Wednesday night, the Orioles stole one away from the Boston Red Sox when, after being no-hit for five innings, they put together a big inning out of nowhere. Thursday, an inning that SHOULD HAVE been big evaporated on the Orioles out of nowhere, and it led to a come from behind win for the Sox.
The O’s put together a nice, two-run first when Nick Markakis and JJ Hardy led off the inning with singles. A Nate McLouth gound out moved them up 90 feet each, and Adam Jones, on a great piece of hitting, grounded a double down the right field line to score them both. Scott Podsednik was able to tap a soft line drive just past the dive of Hardy with two outs in the second, scoring Nick Punto, and the Sox trimmed the Orioles lead to one at 2-1.
The Orioles opened the second inning like they were never going to make another out. Clay Buchholz’s first pitch to Mark Reynolds was drilled into the seats in right center. Reynolds’ 12th home run made it 3-1 Orioles. Next up, Manny Machado doubled to left. When Omar Quintanilla took a four-pitch walk, it looked like the Orioles had Buchholz fighting for his life. None out, two on, one already in, and Nick Markakis, who’d already picked up one hit, was set to step in. With 24 outs left to give, this would be the offensive turning point for the Orioles.
Markakis has been the Orioles leadoff man since his return from wrist surgery. He’s excelled in this role, which was handed to him for the first time in his life. But let’s not fool ourselves. With runners on first and second, Markakis’ role reverts back to run producer. He‘s not exactly a punch-and-judy hitter. He’s not a slap hitter. Nick Markakis, while not a power hitter, drives the ball. He hits line drives in the gaps. He hits doubles. Markakis, in this situation, is up there to get a run in, at least. Instead, on Buchholz’s first pitch, Nick Markakis squared to bunt.
Now, Buchholz did him a favor. Markakis got the perfect ball to bunt (not that Nick, who’s not an accomplished bunter, would necessarily know what that is by experience)—a slow, 75-MPH curve ball, down. Markakis totally deadened it right in front of the plate. Thinking perhaps it was a foul ball, Markakis made matters worse by becoming a spectator, watching as Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia picked it up and fired to third baseman Nick Punto for the force on Machado. Punto then gunned across to first to easily double up Markakis, who never quite got around to hustling on the play. The huge double play played a large part in keeping Buchholz and the Red Sox in this game. Two pitches later, it looked like the cards were stacked against the Orioles on this night despite their early lead.
Hardy picked up his second single to right field on the night. But Red Sox right fielder Cody Ross made a strong throw in to Saltalamacchia, whose sweep tag beat Quintanilla sliding into home, for out number three. The Orioles, in the second inning, sent five men to the plate. Four of them reached, one on a walk, one on a single, one on a double, and one with a homer. They were 3-4 with a walk and home run in the inning, and they scored just one run. There’s your ballgame.
O’s starter Chris Tillman was simply not sharp in this one. He nibbled. He battled command issues. He could not overcome. Laboring into the fifth, Tillman yielded a one-out hit to Carl Crawford, then a double to Dustin Pedroia. With Adrian Gonzalez batting, Tillman bounced a curve that got away from Matt Wieters for a wild pitch. Crawford scored, Pedroia moved up to third. Gonzalez then delivered a sac fly, and the Sox had tied things. Buck Showalter lifted Tillman after 4.2 innings. He gave up three earned runs on six hits, struck out five and walked two. Kevin Gregg, needing just one out to escape the fifth, took three batters to do it, but did so with no further damage.
Luis Ayala entered in the sixth. With one out, Podsednik doubled. Ellsbury drew a walk, and Crawford hit into a force, putting runners on the corners with two outs. Crawford stole second. On a 2-2 pitch, Ayala threw a 91 MPH fastball down. Pedroia tapped it slowly toward third baseman Manny Machado, who could not glove it. Even had the rookie picked it cleanly, there are no guarantees he’d have gotten Pedroia. The infield hit gave the Sox their first lead, at 4-3. Next up, Gonzalez picked on a fat fastball and lined an RBI hit to right. Cody Ross ripped a shot to left on the very next pitch, scoring Pedroia. Gonzalez was thrown out heading to third after the run scored for the final out. The Sox, with two outs, had scored three runs on three straight Ayala (L, 4-4) pitches, and led 6-3.
Here on shark week, Buchholz attacked the Orioles in their half of the sixth like a great white to chum. Adam Jones: called strike, swinging strike, called strike—one out. Matt Wieters: foul ball, swinging strike, called strike—out number two. Chris Davis: foul ball, foul ball, swing and a miss—three outs…on nine pitches.
Buchholtz (W, 11-3) was outstanding after escaping that second inning jam. On the night, he gave up eight hits, but only two after the second. Buchholtz struck out eight, walked three, and surrendered just 3 runs. He was also pretty pitch-efficient, throwing 107 pitches over eight. Chris Tillman threw 110 in just 4.2 innings. Alfredo Aceves came on and struck out the side in the ninth (though it took him more than 9 pitches to do so).
The Orioles wrap up the homestand with a 7-3 record, and now hit the road for some crucial matchups. Friday night, the O’s open a weekend set in Detroit. Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.54) throws for the Orioles. Justin Verlander (12-7, 2.46) goes for the Tigers. Game time is 7:05.
- Mark Reynolds with another homer and 2-hit game. Also a pair of hits from Hardy, both to right field which is good to see.
- Everything after Markakis’ bunt attempt, really. Chris Davis had another one of THESE nights: 0/4, 3K, 3LOB
- Steve Johnson had been scheduled to start Saturday at Detroit, but he pitched two innings in relief in this one. It was a good outing, but now, what happens Saturday?
- Wilson Betemit heads to the DL with wrist issues. With the glove, he’s a butcher. But when he’s on offensively, he’s a big contributor. Especially now with Chris Davis missing more than he hits again, Betemit’s bat will be missed.