It was supposed to be a high-scoring series between two big-swinging teams, but the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays played three low-scoring, one-run games and the series was still up in the air in the eighth inning Thursday night.
Manny Machado — who else? — finally decided it with a bloop double into short right field, which scored Joey Rickard — again, who else? – with the go-ahead run in a 3-2 Orioles victory before 17,644 at Camden Yards.
The victory gave the Orioles their third consecutive series victory over a division rival, and this one was particularly uplifting because the Orioles lost the first game before grinding out two tough late-inning victories against the defending American League East champions.
Machado extended his season-opening hitting streak to a career-high-tying 14 games and the first-place Orioles improved to 10-4. But Machado said afterward that it's too early to draw any conclusions from that.
"It's been a tough series, back and forth," Machado said. "The pitching has been good on both sides. It's just the way the year's going to be. It's going to be a tough division and we're going to have to keep battling to the last out."
Like Wednesday night's game, this one did not look like it was going to be a tight pitching duel at the outset. The Blue Jays sent eight batters to the plate in the first inning and Chris Tillman was lucky to get out of the jam with only two runs across. He needed 38 pitches to do that, which certainly didn't point to him completing six innings.
The Orioles also came out swinging against Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, who gave up three straight hits to start the bottom of the first and also had to pull something of an escape act to get off the mound holding a 2-1 lead.
The two pitchers combined to throw 57 pitches before the Orioles made their first out of the game. But both pitchers settled in and worked into the middle innings without incurring any further damage.
It remained a one-run game until the Orioles took advantage of a walk, a hit batsman and a single by Caleb Joseph to load the bases in the seventh to set up a game-tying sacrifice fly by shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Wieters tossed: Matt Wieters became the first Orioles player to be ejected from a game this season after he angrily argued a check swing call with home plate umpire Dan Bellino. Wieters and the Orioles were clearly frustrated with what they felt was an inconsistent performance by Bellino behind the plate — starting with a disputable called third strike on Mark Trumbo with the bases loaded in the first inning. It was only Wieters' second career ejection. Manager Buck Showalter engaged Bellinp in a long argument, but stayed in the game.
Rickard's miracle hit: Rickard, the Orioles' Rule 5 rookie, opened his team's half of the first inning with a line drive right at Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, but the ball popped out of his glove and Rickard got credit for another leadoff hit. Upon further review, the ball blew right through the webbing of Donaldson's glove. So far, it has been that kind of season for the new Orioles left fielder and leadoff guy.
Davis keeps walking: Slugger Chris Davis has been very disciplined at the plate so far this year and Thursday he might not have had much choice. The Blue Jays seemed determined not to let Davis have a big impact on the game, walking him the first four times he came to the plate. The four walks were a career high, and they raised his on-base percentage to .397, which is quite a number when you consider his batting average is just .208.