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Orioles Make a Mess of Sox Bullpen

By Joseph Merkel

It was the greatest comeback I have ever seen—and I didn’t even get to see the whole thing.

By the time the rain came in the fifth inning of the second game of a three game series between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles—causing a mid-inning delay— the score was already 9-1, Sox.

Why keep paying attention? I’ve been let down before by late-inning heroics that have come up short.

Not knowing that the game had started back up again, I started watching South Park and eventually played a video game or two. It was around 10:45 that I check my iPhone to see if they had started playing again when I realized that not only were they playing, but the O’s had scored five runs off Boston reliever, Justin Masterson in the seventh inning—not bad.

Still down 10-6, I was certainly not about to get my hopes up and think that a win was still even remotely possible. Well, at least not until the O’s loaded the bases in the eighth against Hideki Okajima—a pitcher who for some reason has had success against every team he has faced except for the Baltimore Orioles.

Tonight was no different.

Oh well, his loss equals our gain.

After three consecutive hits, the bases were juiced with rookie catcher Matt Wieters coming to the plate. After falling behind 0-2, Wieters punched a single into left field, plating utility-man Oscar Salazar.

Four straight hits and Okajima’s night was done without recording an out. Red Sox Manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen and brought out former Dodger closer Takashi Saito to face Ty Wigginton—who was pinch-hitting for shortstop Robert Andino.

Wigginton hit a ball to deep right that was played perfectly by Rocco Baldelli, though it was deep enough for an RBI sacrifice fly. The O’s were now only down 10-8.

After second baseman Brian Roberts sliced a ball down the third-base line passed Kevin Youkilis at third, the lead was lessened to just one run.

Once again, Francona had seen enough.

He decided now that he would go with his stud, the closer, Jonathan Papelbon.

After a Felix Pie strikeout, the Orioles were down to their last out of their four-run rally and the outlook was looking grim.

Two on, two out, and to the plate came outfielder Nick Markakis.

Was the clock about to strike midnight for these Cinderellas? Papelbon is easily one of the top three closers in baseball and Markakis—as good a hitter as he is—was, before the at-bat, 0-7 against Papelbon, lifetime.

Regardless of the stat, Markakis must have been looking first-pitch fastball, because he got it. Markakis smashed a two-run double to the left-center gap and the Orioles took their first lead of the game, 11-10.

Markakis’ hit capped off what would eventually be the Orioles’ biggest comeback win since coming to Baltimore in 1954.

And I almost missed it?!

Never again will I turn off a game early, or throw my arms in the air as Orioles’ Manager Dave Trembley brings in the mop-up reliever, showing no effort to try to keep a game close.

I have witnessed heart, talent, and greatness.

But most importantly, let us not forget…It came against the Red Sox.

A division rival is one thing, but against the first-place Sox? The team with arguably the best bullpen in the MLB?

Seeing the Sox—who hold the best record in the American League—crumble nearly brought a tear to my eye, as it should.

Other than the Yankees, there isn’t a team out there I would have rather seen it happen to.

To be quite honest, even after writing that, I may not have meant it. I think I may have too much respect for Mariano Rivera to see that type of meltdown happen to him. But we’ll see how I feel if it ever happens.

Papelbon on the other hand, let ‘em unload for all I care.

That’s what you get for saying you would be OK with being a Yankee.

Three years and a World Series title later, and the kid has no loyalty.

Look at Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrioa, who I hate because he’s not on the Orioles. But after winning AL Rookie of the Year and MVP in back-to-back seasons, he signed a six-year deal worth $40.5 million—the contract includes an option for the 2015 season.

The contract, worth an average of just over $7 million per year, is worth far less than Pedroia is, in terms of contracts given out in the modern era.

He did the right thing. He realized that it gets to the point when enough money is enough, especially when you can stay in the city where you want to be.

Anyway, it’s beside the point. Sorry for the short rant.

Back to the matter at hand.

Orioles win.

It was the non-role players that made it possible for the O’s tonight. Of the Orioles’ 11 RBI, six were driven in by players that didn’t start the game.

Pie had two RBI hits including a triple that scored Andino in the bottom of the fourth. He entered the game in the second inning taking the place of Adam Jones, who took a hard crash in to the centerfield wall in the first inning while tracking an eventual home run.

Salazar, who came into the game in the seventh to pinch hit for Melivin Mora, hit a three-run home run and followed it up with a single to extend the O’s rally in the ninth.

Even pitcher Jeremy Guthrie got in on the action. Guthrie scored the game-tying run off of Markakis’ double after coming in to pinch run for Wieters.

This team isn’t going to win any beauty contests and I’ll defend to the day I die that if you give up 10 runs, regardless of the final score, you don’t deserve to win a ball game.

And when you’re down 10-1, heading into the seventh inning, the fault isn’t all on the pitchers.

The game could be 2-1, if the hitters don’t hit, the game can’t be won.

I don’t know what changed in the Orioles’ bats tonight, but whatever it is, I hope that it’s here to stay.

In the end, you have to take every game for what it’s worth.

You lose your star-centerfielder, and his back-up has a stellar night. The opposing team brings in their start closer whilst still clutching a one-run lead against a guy who has never gotten a hit off of him and he slaps a go-ahead double.

In baseball, maybe more than any other sports there is, it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings. Or until the fat ump calls strike three, which he did tonight against Jason Bay.

Anything can happen. Lesson learned.

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