Hello to all the O’s fans out there (yes, they do still exist and rightly so, keep fighting the good fight) and welcome to what hopefully will be a better night of baseball here at the Yard.  For those who don’t know me (which is everyone), I’m filling in as a substitute writer this evening.  I was a part of Around the Harbor with Expatriate before we closed up shop and Expatriate joined this blog.  I’ll do my best to stand up to the work that Expatriate and others have done on this blog.  But that’s far enough about me, onto tonight’s matchup.

Arrieta vs. Garza– certainly a matchup on paper that would cause even the most ardent Orioles fan to throw in the towel given the previous two losses the Orioles have suffered.  After coming off of a four game sweep gonig into the All-Star break, the Orioles tumbled back into reality, losing the past four games upon their return.  Like last season, the O’s are now asking for a rookie starter to become the ‘stopper’ forthis pitching staff.  Arrieta has been inconsistent on the year, but his recent performance (2 ER in his last 17 innings pitched) give hope for some stability.  On the flipside, Matt Garza has been consistently dominant against the Orioles, going 8-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 10 starts against the Birds.  We’ll see if the young gun can step up against one of the AL East’s best starters. 

6:30 Pregame: Rain has been intermittent since about 4:30 this afternoon in the Baltimore area, and it’s still off-and-on here at the yards.  No word yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a delay to tonight’s game.  It’s going in and out, so even once we get underway this’ll be a messy one.  Regardless, your lineups for the Orioles and Rays: 

For the Orioles:

  1. Felix Pie – LF
  2. Miguel Tejada – 3B
  3. Nick Markakis – RF
  4. Luke Scott – DH – Good move by Samuel; Wigginton has struggled in cleanup, a change was overdue.
  5. Ty Wigginton – 1B
  6. Adam Jones – CF
  7. Scott Moore – 2B
  8. Craig Tatum – C
  9. Cezar Izturis – SS

For the Rays:

  1. Ben Zobrist – 2B
  2. Carl Crawford – LF
  3. Evan Longoria – 3B
  4. Carlos Pena – 1B
  5. Matt Joyce – RF
  6. Willy Aybar – DH
  7. John Jaso – C
  8. BJ Upton – CF
  9. Reid Brignac – SS

6:44 Pregame: Tarp has been removed, skies clearing and looking OK for baseball.

Editorial Note:  I’m sorry, I can’t resist mentioing this.  Michele Obama is visiting today to support programs fighting childhood obesity.  This is a very important cause and one that deserves our attention.  Childhood obesity is a major problem, and working with the world of sports is a good means of addressing it.  That being said, the irony of Michele Obama visiting Camden Yards cannot be avioded.  Just today SI put an article on their website discussing the “all you can eat” ticket programs put up by different baseball teams and how they are contributing to the obesity problem, particularly in our youth.  The Orioles are front and center in this article and singled out for their “all you can eat” left field ticket deal.  Awkward.

7:10 First Pitch:  Teams are ready to go after the singing of our national anthem by the Soldiers Chorus of the US Army Field Band — a beautiful performance by the way.  The skies are clear, sun is shining, and it’s turned into a gorgeous evening for baseball with gametime temperature of about 80 degrees.  Now let’s see if the O’s can bring some baseball to match…

7:17 Top 1st:  On a pickoff attempt from Arrieta, Crawford was hit in the groin by the pickoff throw while going back to 1st, fell down and was tagged out by Wigginton.  Insult to injury.  Easily one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen in baseball.  Expect replays.  I’m trying to be professional but… well… you really really cannot make this stuff up.  Two outs.  Crawford’s up and has made it back to the dugout.

7:21 Mid 1st, 0-0:   Arrieta did not look strong in the top of the first, but got out of it with a hard ground ball to second, a pickoff throw that knocked out Crawford, and a fly ball to right by Markakis.  Shaky command but no harm done.

