By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
1:09 AM EDT, June 28, 2013
During the course of a long baseball season, there are always a few games that stand out for their wild, unpredictable nature.
The Orioles' 7-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday evening qualifies — but only because of one ridiculously weird inning that included an out that wasn't, a safe base runner who jogged off the field, and the end of Manny Machado's consecutive-innings streak with an ejection by an umpire making his big league debut behind the plate.
Machado's first major league ejection seemed to spark his club, which feels it has been victimized by bad calls recently. The Orioles (44-36) rallied for five runs in the bizarre fifth to salvage a split in the four-game series with the Indians (40-38).
“That was awesome. Manny protected himself,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. “I think some of the players here are fed up with getting bad calls called on them and, hey, I applaud Manny and his fight back. I don't applaud him for getting ejected, because we need him. But he was just fighting back. I tip my cap to him. You've got to protect yourself.”
The strange night was punctuated by torrents of rain that fell in the middle of the seventh inning, sending much of the announced 33,036 under cover and delaying the game for 1 hour, 18 minutes.
But it will be remembered for the mild-mannered Machado's ejection.
With the Orioles down 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Ryan Flaherty and Nate McLouth opened with consecutive singles against Cleveland starter Corey Kluber (6-5).
Machado, the Orioles' 20-year-old third baseman, then came to the plate and struck out on four pitches, the last a swing on a curveball in the dirt. Machado apparently thought he tipped the pitch, but home plate umpire Will Little didn't agree.
Walking away shaking his head, Machado cursed at Little, who was umpiring his fourth game in the majors — and first at home plate — after being temporarily promoted from the Triple-A International League on Monday.
“It's something I said wrong to the umpire, and now I have to pay the consequences for it,” said Machado, who believes he has been ejected one other time in his pro career. “I let my team down, and obviously it is something that won't happen again.”
Little immediately ejected Machado — the Orioles' second player ejection this year (Jason Hammel was thrown out June 1 against Detroit) .
“It was an expletive, and then something directed at” Little, said umpire crew chief Ted Barrett of Little's decision. “So that's an automatic ejection. He knows that.”
The ejection took a little history with it.
It ended Machado's consecutive-innings streak of 1,206 — which began in the first inning of his first big league game Aug. 9, 2012. That was the longest streak in the majors.
“Obviously, when I heard about it, the streak I had going, obviously, it's devastating, but I just caused that on myself,” Machado said.
The ejection was even more intriguing considering it was done by Little, who also blew a call at first base Wednesday night when Machado slid headfirst into the bag ahead of Cleveland pitcher Scott Kazmir's foot but was ruled out.
Machado said his frustration Thursday was about not getting the foul-tip call, not from Wednesday's mistake by Little.
“I thought I tipped that ball. That's where it came from,” Machado said. “I don't hold grudges against anybody. Everybody makes a bad call. It just happens.”
On Thursday, Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to argue the ejection before heading back to the dugout to watch his team rally for five runs.
Nick Markakis tied the game with an RBI single, and Jones loaded the bases with a bloop to right.
And things got goofy again.
Chris Davis hit a grounder to second for a potential double play, but he beat the relay throw to first to keep the inning alive and force in the go-ahead run.
Jones, who made a hard slide into second, didn't hear a call, assumed he was out and jogged off the field. But second base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled that Cleveland shortstop Mike Aviles wasn't close enough to the bag when he tried to turn the double play. Oftentimes, if a fielder is in the “neighborhood” of the bag, the umpire awards him the out.
So Jones was safe. But he was in the dugout.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, that's a neighborhood play,” Jones said. “That 0.1percent my [butt] is not on the bag. I'm just glad it didn't cost us. I don't make too many base-running mistakes. I made a mistake. But an honest mistake.”
Jones was ruled out for leaving the field, Aviles was charged with an error and Davis had a fielder's choice and RBI.
Once the chaos subsided, Matt Wieters doubled to right field to score two more runs. He ended up on third when Drew Stubbs misplayed the ball and scored when J.J. Hardy hit a dribbler that Kluber kicked to the visitor's dugout railing.
That was it for Kluber, who allowed 11 hits and seven runs (six earned) despite giving up only two runs before the fifth
In all, the Orioles sent nine batters to the plate in the inning and scored five runs (four earned) on six hits (five singles).
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez (6-3) took over from there.
After Aviles' homer in the fifth, Gonzalez retired eight of the next nine batters he faced. He left with two outs in the seventh, after notching his ninth strikeout to set a season high and tie a career best (Aug. 31, 2012 against the New York Yankees).
Gonzalez allowed nine hits and walked none in getting his fourth win in five decisions. The Orioles have won their past 11 home games that Gonzalez started.
“He made some adjustments as he went along. He was elevating the ball a lot for Miguel, but it's a tribute to him,” Showalter said. “He finds a way. I think it was 50-something pitches in two innings and you didn't like the chances of him pitching seven innings, but he did.”
Gonzalez's primary blemishes were two solo home runs — the fourth time in 14 starts this year that Gonzalez had allowed multiple long balls.
More important, though, the Orioles won for just the second time in seven tries — thanks, in part, to the strangest inning of the season.
“It seemed like a long time ago, doesn't it?” Showalter said of the bottom of the fifth. “What were some of the bizarre things … besides Adam being called safe? You can see how it happens. He calls safe, and nobody can hear because the crowd is reacting to the close play at first. I've seen guys not know the guy was considered off the base. I've seen umpires miss calls. I've seen players and managers make mistakes. Orioles won, and get some sleep and [we'll] do it again tomorrow.”
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