The Orioles' most memorable game of 2012

The Orioles' most memorable game of 2012
December 28, 2012, 10:15 am
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As the game dragged on, the questions grew more and more intense.

“Who’s next?”

It was a Sunday afternoon in early May. The Orioles had taken the first two games against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park after winning two of three at Yankee Stadium.

Already the road trip was a successful one. The Orioles were a half-game out of first after a 13-inning win on Friday night and another one on Saturday afternoon.

Tommy Hunter started, gave up five runs in five innings and the parade of relievers began: Luis Ayala, Darren O’Day, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop.

The Orioles led 6-5 until Patton allowed a run in the eighth. A 6-6 tie through nine.

J.J. Hardy hit home runs in his first two at-bats. Robert Andino hit a three-run home run, and Chris Davis struck out four times—in the second, fourth, fifth and eighth innings.

In the 10th, Davis struck out for the fifth time and watched as Kevin Gregg, who’d fallen far down the depth chart, trotted out to pitch.

Gregg got through two scoreless innings, then Matt Lindstrom came in for the 12th. It was still tied.

Matt Wieters led off the 13th with a base hit. Davis was next. He made contact, but hit into a double play. Six at-bats, five strikeouts and a double play.

Sunday afternoon turned into evening as Lindstrom pitched the 12th and 13th. There was only one pitcher left in the bullpen: Jim Johnson.

Johnson pitched a scoreless 14th, and with two outs and Wieters on second in the top of the 15th, it was Davis’ turn again. He grounded out to second. O-for-7.

Manager Buck Showalter squirmed in the dugout. He likes to be prepared for every situation, but using up an entire bullpen was new to him.

Showalter huddled with pitching coach Rick Adair. Johnson would work the 15th, but not a third inning. If he kept the Red Sox scoreless, who would pitch the 16th?

Brian Matusz, who was scheduled to start the next night in Baltimore, trudged out to the bullpen. Surely it would be him. Luis Exposito, the third catcher, and the only position player available was there, too. Maybe he could pitch.

After Johnson completed the 15th, the Orioles came up in the 16th, and a right-hander started throwing in the bullpen. The left-handed Matusz watched. So did Exposito.

It was Davis. The ultra-prepared Showalter found out that he had pitched in junior college. Nick Markakis was another option. He had pitched for the Greek Olympic team eight years before.

Davis came on in the bottom of the 16th. For seven innings, the game remained tied at 6. The DH, who liked to fool around a knuckleball before the game, got to throw one in a game. He got two quick outs, and then Marlon Byrd grounded to Wilson Betemit at third. Betemit booted it for an error.

Mike Aviles hit a line drive to center. Adam Jones retrieved it and fired it perfectly to Hardy in short left. With Byrd rounding third, Hardy relayed it to Wieters at home. Three outs, and the game went on to th 17th.

Boston manager Bobby Valentine had gone through his bullpen, too. For the 17th, he brought his DH, Darnell McDonald, a one-time first-round pick of the Orioles into pitch.

McDonald gave up a one-out double to Hardy, walked Markakis, and then Jones hit a three-run home run for a 7-4 lead. Wieters grounded out, and then Davis grounded out to end the inning.

The 0-for-8 Davis had a chance for a win. He allowed a single to Ryan Sweeney, walked Dustin Pedroia, struck out Adrian Gonzalez, one of baseball’s best hitters, and got McDonald to tap into a double play.

Six hours, seven minutes later, the Orioles had a sweep.

According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the last time two position players had been involved in a decision was Sept. 28, 1902. No one had gone 0-for-8 and been the winning pitcher since 1905. Only two other players had struck out in their first five times and grounded into a double play in their sixth.

“I get to try something different today because hitting ain’t working,” Davis said. “It was a tough day at the plate. I’m like, ‘seriously am I doing to get another at-bat?’”

Jones summed it up. “It was bizarre. It was fun. It was awesome. It was exhausting. It was exhilarating,” he said.

“They would have pulled people out of the stands to finish that game,” Davis said.

The win gave the Orioles first place and a 19-9 record and handed Showalter a new catchphrase. Whenever a game got to the 13th inning, he’d say: “It was getting to be Chris Davis time.”