The Baltimore Orioles got a quality start from Kevin Gausman, shutting down the Tampa Bay Rays for six innings to lead the Birds to a quality win, 2-0. It was not a game the Orioles should have lost, but the kind any team would have lost without an unusual number of things going well.
The fortuitous moments began with Gausman pitching out of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation in the top of the first. It took 35 pitches, it was a character-builder, and it was much caused by yet another sketchy strike zone by a poor umpire; but it was done. It would be the best scoring opportunity for the Rays, as Gausman was very good over his six innings and 111 pitches, while Tommy Hunter and Zach Britton sent nine in a row back to the dugout in the final three frames.
Also helping the O’s effort was having Evan Longoria forget how many outs there were in the bottom of the sixth inning. After leading off with a double, with one out he was doubled off second base on a liner to left-fielder Steve Pearce.
Speaking of Pearce, he is the epitome right now of “the game coming to him.” He seems to always be in the right place at the right time, and he seems to deliver while he’s there. Striking me over the past couple years as not especially worthy of giving a look, my hat is off to this dude who is making it happen wherever he can. Pearce took what was given him by Rays starter Alex Cobb – which was an outside fastball with Markakis on first base (after a Zobrist error) – and drove it into the right-field corner for a two-out game-winning RBI.
Over the past two games, Pearce is 4-for-7 with three walks, three doubles, and a homer. His slash line right now is .324 / .377 / .552 / .930. The Baltimore Orioles should ride this hot bat while they can. It will cool off, but why not use it now? Again, wow, can’t believe I’m advocating for Steve Pearce!
A bat that has cooled off is Nelson Cruz, so it was good to see him get back in the box score again with a homer in the eighth inning for the second Orioles run.
Any close game such as this also features a number of critical defensive plays and both sides turned them in. Manny Machado and Longoria put on quite a show about how to play third base. HERE is a video on a great stop and throw by Machado.
The Baltimore Orioles have an off day and head to New York. I’m sure the players appreciate this break, and even as a writer I feel like going out and golfing or something.
The series with the Yankees should be a good one, and the Bronx boys just helped the AL East cause by taking the last two from the division-leading Jays. They are now 2.5 games behind Toronto with the Orioles 3 games behind the same. With a win tomorrow, the Birds can jump back into second place. It would appear that Toronto is coming back to the pack and being more what might have been expected of them this season, though they do have weapons.
The pitching match-ups for the three games are Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Hiroki Kuroda, Budd Norris vs. Vidal Nuno, and Chris Tillman vs. Masahiro Tankaka on Sunday. With the way any sort of good pitching pretty much stifles the Orioles, it would be good for the O’s to win the opening two games.
In this video, Sports Illustrated’s Boomer Esiason talks about why Masahiro Tanaka is the best pitcher in baseball and is on track for a triple crown of awards by season’s end.