The Orioles will have to score some runs to beat the Texas Rangers. They realize this. They got on the board very early in Monday night in the first of their three-game set with the AL Champs. Early. Not often, though, as the Rangers beat Baltimore 5-1.
Facing Ryan Dempster, the O’s mounted a two-out rally to grab the lead. Nate McLouth doubled with two outs, bringing Adam Jones to the plate. Dempster started Jones off with a tough, 91 MPH fastball running in on his hands. Jones tucked the hands, stayed inside the ball, and hit a soft hump-back liner just out of the reach of Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland. McLouth scored, and the birds were on a pace to score 9 runs.
It looked like O’s starter Miguel Gonzalez was going to give it all back and more in the home half of the first. Ian Kinsler led off for Texas with his 34th double of the year. Next, Elvis Andrus picked up an infield hit, and the Rangers had runners on first and second with no out. But Gonzalez got Josh Hamilton on a fly out to center, Adrian Beltre lined out to short, and Nelson Cruz flew out to right to end the threat.
The birds next threat in the fourth featured another hit from Jones and a walk to Mark Reynolds. But with two outs, Dempster (W, 7-6/2-1) struck out Omar Quintanilla. The Orioles, who’d already left four on base through four innings, had blown a big chance. The slugging Rangers would come up in the fourth against the rookie Gonzalez, and change the complexion of the game.
Beltre led off with a hit. Cruz drew a walk in a seven-pitch at-bat. One out later, David Murphy blooped a pop fly that settled into shallow center in front of Jones for a hit, scoring Beltre, and tying things at one. Former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto singled to left, scoring Cruz ahead of McLouth’s throw, and it was 2-1. Moreland picked up an infield hit, loading the bases for Kinsler. The Texas second baseman hit a sac fly to right, plating Murphy, and the Rangers led 3-1.
Texas added a fourth run on a Nelson Cruz double that scored Hamilton from first. Gonzalez would wiggle out of further damage in the fifth, but with Dempster shutting down the birds offensively, the four runs was more than enough. Gonzalez (L, 5-3) went five innings, giving up the four earned runs on eight hits. He walked three and struck out two.
The O’s bullpen shut down Texas for two innings. Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect sixth, and Matt Lindstrom, a perfect seventh. In the eighth, though, the bullpen’s new Achilles Heel, the left handed reliever slot, again was exposed, J.C. Romero was, for a second straight outing, not good.
Michael Young doubled to left. Murphy, a left handed hitter, smoked a bullet past Romero and into center, scoring Young for a 5-1 Texas lead. Murphy was pulled for pinch runner Craig Gentry. With Romero paying little-to-no attention to him at first, Gentry stole second. Romero added a walk to Kinsler, but was able to get out of the inning, having allowed just to one run, for the 5-1 final.
Game two of the series comes Tuesday night at 8:05. Chris Tillman (5-2, 3.65) will try to snap a string of a couple of straight less-than-stellar performances. He’s given up 9 earned runs and 12 hits in his last 10.1 innings over 2 starts. He faces Scott Feldman (6-8, 4.63) for the Rangers.
- Orioles pitchers stranded 9 Rangers on the bases.
- Lindstrom was especially sharp, striking out 2 in one perfect inning.
- The 5-9 hitters…a combined 0/16 with 8 strikeouts and 1 walk.
- A show of hands…anyone missing Troy Patton yet? His return, it appears, will be delayed a bit, and probably won’t happen before rosters expand on September 1. Meanwhile, down in Norfolk, lefty Zach Phillips hasn’t been scored upon in 14 of his last 17 outings.