Knowing that Alexi Casilla couldn’t play tonight because of an injured finger, Orioles manager Buck Showalter went against conventional thinking and put two left-handed hitters back-to-back in his lineup against a left-handed starting pitcher.
Flaherty had two hits off Angels starter Jason Vargas, including an infield single in the bottom of the seventh that loaded the bases with two outs. Markakis greeted southpaw reliever Scott Downs with a two-run single that broke a 1-1 tie.
Markakis is now 7-for-20 with nine RBIs against Downs.
“I looked at the batting order today with Casi not able to play,” Showalter said. “You usually don’t like left-handers back-to-back, but we don’t look at Nicky in that light. He’s one of those guys who likes someone telling him that he can’t do something. But you’ve seen the numbers. There’s not a good matchup there for any opposing team when Nick’s in that position.”
Markakis began the night batting .268 against left-handers. He was 1-for-3 against Vargas, and he did a number on Downs.
The Orioles had three straight infield hits to load the bases, with Danny Valencia and Steve Pearce hustling up the line and Flaherty doing the same.
“We were fortunate, we were fortunate,” Showalter said. “Ryan did some good things again for us tonight. But we were fortunate. But guys are trying hard. Vargas, you know there’s going to be a fine line there. You get a feel for it and it progresses. I don’t want to say lucky, but we were fortunate. We hit them in the right place.
“I thought Stevie Pearce made a good baserunning play not getting in the way of the fielder there. That would have created an issue.
“Vargas left-handed, falling toward third base - if you can get out of there quickly, you’ve got a shot.”
Both teams were outstanding in the field, making dazzling play after dazzling play.
“That was a baseball game as far as defensive play,” Showalter said. “You want to see defense. I’m proud to be part of that and watch those guys play defense.
“You’ve all heard it 100 times. You seem to get those types of things happen behind guys who attack the strike zone and have good tempo. That’s what you’re always stressing, but it doesn’t always happen.”
Miguel Gonzalez kept his defense from falling asleep. He held the Angels to one run and four hits over a season-high eight innings, walking only one batter and striking out five.
“Miggy was tough,” Showalter said. “Boy, he was good. He was really good.”
That didn’t stop Showalter from removing him after 96 pitches and bringing in closer Jim Johnson with the Orioles leading 3-1.
Did Showalter consider staying with Gonzalez?
“I thought about it,” Showalter said. “I had good options. Either one might have been the right one. I’m not going to let you in on all those things. There are a lot of things you think about. Jimmy had, what, seven- and nine-pitch outings. Miggy got done what he needed to do and where they were in the order... If I was going to bring in Jimmy after one hitter, then why not just let him start the inning.
“Miggy, we always try to give him an extra day any chance we could. You see how we protected him last year and we haven’t even played half the season yet. I think Jimmy would probably be better tonight than he would be tomorrow. Usually, that’s how it works with relief pitchers, with the short night. I’m glad we had a decision to make with the starting pitcher.”