During a season when the Orioles have defied all of the odds and obstacles placed before them, they defied perhaps one last hurdle on Friday night when they finally defeated “Bird Killer”, Jon Lester.
Baltimore dealt Lester his 13th loss on the season with a 4-2 victory over the hapless Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday evening. However, beating Lester has been impossible for Baltimore, and impossible may be understating the task for a period of time. Entering play on Friday night, Lester, during his first 17 career starts against the Orioles, was 14-0 with a 2.33 ERA (108.1IP, 28ER) and the Red Sox won 16 of those 17 games. However, after tonight’s loss, the southpaw is now 0-1 with a 3.76ERA in his last four starts and the O’s are 4-0 in the process.
Lester’s current trend matches his team’s downward spiral this season. The Red Sox are now 69-83 this season and will suffer through their first losing season since 1997 (78-84), which is ironically the year the Orioles enjoyed their last winning season.
For the Orioles tonight, former Red Sox minor leaguer and current O’s hurler Miguel Gonzalez beat Lester, as the Birds won for their fifth consecutive game and ninth during their past 12 contests. Gonzalez continued to build on his amazing performance during the month of August. In five August starts, Gonzo was 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA (33.0IP, 7ER) and his ERA was third best in the AL behind Felix Hernandez and Bartolo Colon. It was the sixth best in all of baseball. The win was his first in September as he has a loss and a no decision in two starts this month.
Gonzalez, who was released by the Red Sox over the winter and signed by the Orioles in March, went at least six innings for the third consecutive start and picked up his seventh win of the season. The 28-year-old rookie held Boston to two runs and scattered seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 6 1/3 frames in his first career start against his former organization.
Manager Buck Showalter pulled Gonzalez after a one-out single from Jose Iglesias with reliever Darren O'Day taking over. O’Day tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings and has now allowed just six of 41 inherited runners to score this year. O’Day recorded his 11th hold of the year and set the stage for closer Jim Johnson to break the O’s single season save record in the bottom of the ninth.
The Orioles are now 25-15 in games where their opponent started a left-handed pitcher (16-6 at home, 9-9 on the road). The 25 wins are more than the O’s produced against lefties in 2011 (19-28) or 2010 (18-33). The last year the O’s had a winning record when their opponent started lefties was in 1997. Baltimore managed 33 victories to just 19 defeats.
Catcher Matt Wieters, who has not played since Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, provided most of the Birds offense. Wieters was 0-for-7 behind the plate with a walk and three strikeouts during the O’s 18 inning win in Seattle this past week but showed off his bat instead of his defense on Friday.
The two days off for Wieters was well earned and despite his poor plate performance on Tuesday night, his defense continued to impress. Wieters was exceptional behind the dish for all 291 pitches that eight different O’s hurlers tossed his way during the marathon contest, as Wieters called a great game that fell just 16-minutes short of six hours to play. Baltimore pitchers threw an amazing 202 strikes during the contest or a strike almost 70 percent of the time.
Tonight, the former fifth overall pick of the Orioles during the 2007 amateur draft was 2-for-4 with a run scored and three RBI’s. Wieters plated two runs in the fourth inning on a sharp single down the first-base line to score J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones and he struck again by doubling in Jones in the sixth. Mark Reynolds stayed hot against the Sox this season as he knocked in the fourth run of the game with a single to center field, which scored Wieters.
With two more hits and another RBI tonight, Reynolds bumped his season average to .441 vs. Red Sox pitching. In 10-games this season against Boston, Reynolds has 15-hits in 34-at bats with 5 home runs and 15 RBI’s.
The Orioles have now won six times in Fenway Park (6-1) this season. That win total eclipses the franchise best ever total of five during a year, which was last accomplished in 2005. The 44 road victories for the Orioles are tops in the American League.
Facing four batters, closer Jim Johnson came on to throw a 20 pitch ninth inning. He allowed only a single to Daniel Nava with two outs in the inning but struck out the next batter, Mauro Gomez to end the game. In the process, Johnson earned his 46th save of the season, which set a new single season club record, which was held by Randy Myers since 1997. Aside from breaking the 15-year old club record, Johnson is once again the saves leader in Major League Baseball.
The Orioles improved to 67-0 this season when leading after seven innings, and continued their recent dominance over the Sox in Boston. The win was the Orioles’ eighth in their last nine games on “Yawkey Way” dating back to last September, when they took part in Boston’s late-season collapse. The Sox went 7-20 last September and missed the playoffs on the final day of the season thanks to an O’s come from behind win against closer Jonathan Papelbon in Baltimore.
This year, it is the Birds looking towards playing mid- October baseball. Instead of playing spoilers as the O's did last season, the Red Sox just flat out got beat for the 15th time in their last 20 games vs. Baltimore. Look for more of the same tomorrow, as the Birds look to take down these suddenly no name Red Sox in game two of this three game series.
The Orioles will face righty Aaron Cook (4-10, 4.93) tomorrow afternoon at Fenway Park. Cook is 0-2 this season and lifetime vs. the Birds with an ERA of 9.00. He has pitched just 8 innings and allowed 12 runs on 11 hits; four of the runs were unearned. In his last outing against the Birds on Aug.15 in Baltimore, Cook lasted 6.1 innings and allowed five runs on three hits. Two of the runs in that contest were unearned as Cook committed a throwing error in the bottom of the sixth that eventually allowed the Birds to enjoy a five-run inning and take a three run lead.
The O's couldn’t gain any ground tonight and remained one game back as the Yankees won a 2-1 walk-off victory vs. the A's. Russell Martin delivered a leadoff homer in the bottom of the 10th inning to help the Yankees recover from Rafael Soriano's blown save and maintain sole possession of first place in the AL East. CC Sabathia worked eight scoreless innings in a duel with Oakland's Jarrod Parker.
With 12 games left to play against the AL East, the Orioles already have more wins in 2012 against the East (36) than they did the entire 2011 season (28).
The Birds continued to play great defense tonight. The Orioles have not made an error in their last 10 games and have made just one error in their last 14 games.
In three Septembers under Buck Showalter, the Orioles are 42-31…The 42 September wins are third most in the AL behind Texas (46) and Detroit (44).
The Orioles are now 67-19 (.779) when their starting pitchers go 6.0 innings or more. The Birds are just 19-45 (.297) when the starters work fewer than 6.0 innings. Tonight's official line for Miguel Gonzalez was officially 6.1 innings pitched. Way to go Birds!