The Baltimore Orioles sent starter Wade LeBlanc out there tonight and tasked him with putting the team in a spot to win. LeBlanc did that, and very effectively at that. LeBlanc’s line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K.
The Orioles may have caught Tampa at a good time, as they’re struggling a bit offensively. But often times playing against a young pitching staff can snap bats back into form. Thus far in the series, Oriole pitching hasn’t allowed that to occur.
The Birds on the other hand came into the series with “hottish” bats. Renato Nunez got the Orioles on the board early with a solo homer in the last of the fourth. Later in the inning Rio Ruiz‘s RBI-single extended the lead to 2-0.
Tampa would get a run back in the sixth on a solo homer, however the Orioles were dialed in. I’ve written a lot, both surrounding exhibition games, and now in the regular season about insurance runs. I’m not sure when runs become “insurance runs,” but we saw the O’s add runs on after Tampa cut the score in half. And that’s a good sign.
Pedro Severino‘s RBI-single (in the aforementioned last of the sixth) extended the Birds’ lead to 3-1. Rio Ruiz would also add a sac fly-RBI to make it 4-1. It’s also worth pointing out that the only reason that run was made possible was due to a pass ball. That got the runner to third, and it shows the Orioles starting to hold their opponents accountable in games.
Unfortunately for the O’s, those insurance runs weren’t enough. A Shawn Armstrong throwing error in the eighth started a sequence which ended with Tampa putting three runs across and tying the game. While all three runs were charged to Anderson, Miguel Castro allowed the final run to score.
The game went to extra innings, which meant that the O’s were subject to MLB’s new extra innings rule for the first time, starting each inning with a runner on second base. Ironically it was the Orioles (as opposed to Tampa) who used that to their advantage defensively. They began the tenth by scoring a 7-5 double play. They also notched a 1-2 double-play in the eleventh.
Ultimately, Pat Valaika was the hero of the day. His RBI-single in the last of the eleventh won the game for the O’s. It also guaranteed them a series victory, and against an AL East rival at that.
The Orioles also found out yesterday what awaits them this coming week. The four games with Miami will be made up on Tuesday-Thursday, with Monday being an off day. One of those days will be a doubleheader, and Miami will be the home team in two of the four games. Which games are which is still unclear.