Reporting Rob Long
Baltimore Oriole Glove Glove right fielder and lead-off hitter Nick Markakis goes down with a wrist injury on Saturday against the New York Yankees. Jason Hammel leaves the game early on Tuesday with knee soreness. It looked as if the wheels on the bus were beginning to fall off.
Not so fast, my friend. J.J. Hardy hit two homeruns on Tuesday as the Birds keep the Tampa Bay Rays off of their heels while the bullpen provided four and a third innings of nearly flawless baseball. That’s been the story of Oriole baseball for the 2012 season.
That story continued on Wednesday night as they battled the Rays, yet again, for a play-off berth. The Rays looked determined to keep the pace in the Wild Card hunt and the suddenly tight American League East race.
The O’s were equally determined as Miguel Gonzalez, who didn’t have his best stuff, went six innings only giving up two runs on six hits. He struggled with control, walking five but he was good enough to keep his team in the game.
Once again, the bullpen came in to hold things together. Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson, a trio that’s been nearly unhittable for the majority of the season, silenced the Rays bats for three innings.
In the top of the ninth, the 20 year old phenom, Manny Machado made a great defensive play, picking pinch runner Rich Thompson off at third, who was trying to make a great play himself. Manny pumped faked a throw to first while Thompson rounded third to score. Manny turned and threw it to Hardy, backing up third, and caught Thompson in a run down with Matt Wieters tagging him out.
That’s when Oriole Magic continued. Machado, led off the inning with a single, and moved to second on a bunt by Robert Andino. At that time, you knew Nate McClouth was going to come through. It wasn’t really because you had a ton of faith in McClouth the man. You just had that much faith in what the O’s have been doing.
McClout roped a ball down the right field line, scoring Machado from second to capture another win for the Birds. The 80th of the season.
Later, as ESPN showed the highlight, former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona reminisced of the O’s jumping the pile against his team. With the Yankees beating the Red Sox on Wednesday, the O’s are still locked in a tie with the Bronx Bombers for first place in the AL East.