Lineup changes for the Rays because they can’t send Crawford out to left field:  Zobrist moves from 2B to RF, Joyce moves from RF to LF, Brignac moves from SS to 2B, and Bartlett enters the game at SS.  Huge break for the Orioles.

7:27 End 1st, 0-0:  Eight pitches, three up three down.  This is not the start that O’s fans were looking for.  While Garza is a control pitcher and has outstanding stuff, the only way the O’s are going to get out of this hitting funk is to take a deep breath and at least try to stop pressing so much.  It’s not doing them any favors when they only see two or three pitches per at bat– not just for the hitters, but for those behind them to get a sense of what sort of stuff Garza has tonight.  Not good to see.

7:35, Mid 2nd 0-0:  Arrieta has been heavily leaning on his fastball and rightly so.  One of his biggest strengths is his bulldog mentality, so he knows to stick with his strength.  Too many pitchers get cute and rely too heavily on secondary pitches.  Arrieta has been pounding in with the fastball, and by leaning on that and only mixing in one or two breaking balls he’s seeing good results.  Arrieta made an outstanding between-the-legs snag of a sharp ground ball to record the last out of the inning.  Great bounce-back for Arrieta.

7:37, Bottom 2nd 2-0 O’s:  Luke Scott hits a monster home run 352 feet down the right field line on the second pitch he saw.  Wiggy then went back-to-back by smoking a 382 foot shot to left field.  How’s that new 4-5 combo working out?

7:41, Bottom 2nd 3-0 O’s: Make that back-to-back-to-back home runs for the Orioles.  Adam Jones crushes a pitch to left field to give the O’s a 3-0 lead.  408 feet, capping off the first back-to-back-to-back home run streak since 1995 against the Los Angeles Angels.  Back then it was Jeff Manto, Mark Smith, and Brady Anderson.  Tonight it’s Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton, Adam Jones.

Smattering of boos for Moore grounding out to end the streak.  This is what happens when O’s fans have a taste of happiness, I can’t blame them.

7:50, End 2nd, 3-0 O’s: Garza struck out Pie to end the inning, but the at bats were getting better and the confidence is way up.  Camden Yards neeeded this kind of boost to pick the team up.  Garza, after throwing only eight pitches in the first inning, threw 32 in the second.  Garza’s control has still been good, but the O’s have taken advantage of mistakes.  The zone where Garza is most missing seems to be inside to lefties– he’s already nearly hit two batters, in particular Izturis who had to duck quickly to avoid being struck in the head.  We’ll see how Arrieta handles a lead.

8:00, Mid 3rd, 3-1 O’s: Arrieta finally used his slider in this inning, which was surprising because it’s regarded as his second best pitch.  Only problem was, the first two were thrown back-to-back, with Upton taking the first and then seeing the second clearly and belting it to left for a home run.  Arrieta’s command has been shaky — it’s not that he’s nibbling, he’s just simply erratic.  But overall, Arrieta’s stuff looks pretty good and he’s managed to right himself when he’s started to go awry.

8:07, End 3rd, 4-1 O’s:  Luke Scott is a man posessed tonight — second home run of the night to right-center on a 1-0 pitch from Garza, with a total distance of 412 feet.  So again… how’s that decision to move Scott to the cleanup spot looking?  When Luke Scott is on a hot streak there aren’t many guys better, and noone argues he’s the strongest guy on the team.  Helping all of that is the fact that there’s really something in the air tonight, and balls are flying.  Four home runs by the O’s, five total, and we’re just starting the fourth…

8:16, Top 4th, 4-2 O’s:  The home run parade continues with a 342 shot by Matt Joyce just left of the right field foul pole.  So right now we have 7 total hits in the ballgame, 6 of which home runs.  Yeah, I’d say that the ball is carrying tonight.

