Sunday’s game between the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers was the sort that a pitching enthusiast would especially love. Both Chris Tillman and Justin Verlander were on their game in a big way, hitting their spots and pitching with efficiency. Hopefully the rest of the Orioles rotation was watching and learning … though of course, seeing how it is done and actually being able to do it are two different things. The devil is always in the details.
Verlander’s pitching is a thing of beauty. He is so strong in the legs, along with solid mechanics and ability to live on the corners. But Tillman was just as good on this day. He failed to bury an off-speed pitch against the smoking hot Torii Hunter (whose name I’ll be glad to stop typing in these posts) and it ended over the left-field wall. But that was all the Tigers could muster off Tillman over 8.1 innings – one run on five hits with five strikeouts and a walk.
After Hunter’s homer in the fourth, the Orioles tied the game in the 6th inning on a pair of doubles by Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz – the latter being of the critical two-out-with-runner-in-scoring-position variety.
The go-ahead run was tallied after Nick Markakis drove a triple into the right-field corner, covering the bases with some foot speed that disputes the claims of his critics that he has slowed. And Adam Jones brought him home on a long fly to left-center field in a critical at bat – laying off a possible third strike on the outside corner (a new discipline Jones has displayed this first week of the season).
A security run was added in the top of the 9th inning on a solo homer by Matt Wieters, who powered an outside pitch through the winds and over the left-field wall for a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the final frame.
Surprisingly, Tillman was sent out in the 9th inning to go for the complete game. But after a groundout by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez drilled a hard double down the right-field line. Tommy Hunter was brought in and struck out Austin Jackson on the best pitch by any pitcher on the day – a low-outside slider at 83 mph. A final groundout to Steve Lombardozzi put the game into the books with a final 3-1 score.
This was a great win for the Orioles and at just the time it was especially needed. It would have been rough to fly into New York for a series after starting the season 1-5. A record of 2-4 never looked better.
Contributing to the win on this day was the great Orioles trademark defense. Lombardozzi flashed some nice leather with a backhanded grab up the middle, and on a leaping through to a fully-stretched Chris Davis caught the speedy Austin Jackson. David Lough demonstrated his defensive expertise by wisely pulling up in the 7th inning on a ball he considered making a dive to catch – rather choosing wisely to keep it in front of him at this one-run juncture of the game. He would add a great sliding catch in the 8th inning, while Markakis would follow immediately with the same in right field.
All together, the Orioles pulled off a great win over the best of pitchers – demonstrating the full team effort it takes to eek out enough to get the victory.
On to New York … our preview of match-ups will come a bit later in a separate post.