led off with a home run to straight away center (14), making it 5-1. Two outs later, Nick Markakis delivered an opposite field RBI hit, and it was 5-2.
Britton settled in for a spell, retiring 9 of the next ten Mariners he faced. With the score still 5-2 Seattle, Britton took the hill in the top of the sixth. Casper Wells led off with a triple, and Mike Carp drove him in with a single to left. Britton’s night was over (as would be this most recent stay in Baltimore. More on that ahead), and Kevin Gregg came on. His first batter, Olivo, reached on another Betemit miscue down at third (this time, ruled an error), and the Mariners had runners at second and third with no outs, already up 6-2.
One out later, Ackley delivered a single to center, scoring Carp. But the slow footed Olivo was gunned out on a strong throw from Adam Jones to Matt Wieters at the plate. With the score 7-2, and with the Orioles down to the final 12 outs, it didn’t look like the play was going to be nearly as important as it turned out to be.
Wieters hit his second homer of the night in the sixth, chipping away, and making it 7-3 Mariners. But in the seventh, the Orioles stopped chipping away, and broke out the chainsaw. Mark Reynolds opened the inning with a double, sending Mariners starter Blake Beavan to the showers with a 7-3 lead. With left handed hitting Omar Quintanilla coming up, Mariners manager Eric Wedge opted to go to Lucas Luetge, one of two left handed relievers for Seattle.
Quintanilla singled Reynolds home, making it 7-4. Markakis blooped a single to left, bringing up JJ Hardy.
With the right handed hitting O’s shortstop coming up, another move to the bullpen seemed likely. After all, Hardy is hitting .287 vs. lefties, and just .208 against right handers. And, although they hadn’t exactly torn the cover off the ball against him, the O’s were 2-2 against Luetge. Plus, unlike his managerial counterpart in the Orioles dugout, Wedge had not one, but two left handers in the bullpen, so if the need arose for a lefty/lefty match-up later in the game, Wedge could still make it happen. Instead, Wedge left the 24-year old rookie in the game. It was a move that helped cost Seattle a win.
Hardy had been hitless on the day, having left three runners on. But on Luetge’s 0-1 pitch, an 89 MPH sinker that stayed up just enough, Hardy blasted a three-run home run into the left field seats. His 16th home run brought the Orioles all the way back from deficits of 5-0 and 7-2, to tie the game at 7. And, right on cue, the Orioles bullpen was hitting its stride.
Gregg had settled down after a rough first inning of work, holding the M’s scoreless in the seventh. Troy Patton pitched 1.1 perfect innings in the eighth and into the ninth. Luis Ayala replaced Patton and gave up a couple of ninth inning hits, but no runs. The Mariners got no runs on one hit against Pedro Strop in the tenth. Matt Lindstom entered in the eleventh, and was perfect. He stayed on into the twelth, giving up two hits, but nothing else.
But while the O’s bullpen was shutting Seattle down, the Orioles could muster no offense. The birds went 3-up, 3-down in the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th innings, often missing what seemed to be hittable pitches.
Into the 13th, and the Orioles pitching options were dwindling. Lindstom, having thrown 36 pitches in two innings, was no longer an option. The bullpen was down to Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day, with a slew of lefthanded hitters coming up for the M’s. Buck went to O’Day, and the side winder did not disappoint.
O’Day (W, 6-0) gave up a two-out hit and stolen base to Eric Thames in the 13th, but shut the door. In the 14th, O’Day set the Mariners down in order, and the stage was set for the winning rally.
Facing Shawn Kelley (L, 2-3), Quintanilla opened the inning with a grounder toward the middle. Ackley, at second for Seattle, went into a sprawling dive, smothering the ball, and from his knees, fired toward first. The throw beat Quintanilla, but First Base Umpire Brian Knight said the throw pulled first baseman Mike Carp off the bag on the stretch, and ruled Quintanilla safe. The call brought Wedge out of the Mariners’ dugout. The ensuing argument sent Wedge back, through the dugout and into the showers, having been ejected.
Markakis delivered a single to center, moving Quintanilla up to second. Next up, JJ Hardy dropped a sac bunt, and the O’s had runners on second and third with just one out. The Mariners elected to walk Chris Davis to load the bases—despite Davis’ being 0-6 with three strikeouts on the night. Up stepped Adam Jones, needing just a fly ball for an O’s win.
With the count 2-2, Jones picked on a 95 MPH fastball and lined it to right. Casper Wells went into a slide but could not come up with it. Quntanilla scored, and the Orioles walked off with an improbable 8-7 win.
The O’s and M’s wrap up the three game set with the birds looking to sweep. Gametime Wednesday at Camden Yards is 7:05. Getting the start for the Orioles, for the first time in his major league career, is Steve Johnson. Johnson (0-0, 4.50) replaces Britton, who was sent down after Tuesday’s game, on the roster, and makes his first big league start in front of family and friends. Former Oriole Kevin Millwood (4-9, 4.01) goes for Seattle.
- 12th straight extra-inning win for the Orioles
- The birds are now just 4.5 off the pace in the AL East
- Simply an amazing night for the Orioles’ bullpen: 9 shutout innings, 10 hits, 6 strikeouts, no walks, 1 inherited runner scored.
- 4 hits from Markakis, 3 from Wieters.
- Britton had to be sent down. He gave up 7 runs through 5, but since only 4 were earned, his ERA actually went down Tuesday, from 8.35 to 8.10.
- Two more errors (and one that should have been).
- Chris Davis: 0-6 with 3K, 1BB
- It certainly helped the Orioles, so there will be no complaints from O’s fans about this, but what was Eric Wedge doing (or, NOT doing) by leaving Luetge in there to rot in the seventh? That was one of the most poorly managed innings I can remember seeing.