June 18, 2014

Game 70: O's Power on Display, Down Tampa 7-5

Orioles got the benefit of Miguel Gonzalez returning from the 15-Day DL today in a crucial second game of the series against Tampa Bay.  Baltimore's had an extremely up and down season so far, neither gathering any win streaks or losing several games in a row.  After watching this team all season, it is about time that they go on a much needed winning streak to regain some ground in the AL East.  Yesterday, Orioles received the news that they have dreaded for weeks now, Matt Wieters being declared out for the season to proceed with his Tommy John Surgery.  Wieters, who has been out for nearly two months, officially decided to opt for surgery in an attempt to limit any further damage in 2014.

Honestly, as much as this loss stings, I would rather have Wieters long-term health solidified rather than remain in jeopardy for the future.  For now, the Orioles current situation remains with Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph effectively splitting time behind the plate.  Collectively, they've started to hit the ball much better than a month ago while Joseph continues to stand out defensively.  I would say that the pitching staff would suffer due to Wieters' absence but the Orioles starters have posted 13 quality starts in their last 18 games.  Of course, there's nothing the O's can do to replace his bat at this juncture and there really isn't a pressing need with Steve Clevenger still down in AAA.

Anyways, back to the game, where Miguel Gonzalez struggled to find his command early on by allowing several base runners early but worked out of a second inning jam when Manny Machado made an effortless backhanded stop to turn two Yunel Escobar to end the threat.  Just another one of those plays that O's fans have become accustom to over these past few years.  Honestly, it's to the point now that I take these plays for granted when anything is hit in the vicinity of third base.  I guess it's our generation of Orioles fan's closest thing to watching Brooks Robinson out in the field.  The kid may have had his share of errors early in his return this year but he's back into the swing of things right now and we're glad to have him here (until the suspension kicks in of course). 

Orioles got an early rally going against Bedard, as Schoop led off the third inning with a single to left.  After a Caleb Joseph strikeout, Nick Markakis lined a 3-2 pitch into right for a single, as Schoop made a heads up base running play by taking third base in the process to set the table for Steve Pearce.  Facing a 1-2 count, Pearce would fend off a few pitches and battle back in the count to work a walk, loading the bases for Adam Jones.  Jones, facing the man he was traded for years ago (Seattle),  worked a deep count which led to a wild pitch on a 2-2 fastball that got away, scoring Schoop to give them an early lead.  Next pitch, Jones was hit on the left shin on a terribly placed change-up to reload the bases for Mr. Crush Davis.  Crush has still shown signs of a struggle at the dish lately, seemingly swinging over the top of nearly every pitch, increasing his strikeout totals.  Davis would lift an 0-2 pitch that was way outside to left field and heading towards the foul pole.  David Dejesus made an excellent effort for the ball and proceeded to slam into the fence as the ball skipped off the wall and nearly rolled to third base.  In the process, two runs scored easily but Buck would immediately come out of the dugout to argue if the ball had actually hit the foul pole instead.  After the umpires reviewed the call, it was ruled a grand slam, pushing the lead to 5-0.  Simply pure strength was the cause for that homer as he muscled that the necessary 315 feet to put it out in left field.  That's why you lift weights kids…

These 5 runs are the most that the O's have scored in a game since last Wednesday's 6-0 shutout of the Red Sox.  Up to this point, Baltimore wasn't cashing in on scoring opportunities.  Still, the MLB leaders in batting average with RISP dialed it up tonight and exploded for a huge inning to set the tone early for once.  It's great to jump out to these early leads, especially when Sean Rodriguez led off the bottom of the third with a moonshot off the left field catwalk to cut the lead to 4 immediately on one pitch.  The leads are ESPECIALLY important when Desmond Jennings hits another home run, back-to-back off Gonzo to make it a 5-2 game.  Both homers were absolute no doubters and just furthers the notion that no lead is safe.  Miguel would then retire the next three hitters in order to finish off the third.

The Rays would continue to chip away at the lead as James Loney would later add a two-run double in the 5th to cut the deficit to 1, and the five innings would be all for Miguel Gonzalez tonight but it was good enough to get him in line for the win.  He scattered 8 hits, 2 walks and 5 K's in his five innings of work allowing 4 earned runs and was saddled with a high pitch count.  After tossing up zeros for three straight innings, the Orioles offense added some much needed insurance as Steve Pearce homered to left off Brad Boxberger, to score Caleb Joseph to increase the lead to three.  After 1.2 innings of hitless relief from Ryan Webb, Brian Matusz would surrender another run as Yunel Escobar plated Zobrist on a Sac Fly in the 8th. It was another shaky appearance for Matusz, as he yielded another earned run in a third of an inning as Zobrist led off the inning with a double.  Darren O'Day would pitch a scoreless inning although he allowed the tying run to reach the plate in the bottom of the 8th.

After the O's couldn't push across a runner in the 9th, Zach Britton was once again called upon to seal the victory for Baltimore.  I didn't personally watch this inning due to playing pickup basketball, but from what my father said, Britton look electric last night.  The splitter was working phenomenally and on only 6 pitches, he induced three straight ground balls to put the Orioles back in the WIN COLUMN.

Gonzo would improve to 4-4 on the season as he battled throughout his five innings but still shown flashes of excellence in his first start off the DL. Britton notched his 8th save as Ryan Webb picked up his team leading 11th hold and continues to pitch well in the 6th and 7th innings.  As for Steve Pearce, our Orange Journalism Player of the Game tonight, he went 2-3 with his 5th homer of the season that padded the Orioles lead.  Hitting in the two hole once again, Pearce has proved to be a valuable piece of the bench, picking up where Matt Wieters left off when he was dispelled from injury.  He's currently hitting a team high .317 and seems to be playing his way into an everyday player.  The combination of Pearce and Delmon Young have created a formidable DH for the Orioles, a position that had plagued them since the days of Luke Scott.  This season, the O's DH spot has collectively produced the highest average as a position (.297), while hitting 11 home runs with a team high 42 RBIs.

This afternoon, young Kevin Gausman will look to propel the Orioles to a series win against Alex Cobb. Gausman, who's pitched very well since being thrust into the rotation, has shown fans a glimpse of what to expect in the future and hopes to build off his previous success today.

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