03 October 2014

The Bottom of the Eighth

For about eight and a half innings, the Tigers and the Orioles were involved in a closely contested matchup. Miguel Cabrera had just homered off of Darren O'Day to cut the O's lead to 4-3, and Max Scherzer, who had been OK but at least good enough to still be in the game at that point, headed back out to the mound to face the top of the O's lineup. But things quickly got out of hand.

Nick Markakis lined out to start the inning. But Alejandro De Aza doubled to right field, knocking Scherzer out of the game. Enter Joba Chamberlain. Adam Jones then hits a ball sharply to shortstop Andrew Romine, who botches the play. Because the ball gets away from Romine, De Aza is able to round third and score. 5-3. That closed the book on Scherzer. His pitching line for the night: 7.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2 HR. Certainly going into the game the O's would have been content with five runs off of Scherzer. But they weren't done.

As has been stated ad nauseum heading into this American League Division Series matchup, two of the advantages the O's have over the Tigers are a superior defense and bullpen. Well, it didn't take long for both to come into play. To be fair to Chamberlain, Romine (who's one of the Tigers' defensive players who is not awful) should have made that play, or at the very least knocked the ball down, keeping De Aza at third. (After the game, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said this about Romine: "I can't remember the last time he made an error at shortstop." It was August 6.) But let's march on.

Jones steals second, and Nelson Cruz, who hit a two-run home run in the first inning, lines a ball up the middle to plate Jones. 6-3. Joakim Soria replaces Chamberlain.

Steve Pearce greets Soria with another liner up the middle. Cruz, not known for his aggressive baserunning, surprises center fielder Rajai Davis by going for third base. Davis doesn't charge the ball quickly enough, and his throw, which is on line but not quite long enough, short-hops third baseman Nick Castellanos. Cruz stays at third, but Pearce cruises in to second on the throwing error. If Davis, who's about an average center fielder, charges the ball, Cruz probably doesn't head to third, and if he does, he's likely out. A strong throw probably would have cut down Cruz. Still, instead of second and third and one out, or two outs if Cruz is thrown out, the O's have runners on second and third and one out. It's also worth noting that Davis is likely not 100 percent recovered from his groin injury, so it's possible that he shouldn't even be playing in the first place. And the O's surely know this.

With first base open, J.J. Hardy is walked intentionally. And with the bases now loaded, Ryan Flaherty singles to left. Everyone moves up a base. 7-3.

Nick Hundley follows with a slowly hit ground ball to shortstop that knocks in a run. Romine is forced to take the out at first. 8-3.

Jonathan Schoop follows Hundley's ground out with a double down the right field line, which plates two more runs. Soria had Schoop down 0-2 in the count, yet threw him a fastball that caught way too much of the plate. 10-3. Exit Soria, enter Phil Coke.

A Coke wild pitch enables Schoop to move to third. Markakis then walks. De Aza, who doubled earlier in the inning, doubles again, this time to right-center. 12-3.

Jones then fittingly grounds out to shortstop, where much of the trouble started so many batters ago.

The tale of the tape of the O's offensive explosion in the eighth? 12 batters, 6 hits (3 singles, 3 doubles), 8 runs, 2 walks (1 intentional), 1 steal. And the Tigers made two errors and had one wild pitch. The 12 runs are the most the O's have scored in a single postseason game.

The goal for this Orioles team in any game is to get five or six effective innings out of the starting pitcher, who then hands the ball to the bullpen with any kind of lead. Tillman managed five innings of two-run ball, and Andrew Miller (in all-hands-on-deck fashion) entered the game earlier than normal in the sixth inning, throwing 1.2 shutout innings. Then came O'Day, who gave up that solo shot in his one inning of work, and then Zach Britton. Things were going according to plan, and then a combination of good hitting, not good pitching, and bad defense turned a tight game into a laugher.

What's the reward for such an impressive eighth-inning rally? A noon game against Justin Verlander. At least the O's are familiar with the blueprint to beat the Tigers at this point. Just don't expect another single inning that contains quite so much Orioles Magic (or whatever the opposite of Tigers Magic is).


Matt Perez said...

In the regular season teams win roughly 58% of games when the starter goes five innings and allows two runs. And the bullpen did a good job holding the Tigers to one run.

I'd say the real reward for the bullpens strong performance is for them to try to do it again today using Brach, Gausman, O'Day and Britton. Wouldn't be surprised if Miller gets the day off.

Unknown said...

And let's try to leave Tommy Hunter out of the mix. Even with a 9 run lead, that guy makes me nervous.

Anonymous said...

Don't expect what now?

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Yup. That was awesome.

Rick said...

Can't wait to read "The Bottom of the Eighth Part II"

Michael Wallace said...

Gausman, Brach, and Britton handled Game 2! Ready for Game 3 today. Hopefully the O's can tee off on Price and end the series early. Plus, it'd be extra sweet to go 3 Cys up, 3 Cys down.

Michael Wallace said...

Also, I was at Game 2 and I'd just like to say that it was probably the best sporting event I've ever attended. Absolutely amazing. That place exploded when Delmon lined the double down the third base line. I'll never forget that moment.