Orioles outfielder Chris Dickerson mixed in with the crowds of people as he rode his bike along Baltimore's streets to Camden Yards on Friday afternoon.
His night ended with a celebration — a sellout crowd at Camden Yards cheering for him — as he rounded the bases after leading the Orioles to a 7-5 walk-off win over the Detroit Tigers with a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer — who limited the Orioles to just five baserunners and three hits over eight innings — baffled the Orioles for much of the night, but in the end, they emerged with their fourth walk-off win over the season.
In winning their eighth game in their past 11, the Orioles (31-24) scored four runs in the ninth off Tigers closer Jose Valverde.
The Orioles came dangerously close to stranding the tying run at third base until Dickerson's first career walk-off homer sailed into the Baltimore night to seal an improbable win over the reigning American League champions in front of an announced crowd of 46,249, the third sellout of the season at Camden Yards.
“I knew right away,” Dickerson said. “It was awesome. That's the type of feeling you just want to bottle up and take home forever. [My] first walk-off at any level, just an incredible feeling, an incredible moment.”
The Orioles entered the ninth inning having been dominated by Scherzer, who had retired 16 straight and hadn't allowed a hit since Adam Jones' two-run homer in the third gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
“I was up there in the sixth inning, and I see that we only had [three] hits, and [I'm] like, ‘wow,' ” Jones said. “I thought we had a little bit more baserunners than that, but we didn't. We kept fighting. There are 27 outs, and we only got 26 of them. This team, the grinding of the players. We play every day. … We never give anything away. Tonight was a prime example of it.”
The Orioles jumped on Valverde right away in the ninth. Nick Markakis closed the gap to one run immediately, taking a 0-2 splitter over the grounds crew shed in right-center field for his seventh homer of the season. Jones' infield single to shortstop was followed by Chris Davis' single, sending Jones to third with no outs.
After two pop outs, Dickerson — who hadn't started since May 23 and had been dealing with a sore wrist — took a 2-1 fastball from Valverde into the center field seats.
“Once we get in that eighth and ninth inning, we're just going to bear down and find any way to win this game,” Dickerson said. “If I was on the other team and I knew our team, I would have been like, ‘Here we go again.' That's what I was saying to myself, ‘Here we go.' ”
While Dickerson entered the night with just 44 at-bats since he was called up from Triple-A Norfolk nine games into the season, he's made a tremendous impact.
“You see how hard these guys work on the days they're not playing to give themselves a chance to have success,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That's why it means so much more to me personally when you see them get rewarded for that. I see them out there when it's smoking hot, hitting in the last group and trying to make sure they get their bunts down and making throws to the bases, to be ready to bring what they bring.”
Dickerson filled in for Jones admirably in center field when Jones was dealing with a sore groin and he recorded his first career two-homer game 11 days ago here at Camden Yards to help the Orioles beat a Yankees team for which he played in the past two seasons.
“He's been having some good at-bats,” Jones said. “He's been around the game for some years, so the experience is there. Big spot for him. He got a good pitch to hit, and he crushed that ball.”
Scherzer held the Orioles to three runs over eight innings — striking out 10 and walking two — for his fifth start of at least eight innings in 11 starts in 2013.
As Scherzer kept the Orioles in check, the Tigers pecked away at right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who allowed five runs over six innings — including a pair of homers. He fell behind, 2-0, just three batters into the game thanks to Cabrera, who turned on a 1-2 inside fastball and took it over the left field fence for his 16th homer of the season.
Gonzalez was just the third Orioles pitcher to last at least six innings in the past nine games, while Scherzer gave the Tigers their seventh quality start in eight games.
The Orioles bullpen, which tossed three shutout innings in relief, managed to keep the Orioles in the game. Steve Johnson stranded two on in the seventh when he induced a flyout to center from Jhonny Peralta to keep the score 5-3.
And with the Orioles offense — even on a night when the Baltimore bats were held in check — that was enough to keep the game close as it entered the ninth.
“Two runs with this team?” Dickerson said. “That's striking distance. When we're six down, it's just, ‘Hey, we'll get them back and then some.' Two runs with this team, that can happen at the blink of an eye. Nobody's worried about it.”
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