Top 20 Games of 2014: Game #7


7. Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals (Monday, July 7, 2014 – 7:05 pm – 8-2)

The July 7th game between the Orioles and Nationals in DC might be the most mundane game on our list but that doesn’t mean it is not deserving and memorable in its own right.

Chris Tillman started the game for the good guys and was opposed on the mound by Stephen Strausburg.  Given the pitching matchup, a low scoring game might have been expected and early on, that’s exactly what we got. All of the damage during regulation was courtesy of the 2-run homerun.  In the 4th, Nelson Cruz followed a Manny Machado single with a deep homerun to centerfield.  Tillman got through the first five innings with relative ease.  In the 6th, Denard Span singled and Anthony Rendon immediately followed that one up with a homerun to knot the game at two.  Both Tillman and Strasburg got through the 7th inning without any further damage.  Tillman exited after 103 pitches, having struck out six batters to go along with five hits and one walk.  His lone mistake was the 6th inning Rondon homerun.

The bullpens took over from there and kept the game tied through a full nine innings.  Darren O’Day handled the 8th and 9th for the Birds.  After a clean first inning, he allowed a one out double to Ryan Zimmerman.  After intentionally walking Bryce Harper to set up the force play, O’Day – who was having a tremendous season to that point – turned it up another notch by striking out Ian Desmond and Wilson Ramos to end the threat.

The O’s couldn’t plate either of the 2-out base runners they got in the top of the 10th while T.J. McFarland held the Nationals’ hitters in check in the bottom of the inning.

Washington chose to go with their closer (Rafael Soriano) in the 9th inning which is standard procedure for the home team in a tied game.  The Nats then went with their best reliever (Drew Storen) in the 10th.  Thanks in part to the pair of 2-out singles, the O’s made Storen thrown 17 pitches that inning causing rookie manager Matt Williams to make another pitching change in the 11th.  Williams called on the services of Craig Stammen to continue the solid work his bullpen had done up to this point in the game.  The good news for the Birds is they were now deep into Washington’s relief corps.

Nelson Cruz led off the inning with a line drive infield single to shortstop.  The single brought the struggling Chris Davis to the plate with the potential go-ahead run on 1st base.

Davis – whose batting average was straddling that often dreaded .200 mark – was in the midst of another poor evening at the plate the plate.  In four at bats, he had struck out twice and failed to reach base.  Davis’ season long struggles might have benefited him on this particular night.  If the 2013 version of Davis had walked to the plate, there stands a chance that Williams would have summoned a left-handed reliever or (more likely) would have instructed Stammen to work around Davis.  There was less reason to fear Davis at this juncture, so Stammen decided to pitch to him.

Despite his struggles all season Davis continued to have strong at bats and work the count.  The O’s first baseman saw six pitches on his way to working the count full.  Stammen threwq Davis only one strike which resulted in a foul ball (the other strike was called a bit off the plate).  On the 7th pitch, Stammen again went a bit off the plate and outside to Davis.  The previous pitch had been in and Stammen was no doubt trying to freeze Davis by mixing it up and hitting the outside corner.  No such luck.  With his usual beautiful but deadly swing, Davis lifted the 7th pitch of the at bat into the right field seats for a go-ahead 2-run homerun.

That was just the first sign that a relatively normal game was about to get a little bit crazy.
The next batter was J.J. Hardy.  Hardy followed up Davis’ blast with a homerun of his own.  Nick Hundley singled and the O’s had Stammen and the Nats on the ropes.  Stammen briefly recovered by striking out Jonathan Schoop and getting one of those infuriating National League gift outs when T.J. McFarland was sent to the plate to lay down a bunt.  Stammen was close to exiting the game without any further damage when Nick Markakis added to the sudden Oriole’s lead with an RBI double.  That was finally enough for Williams who pulled Stammen.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, the pitching change wasn’t enough to quiet the suddenly potent Baltimore offense.  At least, it wasn’t enough to slow down the red hot Manny Machado.  Before his at bat in the 11th, Manny had already had done a full night’s work with four hits in five plate appearances.  He was not done just yet.  Manny hit the 5th pitch of the at bat over the left field fence for a 2-run homerun to cap off both his impressive 5-hit night and the Orioles 6-run 11th inning outburst.

McFarland worked the bottom of the inning and did his best Zach Britton impression by recording three outs on three groundballs.  The O’s 6-runs from the 11th held up as they won 8-2.  The extra-inning heroics of Chris Davis and the run scoring barrage that followed cemented this early July game as one of the most memorable of the 2014 season.