By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
12:34 AM EDT, July 12, 2014
Miguel Gonzalez had gone 31 starts between consecutive eight-inning outings until the Orioles’ 3-2, walk-off win in 10 innings Friday night at Camden Yards.
But his night didn’t start off well. He allowed solo homers to former Oriole Brian Roberts and No. 9 hitter Kelly Johnson — both early in the count — as he fell behind 2-0 after three innings.
The Orioles were fortunate to take advantage of two hit batters and two wild pitches to tie the game at 2 in the fourth, a score that held until Nick Hundley’s single ended the game in the 10th.
Gonzalez retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced after Ichiro Suzuki's one-out double in the fourth placed runners at second and third.
"Miggy threw the ball great, a couple of solo homers, but you know, in the fourth inning, [he was] kind of on the ropes a little bit and did a great job popping up [Yangervis] Solarte and getting Kelly Johnson to fly out, who had homered earlier," catcher Nick Hundley said. "So when he settled in after that, I think that got him right back on track. To go eight gave us an unbelieveable chance to win."
The outing comes after Gonzalez went eight innings and allowed two runs, one of them earned, in a 3-2, walk-off loss in Boston in which he struck out six batters and walked two.
"Early on, it didn't look like it was going to be an eight-inning outing,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Friday's start. “He got ambushed a couple times with some first-pitch fastballs, but he was really good after that. He got stronger as the game went on. He was trying to pull a [Chris] Tillman [and] hide from me after the eighth inning, but I was able to get him.”
Showalter said Gonzalez went into the eighth inning with a short leash, but he needed just five pitches to get through after he retired Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury on first-pitch offerings.
“A little bit of a push there in the eighth,” Showalter said. “He was kind of going hitter-to-hitter there. He was good. His split is a pitch that's been there for him when he's been effective, and tonight was a good example. When they've got that many left-handed hitters in the lineup, you have to have something like that to get them off you a little bit."
For Gonzalez, who allowed six hits in eight innings and struck out five batters Friday, the key to another eight-inning outing was issuing no walks.
“I think the most important thing is attacking the strike zone and not giving in to any hitter and not giving any walks,” Gonzalez said. “I think that’s the most important thing. Against Boston, I gave up a couple walks, but today was much better. I hit a guy, but other than that, everything was pretty good.”
This was just the second time in 16 starts this season he did not walk a batter. He last did so in a seven-inning, two-run outing May 10 in Houston.
Gonzalez’s control is a big reason for his success in the past three seasons. While his strikeouts per nine innings this season are at a career high (7.1), so are his walks per nine innings (3.6), a mark significantly higher than those in 2013 (2.8) and 2012 (3.0).
“That’s been my problem the whole year, so I think minimizing those walks and attacking the zone" is important, Gonzalez said. “That gives our defense — they’re going to be ready for whatever happens — an opportunity to win ballgames.”
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