This wasn't the most fun game to watch, but a win's a win.
The Orioles eked out a win against the Twins tonight, winning 3-2 to go 22 games over .500 for the first time this season. Chris Tillman wasn't at the top of his game, but he gutted through five innings with just one run allowed, and the offense got contributions from a new face, Jimmy Paredes, and an old one, Adam Jones.
Neither Tillman nor Twins starter Kyle Gibson were sharp to start the game, but the game somehow stayed scoreless through 3 1/2 innings. Tillman had a bad first inning with a single, a walk, and 22 pitches thrown, but he suffered from some bad defense more than once after that. In the second inning Kurt Suzuki hit a fly ball to left field that really should have been caught, but Nelson Cruz isn't what you'd call a good defender. It sailed over his head for a one-out double, but Tillman struck out the next two batters to strand Suzuki.
Tillman gave up an infield hit to start the second inning, but Danny Santana got greedy and tried to steal second, where he was thrown out by Nick Hundley. After that Tillman walked a batter and gave up another single, but again escaped the jam.
With his pitch count growing, Tillman gave up a single to the first batter he faced in the fourth inning. It looked like he finally got a break when he hit a tailor-made double play ball to J.J. Hardy at shortstop, but Jonathan Schoop dropped the ball on the relay and both runners were safe. Instead of having no runners on and two outs, Tillman had two runners on and no outs. He got another ground ball for a force out that put runners on first and third with one out, and somehow escaped the jam with a liner to Hardy and a strike out to end the inning. Tillman was pumped to escape the jam and celebrated with a fist pump on the mound.
As for Gibson vs. the Orioles offense, it wasn't so different. The O's had multiple runners on in both the first and third innings, but couldn't get the hit they needed to knock them in. That changed in the fourth, when they got the big hit from a new guy: Jimmy Paredes. Chris Davis walked to start the inning and Hardy followed with a single to put runners on first and second Paredes hit a long fly ball and bounced into the Orioles' bullpen for an automatic double. Davis scored and the Orioles had runners on second and third with no outs. Sadly they couldn't capitalize on their opportunity as Hundley, Nick Markakis, and Schoop couldn't get a hit or a productive out.
The failed rally loomed large in the very next inning when Tillman walked Joe Mauer (his third walk of the game). Mauer went to third on a single and came in to score on a long fly ball to Nelson Cruz. Cruz made the boneheaded move of throwing the ball home instead of to second, which allowed the runner to move up, but no further damage was done.
Neither starting pitcher made it past the fifth inning, and after Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless top of the sixth, Brian Duensing took over for the Twins. He got two quick outs, but then fell victim to Paredes. Parades went after a low off-speed pitch and golfed it over the left field fence for his first home run as an Oriole. Hundley followed with a double and then Schoop walked to put two runners on base, but the slumpy Markakis flew out to end the inning.
Hunter started the seventh inning for the Orioles, but when he gave up a hit to Brian Dozier, Buck Showalter immediately pulled him for Andrew Miller. Miller had filthy breaking pitches tonight, but his fastball wasn't playing so well. Dozier moved to second on a wild pitch and came in to tie the game on a single by Mauer that was hit off of a Miller fastball.
Miller struck out the next two batters using his breaking pitch, but then gave up a single to Plouffe on another fastball. He gave up on the fastball after that and struck out Suzuki to end the inning.
The Orioles scored the go ahead run in a way that small ball enthusiasts would applaud. After taking first base on a HBP, Adam Jones went from first to third on a single by Cruz. It didn't look like a sure thing to go to third, but Adam was running as hard as I've seen him and never hesitated. Chris Davis followed that with a fly ball to center field that looked way too shallow for Jones to score on. But Jones tagged up, forcing the center fielder Santana to make a throw. It wasn't very strong and it was off line, and Jones was safe at the plate. It was a heck of a trip around the bases for Jones.
With the lead in hand, Showalter turned the game over to Darren O'Day and Zach Britton. They did what we've grown accustomed to seeing them do, each retiring all three batters they faced. Man, do I love the back end of this bullpen.
Thanks to this win and a loss from the Yankees, the O's now have an eight-game lead in the AL East. That's not too shabby.
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