Baltimore Orioles: Biggest win of 2017?
The Baltimore Orioles wouldn’t have been out of the playoff race had they lost to Toronto yesterday. In fact, they still would have had the same fighting chance they have today – however at 2.5 games out of the wild card as opposed to 1.5. But the fact is that whether it’s true or not, some wins just feel bigger in the grand scheme of things. This game was one of them.
Chris Tillman struggled as Toronto was able to grab an early lead. Tillman’s line: 4.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 2 K. Yes folks, it begins and ends with starting pitching. But in these September games with the post season on the line, it’s as much about the bullpen and every other aspect of the game as it is starting pitching. Tillman lasted four innings, but if a starter isn’t hacking it after two, it’s not uncommon for him to get pulled. Especially when you have a bullpen like that of the Orioles.
Following a walk and a base hit, Tillman gave up a three-run homer to Donaldson in the third. But in a moment of foreshadowing of more than one type, Welington Castillo gave the Birds some hope with a solo home run in the last of the third. And to double-up on that foreshadowing, Mark Trumbo followed in the fourth with a solo shot of his own. Mancini would add a sac fly-RBI in the sixth, and we were tied at three.
However Toronto managed to put one across in the seventh to get the lead back. Saunders’ infield RBI-single ticked off of Davis’ glove at first, yielding a run. And it’s unconventional plays like that which have plagued the O’s this year. As I’ve said many times, anything can happen when you put guys on base. Orioles’ opponents have taken that to another level it seems, scoring runs off of plays like that, bloops, broken bat singles, etc.
But you play through it if you can. Unfortunately, it appeared that this game was destined for a loss, which would mean that an all but hapless Toronto team had come into Camden Yards and taken three-of-four from the O’s – a team in the playoff race. They say that’s why they play the games and so forth – incidentally, it’s also why they play all of the games in their entirety.
Remember how I said above that Welington Castillo’s homer in the third foreshadowed something?! Castillo led off the last of the ninth, and promptly smacked his second solo homer of the game to tie it up at four. And just like that, the playoff race was on! And as if these two teams didn’t go long enough past nine innings on Friday night, it took until the last of the twelfth to decide it. Mark Trumbo came up with runners at the corners and two outs, and his RBI-single to left won it for the Birds, 5-4.
Again, there are some wins that just feel bigger. I would point to last year’s come-from-behind win at San Francisco on a Sunday afternoon (in which the Birds trailed 7-1 in the seventh inning), as well as an early September win against New York in 2012. You like to point back to points in the season and say that maybe something began there. If I had to point to anywhere it would be the walk off win two weeks ago against Oakland. But with the standings being what they are at this point in the season, this one felt just a little bigger for the O’s.
And in fact, you could look at Castillo’s at-bat there in the ninth and say that it might have been one of the most important at-bats of the season. Ultimately if the O’s make it into the post season, all of that will be true. If they do not, it’ll be an afterthought.