Baltimore Orioles Win, Joe Saunders (almost) Perfect

By Lance Rinker

Joe Saunders pitched a perfect game for 5.2 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, as he retired the first 17 batters he faced before giving up a single to Adeiny Hechavarria.

That’s not a half bad outing for Saunders after he allowed six earned runs (seven total) and 10 hits in 5.1 innings of work against the Chicago White Sox in his Baltimore Orioles debut last week.

The Orioles scored in the top of the second when Nate McLouth laid down a sacrifice which allowed Manny Machado to cross the plate, making it a 1-0 game at the time. The birds wouldn’t score again until the top of the fifth inning off of back-back doubles by Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy which then made it a 3-0 game.

Saunders appeared to run out of gas with one out in the bottom of the seventh, as he was pulled after the Blue Jays loaded the bases and Luis Ayala was brought in to get out of the jam. In what was probably the tensest situation of the game, Ayala went to a 3-0 count on Moises Sierra before coming back with three straight strikes to strike Sierra out for the second out and then got Jeff Mathis to pop out to end the inning.

After escaping the jam of the previous inning, the Orioles came up to bat in the top of the eighth and put runners on first and second with one out – looking to add a little breathing room to their 3-0 lead. Markakis ended up flying out for the second out before Hardy hit an RBI single over the second baseman’s head to extend the Orioles lead to 4-0.

Baltimore manager Buck Showalter brought in Pedro Strop for the bottom of the eighth, I’m sure we all remember Strop’s control issues in New York, but he pitched nicely – striking out the first two batters he faced looking and then inducing a ground ball to end the inning.

The top of the ninth inning started out much the same way that the top of the eighth inning started as the Orioles had runners on first and second base with two outs. Lew Ford came up to bat and worked a thousand pitch walk – okay, more like eight pitches – to load the bases and it appeared as if the Orioles were primed and ready to add a few more runs to the scoreboard. Robert Andino came up to the late and hit a deep fly ball to center field and it looked like it had a shot to go out but Colby Rasmus caught up to it about 20 feet away from the warning track.

Even though it wasn’t a save situation, Jim Johnson was brought in for the bottom of the ninth to get some work in and preserve the team’s 4-0 win. Johnson went to a full count on Edwin Encarnacion before finally getting him to swing through a sinker, then Adam Lind popped out to left field on three pitches, and Yunel Escobar grounded out to Hardy to end the game.

It took Johnson just 11 pitches to take care of the three hitters he faced and helped Saunders win his first game as an Oriole.

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