The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates twice in a doubleheader on Thursday, while twice also enduring rain delays … winning the first game 5-1 and taking the second 6-5 in 10 innings on a Matt Wieters walk-off homer at 1:00 a.m.
A big part of the reason for my choice to drive to Camden Yards to personally experience this old-fashioned single-admission doubleheader was the Weather Channel’s statement of 0% chance of precipitation. Three hours and thirty-two minutes of game one (featuring a rain delay) ended with an Orioles 5-1 victory. But before the second game could begin, down came the rain and out came the tarp for the second time. (My best decision of the week was getting a ticket in section 59 under the upper deck!)
Truly some of the nastiest people I’ve ever met at Camden Yards have happened to be Pittsburgh fans. And on this day it started with the lady parking next to me. Surely divorced three or four times in her life, she immediately verbally jumped me (in my orange shirt) by complaining about the parking cost and rehearsing the horrors of baseball in Baltimore. Everything about the experience is terrible – the rude staff, the detestable food, and the disrespectful Baltimoreans who desecrate the National Anthem with their loud scream on the final stanza. Lady, get some medicine and go have a happy rest of your life!
So it was great to be seated just in front of a group of two men and a boy who were clearly Baltimore Orioles fans. The young man had a variety of nice handmade signs, so I determined to use him for the cover photo today. After taking the picture above and asking his name and hometown, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he was from my own community and plays in the same Conococheague Little League in Williamsport, MD as did my own boys. Kam Miller also had some fine Orioles drawings from art class. Truly his family is raising him well. Kam – listen to me dude, don’t grow up and marry a Pirates fan!
The Orioles looked a bit like a team that had not played in four days, though fortunately the Pirates looked to be a squad that had not played in maybe 10 days. The Orioles pitching allowed a lot of base runners, while Pittsburgh failed over and over to take advantage of the situation, stranding a total of 13 and hitting only 1-for-14 with RISP.
Sometimes I really hit it here on The Baltimore Wire with my viewpoints and opinions, though other times I have to sadly admit that I missed it completely. So, let me say that I repent in dust and ashes for all the less than positive things I’ve ever written about Steve Pearce. The re-acquired Oriole (for what, the third time, fourth time?) went 3-for-4 while driving in two runs to supply a cushion giving Budd Norris his second victory of the year.
Norris was not extra sharp, with his pitch count elevating significantly. But he got enough critical outs over 5.1 innings to strand runners and keep the Bucs off the board. Orioles relievers slogged through the remaining outs to likewise strand runners in scoring position.
Nick Markakis really put a charge in a ball to right-center for his first homer of the year … may it be the first of many.
As Manny Machado took to the field to warm up, he was pictured on the big screen to cheers from the stadium and shouts of “Manny, Manny!” And the entire stadium rose in a standing ovation upon his first time at the plate. Though he would be hitless in five appearances, his defense was again on display in this game, particularly in the top of the 10th inning.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love baseball about as much as breathing, but, the 1st inning was about all that even I could endure! It took Chris Tillman a total of 49 pitches to get through it, eventually walking in two runs with the bases loaded. He was not extraordinarily sharp, but again as we’ve so often seen, hitters foul off pitch after pitch. Added to that was an extremely small strike zone in game two, and, well, you end up with a game that goes on and on.
Tillman would make it into the 5th inning, but like game one, most of the bullpen would be used before it was all over. After Evan Meek gave up a run in the top of the 6th inning which put the Pirates on top 4-0, the Orioles staged one of those character-displaying comebacks for which this squad is to be commended.
In the bottom of the 6th, the Birds scored four runs to the tie the game – stringing together singles and doubles and plating all four runs with two outs. Adam Jones doubled home Markakis, Wieters singled home Jones, Pearce doubled to send Wieters to third, and J.J. Hardy singled home both runners.
Though the Pirates would manage to take the lead again 5-4 with a single run in the top of the 7th inning, Markakis answered with his second homer of the evening, setting up a tied game into extra frames, ended dramatically and mercifully by Wieters’ line-drive, 10th inning round-tripper just inside the pole.
It was a long, long day of baseball. The Pirates had runners on base all day, then all night, and then into the morning hours … leaving 28 on base and going 6-for-30 with RISP. It was like watching your defense in football spend three quarters of the game on the field inside the red zone.
But winning doubleheaders is rare, and the Baltimore Orioles will take it and push their record to 14-12. And while I write this in the wee hours of the morning, the team is sleeping on an airplane flying overhead to Minnesota to begin a weekend series with the Twins. That portends a difficult sort of sleep-walking game tomorrow, though some good news may be had in the fact that the Twins also had a doubleheader, with the second game going 12 innings – as they lost both ends to the Dodgers. Minnesota burned through 12.2 innings of relief pitching, even as the Orioles used a total of 9 innings of relievers.
Additional Note: Throwing out the first pitch on Thursday was Terrence West – Towson University running back headed for the NFL draft next week.