Kevin Gregg made things interesting in the ninth inning after surrendering a two-run homer to Neil Walker, but Jim Johnson picked up his 19th save in 20 tries to preserve the Orioles’ 8-6 victory over the Pirates before 15,618 at Camden Yards.
Gregg had posted a 1.32 ERA in his last 12 appearances before tonight.
The biggest story, of course, was Brian Roberts’ three-hit, one-RBI return to the lineup. His last single came from the right side of the plate.
“Oh, it was great,” said manager Buck Showalter. “I’ve told you before, as I’ve gotten older, you kind of take in some moments. To get back, it’s been a long road. You feel like you’ve been through a lot of it with him, but nothing like what he’s been through. You’re lucky to be able to see that. He’s been playing like that, as far as his effort and approach down there to get ready for this moment. I’m sure it meant a lot to him and it was fun to watch. The guys kind of fed off of it because you know what it meant to him.
“I think everybody kind of felt a little anxiety for him before the game, but he certainly didn’t play like it. He looked very comfortable. A guy comes off an injury in the NFL, there’s not some rehab they go on, and NBA same thing. With baseball, you get an idea physically if he’s going to be in pretty good shape. But still, I’ve said before, it’s the biggest jump in professional sports from where he was to this level of play.
“Brian understands it’s an everyday grind. I saw a couple games down below and the reports back from everybody were about the effort and the first-step quickness and he put a lot into it for an extended period down there. But no, he was twitching pretty good.
“That was a big sac fly, very professional at-bat and it just kind of reminded me - not that we have some people that don’t do that - but that’s another thing that he brings and he’s not trying to do too much, trying to put the ball in play and get that run in with the infield where it was and also get the runner over to third base. That’s an example of what he brings.”
Roberts slid hard into second base to break up a double play, which didn’t surprise Showalter.
“No, not at all,” he said. “He’s wanting to run there. It’s always tough when you’re trying to be professional about a four-run lead or a five-run lead on any night. He was asking about stealing there, but he’s looking to run. I think he’ll pick his spots. But this game’s challenging enough physically. I’ve seen a lot of guys have more trouble injury-wise when they’re playing at a different clip. I don’t think you’re going to see Brian change a lot of things that he does that makes him what he is.”
Asked how he plans to use Roberts going forward, Showalter replied, “I’m planning on writing his name in at second base until something happens that deems it differently. This guy played basically every day down there. We’ll pick our spots. We talked about it today. I talked with Robert, I talked with a lot of guys, and one unpleasant conversation with (Steve) Tolleson. That was tough. But I think Brian and I have a good enough relationship that if he feels like - I’ve got a feeling after this much time off, I’d have to pry it out of him. You could tell he had a lot of fire out there tonight. They were hoping we would win late in the ballgame, but also a couple guys were trying to figure out the proper way to do the pie or whatever they’re calling it. I don’t think they showed him much mercy from what I hear.”
Nope. Roberts received his first career shaving cream pie in the face, courtesy of Adam Jones.
The night wasn’t a complete success. Endy Chavez strained his right hamstring and could be headed to the disabled list.
“Not real sure whether it’s a DL-able one and unfortunately, you don’t really get a feel for it until the next day, so we’ll see,” Showalter said. “It’s going to be a challenge. It’s just a matter of whether you think it’ll heal within a certain period of time or if it’s something that’s that bad. But on a hot, sticky night like this, the first thought is hoping it’s more cramp than anything else. But usually it’s not.”
We’ll find out tomorrow whether Brian Matusz can make his start after being hit in the nose this afternoon during a bunting drill.
“I think you all know that the X-rays were negative, but he’s got some swelling there,” Showalter said. “I’m going to talk to him again after we get through here about tomorrow, whether he should start or not and I’ll make that decision before we leave here tonight.”