8:19, Mid 4th, 4-2 O’s:  Arrieta has been running deep in counts but is hanging in there.  Fastball command is very much in-and-out, but velocity is steady and it seems to have good movement; Rays hitters are frequently off balance and that’s what’s keeping the lineup down.  And yes, despite the two home runs I’m saying that he’s holding them down – there have only been a few really good swings against Arrieta.  It’s just that two of them are home runs.  Still, the way this game is going it’s easy to feel that this could fall apart (in either direction) in a big hurry.  The O’s offense has to keep the pressure on and yes, be patient.  Because once you find your pitch and get a good swing on it, the ball will reward you in this summer air.

By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t inform everyone that Mustard won the race.  Poor Relish.

8:27, End 4th, 4-2 O’s:  Jones and Moore went down awful quickly, I think over-eager with how the ball’s been carrying.  Tatum and Izturis both had decent at bats, but in the end Garza has been allowed to get his pitch count back in control, at a total of 62 at the end of four.  At the very least the lineup was turned over.  Arrieta is going to need to get his command back, particularly because almost the entire lineup has seen him twice already tonight.  If these hitters can sit on a pitch– even a quality pitch– on a night like this, Arrieta’s lead will evaporate awful quick.

8:36, Mid 5th, 4-2 O’s:  Arrieta finally mixed in the slider well this inning, getting Upton to an 0-2 count with fastballs and getting him to finally chase a quality slider out of the strike zone.  His fastball velocity seems to be down a bit, closer to the 91-92 mph range, however he has used his offspeed pitches far more effectively this inning.  He’s not striking batters out as you’d expect from a power pitcher, but he’s paced the introduction of secondary pitches well enough to keep the Rays’ hitters from getting good hacks at most of his pitches.  It also doesn’t hurt that the O’s fielders have stepped up– a couple good snags by Markakis earlier in the game, good reads by Pie in the outfield and a quality play by Izturis to end the top of the fifth are helping his cause mightily.  On a night like this, Arrieta can’t afford baserunners, making every little play all the more important.

8:43, End 5th, 4-2 O’s:  The Orioles hitters are finally starting to have lengthened at-bats.  Pie and Tejada, though both produced outs, demonstrated a better approach that they weren’t showing earlier in the game.  All that being said, the Orioles went three up and three down.  Despite the Orioles’ production tonight, the top three in the order are not pulling their weight.  This game would look far different if one or two folks were on base for Scott’s home runs.

8:51, Top 6th, 4-3 O’s:  Arrieta’s showing some cracks as his 92nd pitch went past Craig Tatum and Bartlett raced in from third to make it a one-run ballgame.  Arrieta still is having command isues, and the Rays are being exceptionally patient and letting him beat himself.  Right now Berken’s warming in the bullpen, and I’d expect to see him fairly soon.  In related news, it’s started raining here at Camden Yards.  After the walk issued by Matt Joyce to put runners on first and second with one out, it looks like Arrieta’s night is going to end.

8:54, Top 6th, 4-3 O’s: Arrieta’s night is done, and Berken’s coming on to pitch.  Arrieta had an OK start, but certainly not what the Orioles were looking for with such an overtaxed bullpen.  Berken is going to have to be efficient in order to piece this together.  Berken-Hernandez-Simon would be the preferred trio for tonight based on effectiveness and rest.

8:58, Top 6th, 4-4: The rain has stopped, but it’s starting to pour on the Orioles.  Willy Aybar hit a sharp grounder to Wigginton who made an outstanding diving play and then, instead of going for the sure out at first, threw to second and missed the covering Izturis.

9:05, Mid 6th, 6-4 Rays: Yep, it’s coming down.  Jaso singled into center, bringing home both Aybar and Joyce.  The Wigginton error now looms even larger– remember how I said that defense was critical to the Orioles having any kind of lead?  That error was a perfect example of the problems with this team in that, they have talent so they’ll make the outstanding play, and then– throw it away.  How quickly things go awry.  And to think, it’s Jason Berken tee shirt Tuesday.  The Orioles bats are going to have to reawaken– regardless of the pitching issues, if they thought that they were going to beat the Rays on four runs they were asking for trouble.

