By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
2:25 AM EDT, August 18, 2013
The Orioles aren't going to talk about big wins in August, not with six weeks and 40 games left in the season.
So their 8-4 victory over the Colorado Rockies before an announced 31,089 on Saturday night was just another win, one that moved them within 3 1/2 games of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays, who arrive at Camden Yards on Monday for a three-game series.
It's more how the Orioles beat the Rockies that might have some significance. Their bats finally came alive — at least for the club's most productive inning of the season.
The Orioles sent 12 batters to the plate in the third inning, scoring seven runs on six hits, two walks, one error and one passed ball. They had tallied seven runs total in their previous two games — and had scored seven or more just twice this month before Saturday.
“I've never been a part of a bad seven-run inning — when you're the one scoring it,” said second baseman Brian Roberts, who had a two-run double in the inning and also walked twice in the game. “Obviously, we needed a little something to kind of jump-start us, and that was big.”
The inning's explosion didn't carry over for the rest of the night — the Orioles have struggled with runners in scoring position lately. And their seven-run third was aided by three balls that just eluded Rockies defenders.
But, hey, any big inning counts these days for the Orioles (66-56), who ended a four-game losing streak and set up a series rubber match today with the Rockies (58-66).
“I think to use the extra out they gave us to put some runs on the board, everyone kind of breathed a little sigh of relief and said, ‘All right. Now we're ready to go,'” Roberts said.
Trailing 2-1 entering the third, the Orioles pounced on Rockies rookie right-hander Chad Bettis, who was making his fourth big league start.
Chris Davis led off with a gapper to left-center that he hustled into a double. He moved to third on a passed ball. Adam Jones followed with a bouncer that Nolan Arenado backhanded behind third base, but he fumbled the ball out of his glove and couldn't get Jones at first.
After Jones' infield single, Nick Markakis hit a soft liner to left that a diving Corey Dickerson gloved but couldn't hold on to as he hit the ground. Davis scored on the play. After a groundout by Matt Wieters, Steve Pearce hit a bouncer to the left side that rolled under shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's glove for an error that allowed Jones to come home.
Roberts and Manny Machado each added two-out two-run doubles to chase Bettis (0-2), who gave up eight runs — only two earned — in 2 2/3 innings pitched.
Jones completed the scoring in the third with an RBI single, one of four Orioles to drive in runs in the inning. It was the most the Orioles have scored in one inning this season and most since plating seven in the second inning against the New York Yankees on July 31, 2012.
“I was real proud, what did we have, seven or eight [on base] that we got via walk or hit by a pitch [in the game]? You can look at that as earning them or taking advantage of what was given to you,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We strung some good at-bats together all the way through the lineup.”
Despite the third-inning explosion, the Orioles still didn't exorcise all of their clutch-hitting demons. In the second and fifth innings they left the bases loaded and overall left 12 men on base.
And that made the night a little more anxious than it needed to be — especially with starter Bud Norris struggling with his command throughout his outing.
Norris, who is 3-1 since joining the Orioles in a trade with the Houston Astros on July 31, was fortunate to get so much run support. He allowed nine hits, three walks and four runs in 52/3 innings but still picked up the victory.
“There is some stuff to work on; there is always stuff to work on. But I kept my team in it, and we obviously won the game,” Norris said. “To get back in the win column is where we needed to go and, obviously, I wanted to try to get through the sixth. They put some good swings on balls, and I made some mistakes to a couple that I will learn from, but I felt OK.”
Norris was pitching for the first time since he threw one-third of an inning in relief and picked up the loss in Arizona on Wednesday. He said that might have thrown off his routine a bit, but it wasn't an excuse for not going deep Saturday. He also was dealing with soreness in the right-center part of his back, but said he felt strong enough to pitch.
It was the first time Norris has allowed more than two runs in an outing for the Orioles — and he wasn't happy about it. After he walked off the mound in the sixth, he slammed his glove on the bench in a show of frustration.
“I think it's just the competitor in me saying, ‘I had two quick outs in the inning and nobody on,'” he said. “I want to finish the inning. If I get through six, I give the bullpen a fresh inning. I want to clean up my mess.”
Things could have been worse for Norris and the Orioles. But Josh Stinson, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday, entered in the sixth with two outs and two on and struck out Rockies slugger Tulowitzki.
Stinson hadn't pitched for the Orioles since losing his club debut April 24, a game in which he started and allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Stinson was much better Saturday, pitching 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
“Josh ain't scared. He comes in and he lets it rip,” Showalter said. “He came right after them. We needed that after we kind of messed around with the hitter before him.”
The story of the night, though, was the Orioles offense.
Every starter but Wieters reached base safely. Not bad for a lineup that had to be shuffled slightly an hour before the game when J.J. Hardy was scratched because of back spasms. Pearce replaced Hardy, who is considered day-to-day, in the lineup, and Ryan Flaherty moved from designated hitter to shortstop.
Ultimately, the Orioles would have liked to have been better with runners in scoring position Saturday — they were 5-for-14 in those situations. And they would have liked to have had their starter go deeper, so four relievers wouldn't have been needed in what could have been a blowout.
But a seven-run inning has a way of masking other deficiencies. And, for a night, the Orioles will take that — and a much-needed win.
“I don't think that we're in a real bad spot. You know, we've got a lot of games against our division left and we just want to stay right where we are and give ourselves a chance these last 40 games,” Roberts said. “This isn't the time of year to lose 10 in a row, but you're not going to. This isn't also the time of year that a lot of teams go run off and win 10 in a row. It's a matter of just trying to stay consistent, and I think we're going to be fine.”
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