I wanted to talk about that incredible roller coaster of a game that the Orioles won last night, but of course they had to cock it all up by dropping a one-run game this afternoon on the strength of another crummy starting pitching performance, a bases-loaded walk by their best reliever, and more buffoonish baserunning. On the other hand, they probably won't win 60 games all year, so I'd better take what I can get.
I had to be at the theater last night at 7:30 for an 8:30 performance, so I followed the game through text notifications from ESPN's ScoreCenter iPhone app...when I wasn't onstage, of course! I also read backstage via Deadspin about the bizarre pickoff play in which Jake Arrieta's throw struck Carl Crawford flush in the groin, causing him to crumple to the ground and be tagged out by Ty Wigginton. It was an omen for an unusual night of baseball. After the early thrill of back-to-back-to-back home runs by Luke Scott, Wiggy, and Adam Jones, I felt a familiar sense of disappointment and resignation when the Rays scored seven unanswered runs in the middle innings to take an 8-4 lead. By the time the play had ended and we moved down the street for a beer, Luke's RBI single and Miguel Tejada's two-run double had brought the O's back to within a run in the seventh. Still, I confidently told my friend and costar Mikey that my team was just tantalizing me, and that the overtaxed bullpen would cough up a few insurance runs to make it moot. As if on cue, an alert soon popped up on my phone telling of Reid Brignac's solo homer to make it 9-7 Tampa Bay. Still, I was in for a surprise.
As I enjoyed a Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (yes, I chose this draught primarily based its overblown name, but it was tasty), I got another message: Miggi had doubled in a couple more runs in the ninth, and we were all tied up. Twitter informed me that the Orioles had the winning run on second base with no outs, and left him stranded. Extra innings for the bedraggled remnants of the Baltimore crowd. I was starting to get a sneaking sense that the O's might win the bloody game. One of the weirdest things about this season has been their penchant for improbable comebacks. They might barely win at all, but when they do, they make the most of it.
I was driving the monotonous path of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway when I heard the six-note chime of the SportsCenter tone yet again. My hopes sank; in his third inning of work, de-facto closer Alfredo Simon had given up a 12th-inning run on a walk, throwing error, and single. 10-9 Rays. I didn't get any more texts for a while, so I finally tuned in to 105.7 to find out if the game was still going on. It was, but Koji Uehara was in with a runner on first. For some reason I assumed that Tampa Bay was still batting in the 12th, and that the pitching change had been the reason that things were still going without any further scoring. I switched back to my Arcade Fire CD and waited for the final score to pop up on my phone.
Several more minutes passed with no news, so I turned the game back on in time to hear former Oriole Lance Cormier surrender a four-pitch walk to Cesar Izturis...which is NOT easy to do, as he's topped 30 free passes once in his career and sports a .299 lifetime on-base percentage. Play-by-play man Fred Manfra insisted that the winning run was now on base, and I assumed he was making one of his standard gaffes. Surely Cesar was merely the tying run. But Manfra insisted upon it, and finally mentioned that it was the 13th. Somehow I'd missed the notification of Scott Moore's game-tying sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 12th. Now Felix Pie was up, and he quickly bunted Izturis to second. Given the team's usual futility in hitting with runners on base, as well as my Earl Weaveresque loathing of giving away outs, my hopes were dimming. The fact that Julio Lugo (who had pinch run for Tejada in the ninth) was the next batter wasn't encouraging, either. But in the next breath, the game was over! Lugo served Cormier's first pitch into right field for a walkoff single. After 4:38 of baseball, it took six pitches total to end it all. Orioles 11, Rays 10. Hallelujah.
But this game wasn't just a rarity because the O's actually won (it was their 30th victory of the year; by comparison, the Rays picked up their 30th W two months ago). The back-to-back-to-back homers in the second inning were really something special. The last time the Birds hit three consecutive home runs in an inning was fifteen years ago: September 5, 1995. If the date sounds familiar, it's because that was also the night that Cal Ripken, Jr. played in his 2,130th consecutive game. The victim was Angels starter Brian Anderson, who must have been having flashbacks as he called the game from the visitor's broadcast booth last night. The sluggers that night were Brady Anderson, Mark Smith, and Mr. Jeff "Super" Manto. Takes you back, doesn't it?