June 26, 2014

Game 77: Wild Pitch Seals Victory

It was a grueling series against the White Sox these past three days, with several missed opportunities resulting in a plethora of runners left on base.  Monday was a huge moment for the entire team as they battled back against the Sox to win on a Chris Davis walk off homerun to take game 1.  Tuesday, Jose Quintana rendered the offense ineffective and the O's continued to struggle with runners in scoring position.  It seemed like they were destined for a series loss last night in the rubber match as Hector Noesi dominated through seven innings.  I couldn't even count the amount of double plays the team hit into this series and it was really starting to become frustrating.  Nelson Cruz especially, whose pitch selection seemed to decline with RISP.

Thankfully he would atone for his shortcomings in the 8th inning, as the Orioles once again got runners on to start the bottom of the 8th.  Nick Hundley singled back up the middle, as did Markakis and before you knew it, Chris Davis had worked a long walk to bring up Nellie with the bases loaded and two outs.  The Sox bullpen had been shaky this entire series so Robin Ventura brought in the one pitcher who had pitched well the first two games, Javy Guerra.  He would also be the 4th pitcher in the inning, attempting to patch together a crucial hold.  Guerra's numbers are solid for a waiver pickup but there is one deceiving stat that played in the Orioles favor.  After crushing lefties all season, Guerra's success against righties was no where to be seen, as hitters were batting well over .300 in 2014 against him.

The at-bat started with two balls off the plate that Cruz thankfully took.  You could tell that Guerra wanted nothing out over the plate to start out this at-bat yet he couldn't get Nelson to nibble.  On 2-0, everyone in the stadium was expecting fastball and so was Cruz, barely missing a dead-red fastball, fouling it back to screen.  He would miss on the next pitch as Guerra hung another over the heart of the plate and Nellie crushed it to right-center field, carrying to the wall.  It would drop over the outstretched glove of the right fielder to tie the game as the fans erupted once they knew it was gone.  I wouldn't have said Cruz was truly struggling at the plate but simply not able to come through in key situations like earlier in the year.  That all changed with one swing and the Orioles were once again granted new life.

After both teams threatened to break the tie, and a lengthy rain delay, the Orioles were finally able to push across a run in the bottom of the 12th on a wild pitch as the Orioles had 1st and 3rd with no one out.  David Lough, pinch running for Hundley - who had a great game last night - scored after almost scoring the play before on a line drive by Nick Markkais, only to be held up by Bobby Dickerson...plus he slipped rounding the base.

For the O's it was their 3rd straight series win and with the Jays losing, they were able to shrink their defecit to 1.5 games yet again. Ubaldo Jimenez was the starter but he pitched well although allowing 4 runs, as he once again was not able to receive any sort of run support.  The worst in the AL for games that he starts. The bullpen, a combination of O'Day, Webb, Brach, Matusz, Britton and Hunter held the Sox scoreless for 6 innings and seems to be regaining their old prowess in the late innings.

Next, the O's welcome the Rays to town for a day-night doubleheader on Friday as they look to continue their success against the struggling team.

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