Just when you think that the Orioles are going to pack up the tent and head south into the AL East Standings they put a run together like they did this weekend. Very few Oriole fans were feeling too good about a 2-2 series split in Minnesota during a time when the Orioles were trying to keep their heads above water. On top of that the Orioles were sending three of their most inconsistent starters to the mound for the first three games of their weekend series in Cleveland. The combination of Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton were 0-3 and had pitched a combined 10 1/3 innings in their last starts. The three young pitchers had allowed a total of 14 runs in those starts. So what do they do? Pitch 19 1/3 innings and allow just three runs in their three wins over the weekend. I guess that’s what you get with a young pitching staff. It could have been two out of three as the Orioles trailed 1-0 heading into the seventh inning of Saturday night’s game. That’s when veteran addition Jim Thome made his presence felt. Thome blasted a 2-run game winning homer to right off of Zach McAllister in the seventh inning and propelled the O’s to victory. I wasn’t a big fan of the Thome acquisition but give the O’s front office some credit. He has now accounted for at least one victory, and his veteran bat allowed Buck Showalter to put Nick Markakis in the lead-off spot. That’s a spot where he has absolutely thrived. He has energized the Orioles offense since his return off the DL after the All-Star break.
Saturday night was another victory that the orioles have pulled out when trailing heading into the seventh inning. They are also undefeated when they lead after eight innings. Grittiness and a great backend of the bullpen will keep this team in the race down the stretch. A win Monday night would guarantee them a 500 record on August 1st for the first time since 2005 (60-60 on August 17th).
It was a great weekend for the O’s but they won’t sweep this week’s top three events of the weekend. I had to throw in yesterday’s amazing come from behind victory by Ernie El’s at the British Open. Let’s get to this weekend’s top three.
The Orioles check in at #3 with their 3-1 Saturday night victory over Cleveland. This was just another example of how much this year’s rendition of the Orioles never quit. In years past you could have chalked this one up in the loss column. The Orioles were doing absolutely nothing against Indians starter Zach McAllister. Chris Tillman was pitching extremely well but it looked like his first inning mistake that Shin-Soo Choo hit out of the yard would be his demise. Just when you thought the Orioles three game winning streak would end and the O’s would be shut out after scoring 10 runs on Friday night they rallied. J.J. Hardy started the inning with a single to left and then Thome crushed a 1-0 fastball over the right field fence. All of a sudden the O’s had a late inning lead. This year a late inning lead is almost a guaranteed victory. Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson pitched 2 1/3 scoreless to nail down the 3-1 victory. I actually heard someone suggest that the Orioles should trade Jim Johnson to make the team better. I had to laugh, he is the main reason this team is in the hunt after nailing down save #30 on Sunday. That topic though is a whole other blog.
Ernie Els’ come from behind victory on Sunday at the British Open is #2 this week. I wasn’t sure if it was Els’ performance or Adam Scott’s demise that was the story on Sunday. I picked Els. It’s easy to look at the collapse of Adam Scott and miss how impressive Els’ victory was.
Els started the day six shots off the lead. All you heard from the commentators was how everyone had to be aggressive to catch Adam Scott and for most of the day that looked like it would be the case. The key to the victory though for Els was that he didn’t have a major collapse like every one of the other leaders had. He just stayed the course played patient and pounced on his opportunities. Hell if he would have putted better he could have won by five shots. The onetime Els got aggressive he almost paid the price. His tee shot on 16 ended up by the hospitality tent. He hit a slick shot thru two bunkers to save par and stay in the hunt. When he birdied 18 he probably thought it wasn’t going to be enough. That’s when Scott fell apart. Can you imagine what Els was thinking as Scott made bogey after bogey. From I probably won’t win, to hey I have a shot I better start getting loose, to I’m the British Open champ all in the span of about a half hour.