After Wednesday’s drama of Manny Machado getting thrown at by the uber ridiculous loser Jonathan Papelbon, one might have expected the Baltimore Orioles to retaliate on Thursday afternoon. Bryce Harper was expecting it, saying on the Nats’ MASN site, “I’ll probably get drilled.”
But that is generally not the way the Orioles play baseball. Buck Showalter said, “Retaliation? No, you’re not supposed to do that. The best retaliation would be to win another game, right? That’s usually how it works.” And it did work, as the Orioles completed the three-game sweep of the Nationals with a 5-4 win.
A pair of two-run homers provided the bulk of the offense, as the Orioles were actually out-hit in the game 10-7. Jonathan Schoop hit his 15th in what was his 79th game of the season—still less than half a year of baseball. I’m looking for him to be a 30-homer guy next year, just as Machado now is for the Birds.
And the winning homer was by Matt Wieters, his 7th of the year. It was a no-doubter. Why he does not hit more is a mystery to me, but we’ll be thankful for this one. Not to be overlooked was some fine defensive play by Wieters as well. He made a nice tag at the plate on a play unsuccessfully challenged by Washington, and he threw out a runner going from second to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt in the eighth inning.
And with Zach Britton still nursing a slight injury, the O’s have found another closer in Darren O’Day, who went 3-for-3 in closing situations in the series. There really is no reason why O’Day should not be successful in this role. It is not as if he has not had a ton of experience in pitching in stressful late game situations.
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Is O’Day available for a fourth day in a row in Boston, as Britton is unlikely to be able to return? He said he’d see how it feels when warming up. Over the three games, O’Day faced 10 batters with the only baserunner being on an error. He registered five strikeouts, throwing a total of 42 pitches of which 30 were strikes. Heck, Tillman can throw 42 pitches in one inning!
O’Day’s ERA is now 1.44, and the O’s simply have to find a way to keep him. It is even more than what he brings to the mound, it is his role as a leader and mentor in the bullpen. The rap on relievers is that they are inconsistent year-to-year and too risky for longer-termed high-dollar contracts. But O’Day certainly does not present that scenario. He can get hit once in a while. But his ERA numbers over the past four years have been 2.28, 2.18, 1.70, 1.44 … with a 23-8 record! What more would any pitcher have to prove?
So the Orioles have won 11 of the last 15, which is great. But they pretty much need to play even better than that over the final 10 remaining games to have any shot of extending the season. In any event, it is good to see that they have fought back to play at this level after the horrendous previous losing cycle.
And one more thing: Looking at the Nats’ MASN site and reading about the bean-ball situation with Papelbon, it was great to see that Nationals’ fans were completely objective about the situation and did not defend their guy, simply because he’s in their uniform. These fans clearly understood what that have in this character, and that demonstrates character by the Nats followers. Stay classy Washington!