9:14, End 6th, 6-4 Rays:  The Orioles response was uninspired to say the least.  Outside of a Jones double, Scott, Wigginton and Moore all went down in relatively short order.  Credit needs to be given to Garza however, as he has rebounded impressively from the early home runs.  Matt Garza looks locked in, and the O’s are going to have a tough time mounting a comeback against him at this point.  But the air is thin, and far stranger things have happened.  Particularly on this night.

Final line on Arrieta: 5.1 IP, 4 H 5 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 2 HR, 1 WP.  Despite the promising first five innings,  Arrieta just couldn’t maintain, and in the end, the control issues killed him.

9:21 Top 7th, 6-4 Rays:  Berken’s still not looking good on the mound.  He had an outstanding start to the season, however his post-All Star break performance has been somewhat troubling.  You have to wonder whether all this was a mirage based on the small overall sample size.  Jason Berken is a good guy and I’m pulling for him.  Here’s to hoping he gets it back together.

After intentionally walking Longoria the O’s are now bringing in Will Ohman.  I agree with both moves– you can’t let Berken face Longoria with second base open, and Pena is exactly the kind of hitter you get lefty specialists for.

9:26 Top 7th, 6-4 Rays:  But you don’t get lefty specialists to walk hitters like Pena.  Now the bases are loaded, and with another lefty due up (Matt Joyce), Gabe Kapler has been called on to pinch hit.

9:28, Top 7th, 6-4 Rays:  Will Ohman strikes out Kapler on a checked swing– Maddon then starts shouting from the dugout at home plate umpire Mike Reilly about the call and is issued a warning.  Seemed like a good call from this vantage point, but Maddon is a passionate manager in the middle of a pennant race.

9:31, Top 7th, 8-4 Rays:  Just when you think they could get out unscathed, Ayber bloops a single to right, two runs score.  Starting to look bleak, but still do-able.

9:34, Mid 7th, 8-4 Rays:  It’s all up to the O’s bats if a comeback is going to be mounted– in particular I’m looking at the top of the order which has as of yet been entirely ineffective.  Expect David Hernandez in the 8th.

9:44, Bottom 7th, 8-6 Rays:  That’s the end of Garza’s night, and it ended how it began– very very strange.  With runners on first and third, Tejada lined a shot to right center.  However, Zobrist had a beat on the ball but as he went to catch it, the ball bounced right off of the top of his glove.  Pie got an excellent jump and was able to score from first, Tejada is in at second.  Tejada will be credited with an RBI double as it wasn’t a routine play in right.  But still, it’s like I said earlier– weird stuff is happening tonight, so I would stay tuned in.

9:51  Bottom 7th, 8-7 O’s:  Luke Scott continues to play like a man possessed.  And looks like a man who’s plenty comfortable in the cleanup spot.  He drove in Tejada with a long single to right center, and has had a good idea of what he wanted to do every time he’s been to the plate.

Ends up Scott will now be pinch run for by Corey Patterson– based on the place in the game this is a good move.  Regardless of how he’s hit, the baserunning is most critical right now.  The tying run being on base this late in the game is too critical to keep a guy with a questionable hamstring on the basepaths.

For the Rays, Choate is now replaced Joaquin Benoit.  Who I’m sure will be keeping a close eye on Patterson.

9:55, End 7th, 8-7 Rays:  Garza will be charged with all seven runs– it didn’t look like he pitched badly while the game was in progress, but every mistake seemed to catch up with him.  Tough night to be a starting pitcher.  Hernandez is now coming on to try and keep it a one run game.

10:00, Mid 8th, 9-7 Rays:  Well, so much for a one run game.  Bringac responoded with a home run to right center to give the Rays a two run lead.  Hernandez finished the inning strongly by retiring Bartlett on three pitches.  Again, theme of the night– if you make a mistake, you’re going to pay.

10:07, End 8th, 9-7 Rays:  The Orioles went a very quick 1-2-3 for the bottom of the 8th, and so it’ll be Izturis leading off the 9th, followed by Pie and Tejada.  Not much to say except that the Orioles can’t afford to get down by any more runs.

