Sometimes talking about the 2011 Orioles gets tiresome, especially when they’re losing. So instead of rehashing another failure, let’s go back in time.
It was on June 30, 2009 that the Orioles completed the greatest comeback in franchise history, and it was one of the most fun games I can remember watching. After falling behind 10-1 to the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles scored five runs each in the seventh and eighth innings to come all the way back and defeat the hated divisional rivals 11-10.
The Red Sox came into Baltimore in first place, twelve games ahead of the last place Orioles. John Smoltz started for the Sox, just his second start of the season, and everyone was wondering if the veteran had another good year in him. The Orioles sent lefty Rich Hill to the mound. Remember Rich Hill? I bet you wish you didn’t. Anyway, it looked like the Red Sox had things well in hand from the get-go. Hill was terrible, giving up nine runs in just 3.1 innings. Orioles fans across Maryland turned off their televisions in disgust as chants of “Let’s Go Red Sox!” polluted the air at Camden Yards.
Smoltz was fantastic. Through the first four innings he allowed one run on three hits, and he looked like he would cruise through the game, especially once the Red Sox ran up the score. But then fate, for once, smiled on the Orioles as the skies opened up and rain delayed the game for over an hour. With such a long layoff Smoltz couldn’t return, and the Orioles caught a break. They probably didn’t realize that, though, given that at the time the Red Sox had the best bullpen in baseball.
Justin Masterson replaced Smoltz, and for two innings the Orioles couldn’t touch him. But in the seventh inning, everything changed. Masterson didn’t retire another batter as the first five Orioles to the plate reached, with the decisive blow being a three-run home run from Oscar Salazar. By the time the inning ended the Orioles had made the score a slightly more respectable 10-6, but five more runs in two innings didn’t seem likely. But on this day, it didn’t matter what was likely, because Orioles Magic was in the air.
The O’s began the eighth inning just as they did the seventh. The first six batters combined for four singles, a double, and a sacrifice fly, resulting in three more runs. Suddenly the Orioles were down by only one. Jeremy Guthrie stood at second base, pinch running for Matt Wieters. Brian Roberts was at first, representing the go-ahead run.
Realizing they were in real danger, the Red Sox turned to their closer to get the final two outs of the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon struck out Felix Pie for the second out, bringing Nick Markakis to the plate. Markakis jumped on the first pitch he saw and drove it to left-center. Guthrie raced around third to score the tying run, followed closely by Brian Roberts who slid in ahead of the tag for the O’s 11th and final run of the game. The few Orioles fans who remained in Camden Yards after the rain delay and the 10-1 deficit went crazy, rewarded for their loyalty.
All that was left was for closer George Sherrill to close things down. He did so in typical Flat Breezy fashion, working around a single and a hit batter to get the save.
It was an amazing night, one to remember. Over at Camden Chat, we use the word “Birdland” as an adjective. When an Oriole does something fantastic and unexpected, we label him as being Birdland. When the Orioles win, we vote on the Most Birdland Player of the game. And since this comeback was so wonderful and so unexpected, we have declared June 30 to be Birdland Day, a day to be celebrated by O’s fans everywhere. So happy Birdland Day to you, and here’s to future successes by our beloved baseball team.
Stacey Long blogs about the Orioles at Camden Chat. Read Long’s Orioles observations as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.