The game plan to beat Ubaldo Jimenez is not a secret. At this point, lots of teams have done it. Take your walks and hit your ground balls. You’ll get plenty of men on base. It’s what happens next that determines the outcome of the game. If Jimenez is able to rack up strikeouts and groundball double plays, his team might win. If instead he gives up hard contact, the runs will come in bunches.
The second inning was exactly to script for the Rays. First, Logan Morrison was hit by a pitch. Then Steven Souza Jr. grounded up the middle,, just out of the reach of Tim Beckham. Then Corey Dickerson grounded into right field, just out of the reach of Jonathan Schoop.
Get a chance? Have to do something with it. Wilson Ramos did. He went down and got every bit of a low fastball at the bottom of the zone, flying it out to left-center for a grand slam.
In the bottom of the inning, the Orioles tried to answer. They flipped two singles into right and then took a walk to load the bases with no outs, just like the Rays had done, but Alex Cobb was able to limit the damage. Austin Hays flew out to center (just shy of the warning track, slightly scary), to sacrifice home one run, and another scored on a wild pitch (which was as much Ramos’s fault as it was Cobb’s—sometimes a pitcher buries his curve, and it’s a good pitch, and he needs his catcher to do his part to make it a good pitch), but Cobb rallied to strike out Pedro Alvarez and get out of the inning ahead 4-2.
The Rays got those runs back immediately, when Evan Longoria opened the third inning with a home run, and then a series of singles ended with Logan Morrison scoring while Ramos was caught in a rundown for the third out. “Ramos in a rundown.” Think about those words. Then move on. The important thing was that the run scored.
Orioles Problems on the Basepaths
The Orioles had a few chances to shrink the lead (and they did manage to, momentarily, with a Chris Davis home run). But they ran themselves into a couple outs that made the night easier for Cobb.
With one out in the third inning, both Manny Machado and Schoop singled, ending up on first and second, and then Adam Jones hit a third consecutive single—a line drive into left field. Machado tried to score from second, testing Dickerson’s suspect outfield arm. But Dickerson was equal to the challenge. His throw was accurate, and strong enough to get Machado by several paces.
Then, in the sixth inning, two singles and a wild pitch put Orioles runners on second and third. Pedro Alvarez hit a soft chopper to the left that Cobb fielded easily. Oddly, Chris Davis went, getting stranded far off third. Cobb recognized this and ran him down unassisted. That meant he didn’t have to turn and throw to first a more difficult play, and it left only one runner in scoring position rather than the two that had started the play.
I mention these mistakes because sometimes we fans seem to think that our team is special in terms of making mistakes. Buck Showalter gets held up as a paragon of managerial preparations. His teams also are not perfect.
Some other notes:
- Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson combined for a pair of hits that stretched the Rays lead to 8-3.
- Ramos nearly went yard a second time, but was sent back to second base when replay showed that his fly ball hit the very top of the right-center wall and came back without touching anything out of play.
- In the ninth inning, Steven Souza Jr. popped up on the infield. He was mad. He tried to break his bat on his knee. It didn’t work. Then he threw it on the ground. It clearly wasn’t funny for Souza. It was a little bit funny for the rest of us.
- In the third inning, Evan Longoria made a good backhanded grab in foul territory, and then uncorked a very strong throw that robbed Tim Beckham of a hit. Logan Morrison’s catch to complete the play was possibly made more difficult by Beckham’s helmet bouncing at his feet. It’s nice to see that the Orioles equipment managers have had no easier of a time getting a helmet to stay on the head of a hustling Beckham.
- Tommy Hunter looked goooooood, blowing a 99 mph fastball past Chris Davis for a strikeout. He has rally had an excellent season.