Boy, did that game feel like 2005? The offense got the Sox out to an early first inning lead, and the starter pitched well deep into the game. The offense also scuffled after the first, wasting opportunties, keeping the game close so that the bullpen could get in some high leverage work.
After watching Jon Garland attack the first two batters on the game primarily with pitches up in the zone, I thought we were going to be in for a long night, but he got the ball down and stuck with his best stuff to keep the Orioles hitless into the 4th inning. Garland only struck out 1, but walked none, and kept the Orioles in the yard to limit them to just one run over 7 plus innings. It was the 5 straight game in which he has successfully kept the bleachers free of souvenirs. Not coincidently, he's 4-0 with a 3.13 ERA over that stretch.
Even though Garland was pitching well, and had a pitch count that was only in the high 80's, I was calling for a quick hook after he retired the last two batters on hard hit balls in the 7th. Jermaine Dye ran down was appeared to be a gapper with one out, and Juan Uribe was perfectly positioned to snag a smash back up the middle off the bat of Corey Patterson. Sure enough, Garland allowed the first two to reach in the 8th, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Guillen stuck by him though, allowing him to face Luis Matos. Garland rewarded Guillen by inducing a fister down to Joe Crede, who was able to hold both runners.
Then it was the bullpen's time to shine. Matt Thornton got almost a carbon copy of Matos' shot off the bat of Brian Roberts with a nasty inside fastball. Then Bobby Jenks struck out Javy Lopez on a variety of heat. The ninth inning would not be as kind to Bobby.
The Orioles had a good plan against Jenks. They weren't going to swing at anything off-speed unless they had to, and they were looking to put the fastball in play early. The first three batters did just that, plating 1 run and putting the tying run in scoring position with no outs. I don't know if it was Bobby, or AJ and Ozzie (who came out for a visit) who recognized the O's plan, but they clearly changed their approach from there. Bobby switched to mostly curveballs and sliders, as he struck out the side, only once getting to a 3-ball count.
There's no way that Bobby would have been able to pull himself out of that hole last year. He just didn't have the command or the cajones to throw the breaking stuff in that type of situation. Tonight, however, he showed us why he deserves to be in the All-Star game.