Monday, June 3, 2013
Nick Markakis, 2008 Upper Deck A Piece of History Red #12
First there was last Wednesday's raucous 9-6 victory over the Nationals, which I witnessed in person. Chris Tillman handed Washington a 6-2 lead, which their excellent starter Jordan Zimmermann carried into the sixth inning. A Nick Markakis solo homer trimmed the margin to three, which is where things stood as of the seventh-inning stretch. At that point, I changed from the gray Orioles tee that I worn to the park to the bright orange Chris Davis "Crush Power" giveaway shirt that I'd received on my way through the gate, jokingly declaring the change to be for rally purposes. Things escalated quickly, with four straight Baltimore hits tying the game and chasing Zimmermann. The big blows were Steve Pearce's two-run homer to make it 6-5 and Manny Machado's league-leading 24th double, which knotted the score and sent J.Z. to the showers. Suddenly a largely pro-O's crowd of 39,129 was on its feet and replicating the "Seven Nation Army" chant that is more widely associated with the town's other pro sports team. The noise didn't stop when Markakis gave the Birds the lead by grounding a single through the middle, and things got really wild when Davis added some insurance by belting a two-run homer to cap his own 4-for-4, two-homer game. Steve Johnson, Tommy Hunter, and (exhale) Jim Johnson kept the Nats at bay with 4.1 innings of hitless relief, and I shouted myself hoarse. Five days later, I think I'm finally back at full volume.
Friday night, Tiger pitcher Max Scherzer seemed to have the O's figured out after some early stumbles. An Adam Jones two-run bomb gave the home team a 3-2 lead in the third inning, but he was the last Oriole to reach base off of the Detroit starter. Meanwhile, a rocky night for Miguel Gonzalez meant that the Birds were staring at a 5-3 deficit in the bottom of the night. But with Scherzer's pitch count at 119 on a muggy night, manager Jim Leyland went to his closer, the always-bombastic and often-shaky Jose Valverde. The O's bats woke up, with a Markakis home run and back-to-back singles by Jones and Davis putting the tying and winning runs on the corners. But consecutive pop-ups by Matt Wieters and J. J. Hardy left the team's fate in the hands of Chris Dickerson, who had been limited to one plate appearance in the previous week due to wrist soreness. Starting his first game since May 23, the reserve outfielder and DH had been 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts against Scherzer. But Valverde was no Scherzer. Dickerson belted a no-doubt Earl Weaver special: a walkoff three-run homer to right-center field that sent a capacity crowd at Camden Yards into hysterics. 7-5.
Yesterday's 4-2 win wasn't quite as dramatic, but again the offense seemed to come out of nowhere in the late innings. Rick Porcello held the Birds to three singles and a walk in the first six innings, and it looked like a solid Camden Yards debut for rookie Kevin Gausman (1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 4 K, 6 IP) would be wasted. The Tigers picked up a second run off of Brian Matusz in the top of the seventh, but Chris Davis (naturally) touched off another rally with a leadoff homer in the bottom half of that frame. Singles by Dickerson and Hardy put the tying and go-ahead runs on the corners...sound familiar? Porcello was done, and Leyland called upon Phil Coke to put out the fire. That didn't work out so well for him. Danny Valencia tied the game with a pinch single on an 0-2 pitch, and one out later, Nate McLouth put the Orioles ahead with a broken-bat grounder that cut through the middle of the infield. The O's tacked on a bonus run in the eighth via an Alexi Casilla RBI double, and again the Baltimore 'pen held strong. 4-2.
We'll see if the Orioles can hold on to a bit of that home-field magic as they open a road series in Houston tomorrow night. Of course, I wouldn't mind a few wire-to-wire victories either. They're a little easier on the nerves.