10:14, Mid 9th, 9-7 Rays:  Hernandez was able to get through the heart of the Rays’ order without any damage, so the O’s bats have at least been given a chance to make a charge in the 9th.  With Rafael Soriano, the Rays closer, coming in, the Orioles batters cannot press.  Soriano is a very emotional pitcher who has a tendency to get wild.  His fastball can be devastating if located– the O’s have to give him a chance to beat himself, then wait for the right pitch.  Izturis, Pie and Tejada are a combined 2-11 tonight, so it’ll be an uphill battle.  But on a night when a star outfielder was taken out by a pickoff throw to the groin, I’d say just about anything is possible.

10:21, Bottom 9th, 9-7 Rays:  After a leadoff single by Izturis, Pie hammers a shot to the left center gap, missing a home run by less than a foot.  Runners on second and third for Miguel Tejada, none out.  Crowd is alive, people are on their feet.

10:25, Bottom 9th, 9-9:  Tejada comes through in the clutch!!!  Two RBI double down the right field line ties the game!  Tejada violently clapped his hands as he reached second, imploring the crowd on.  Orioles and Rays now tied at 9, Tejada stands on second with nobody out.  Lugo on to pinch run.  The energy is at a fever pitch.

10:29, Bottom 9th, 9-9:  Markakis strikes out, one down.  Corey Patterson, who came on to pinch run for Luke Scott, now has the opportunity to be the hero.  In hindsight you’d say that Samuel made the wrong decision taking out Scott, but I’ll stand behind the call.

Scratch that– Patterson is being intentionally walked anyhow with 1st base open, partly because he’s a lefty but more likely because it sets up the double play.  Wiggy now has a chance to be the hero.

Scratch that– quick pop-up by Wigginton.  Two outs.  Now its to Mr. Jones.

10:32, End 9th, 9-9:  Of course it goes to extra innings.  I should’ve expected it, and shame on me for thinking they would score with a man on second and nobody out.  If it should happen, it won’t.  If it shouldn’t, well it probably will.  It’s one of those nights.  Now comes Simon to try and tie down the Rays in the 10th.  (note: Moore is now at third base, Lugo is now at second)

10:40, Mid 10th, 9-9:  Upton launched a shot to left center field that I’m shocked did not get out of the park.  Earlier in the evening that would have gone I’d have to think.  Regardless, between Jones snagging a couple of fly balls and an outstanding reach by Wigginton at first (leapt up to catch Lugo’s errant throw and tapped first on his way down off balance), the Orioles were able to get out of the 10th unscathed.  All they need is to scratch out one run.  Starting with Scott Moore, currently 0-4…

10:43, Bottom 10th, 9-9: Now 0-5, called out on strikes.

10:44, End 10th, 9-9:  And so it continues… you know, baseball gods, some of us have to go to work tomorrow… then again, if we didn’t this wouldn’t be any fun for you.  Seriously though, end of the day, this is what baseball fans live for.  Games that go up and down, change dynamic repeatedly, and constantly keep you guessing.  Here comes Simon for another inning of work, and the Orioles continue to play battle of bullpens against a team they really don’t want to do that with.  The O’s have to finish this soon because they don’t have nearly any arms left.

10:52, Mid 11th, 9-9:  Simon was very impressive in retiring the side in the 10th.  Now the O’s have the top of the order coming up, this is their best time to make a move.  After this the O’s would have to go to Koji, and after that they don’t have anyone.  Pie will be leading off, followed by Lugo who ran for Tejada, and then Markakis.

10:59, Bottom 11th, 9-9:  Two outs, nobody on, and now Markakis up to bat.  He’s gone 0-5 today so you have to think that he’s due.

11:01, End 11th, 9-9:  You would think that, wouldn’t you?  Yeah, well.

Looks like Simon is coming out for a third inning of work.  I can’t blame Samuel, because Simon has a hot hand right now and hasn’t thrown very many pitches.  Regardless, this is pushing a closer awful hard.  But what options does he have?  I would choose a third inning for Simon over a rusty Uehara, at least to start.  Uehara should be ready though, and I think I see him stretching out in the bullpen just in case.

11:16, Top 12th, 10-9 Rays:  On a hit and run with one out, Kapler strikes out and Tatum’s throw is off line, Pena moves to third.  Next batter singles to right and the Rays take the lead.  So, what should have been an strikeout-throw out double play turns into a Rays lead.  Even if Pena was safe at second, he wouldn’tve been able to score on the single to right.  Just goes to show, when you make a mistake…

11:19, Top 12th, 10-9 Rays:  I don’t think anyone can blame Simon for losing that lead.  For one he was pushed way past his limit, throwing a total of 44 pitches in 2.2 innings.  You can’t expect a closer to continue to be effective after that long.  Now comes Koji to try to limit the damage with men on 1st and 2nd.

11:23, Mid 12th, 10-9 Rays:  Koji did what he needed to do, now the O’s have to climb yet another hill.  Patterson’s leading off which could be an advantage with his speed, provided he can find a way on base.  Dan Wheeler is coming on for the Rays, which is a welcome sight considering the problems the O’s were having trying to figure out Grant Balfour the past couple innings.

11:26, Bottom 12th, 10-9 Rays:  Patterson leads off with a double against Balfour, now being replaced with Wheeler (my mistake, I thought Wheeler would be coming in first).  Wigginton, Jones to follow– huge opportunity for the Orioles to get this game back.

11:29, Bottom 12th, 10-9 Rays: Patterson on third after Wigginton flies out,  Jones up to bat.

11:34, Bottom 12th, 10-9 Rays:  Jones walks, now Scott Moore who is 0-5 on the night with runners on the corners and one down.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a hit-and-run given the double play possibility and good speed at 1st.

11:35, End 12th, 10-10:  And the beat goes on, folks.  Scott Moore flied to left center, actually not very deep.  Still, Samuel wisely sent Patterson because of his speed and because this was too big an opportunity.  Good risk to take.

And that’s the end of the inning.  … did I mention they’re playing a day game tomorrow?  Oh, how funny.

ps they’re doing the hot dog race again.  BOOOOOOOOO.  Relish won, which is good and all, but it’s a tainted win.  There should be oly one hot dog race per game, that should be in the major league rules somewhere.

11:43, Mid 13th, 10-10:  After allowing a leadoff single, Koji induced a neatly turned 4-6-3 double play and struck out Jason Bartlett on a 1-2 pitch.  Lance Cormier now coming in to pitch for the Rays.  The O’s keep getting to the edge, all they need is that one run to put this game away and get some rest for tomorrow’s game.

As a sidenote I do have to credit the remaining crowd here.  They’re energized, passionate– they absolutely make me proud to be an O’s fan.

11:49, Bottom 13th, 10-10: Izturis draws a walk from Cormier and Pie bunts him to second.  While he’s a good base stealer and Pie can bunt, with Lugo following I wouldn’t have done the same.  We’ll see how it works out.

11:50, End 13th, 11-10 O’s:  O’s WIN!!!! Go crazy folks!!  Julio Lugo is your hero, Baltimore, slapping a single down the first base line, bringing in Izturis from second base.  It’s been one heck of a ride, and I can’t say enough about the guts of this team, the bullpen, and the fans tonight.  As Orioles Magic plays in the background, you have to just be able to savor the win.  The Orioles might be the worst team in baseball, but the beauty of the sport is that it doesn’t matter.  For just one night, there was Orioles Magic.

One of the most bizarre games– scratch that– the most bizarre game I’ve watched in person.  Started with home run derby, ended in a veritable pitchers duel.  The Orioles were basically down to their last man in the bullpen and they made it work.  Thanks all for tuning in, and I wish yalls could’ve been here at the Yard.  It was one helluva night.