Kim to the res­cue

O’s can’t ex­pect help from out­side in post­sea­son bid 2-run pinch HR in 9th tight­ens wild-card race

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Pe­ter Schmuck By Ed­uardo A. Encina

If the Ori­oles think they’re go­ing to get any out­side help in their quest to hold onto a wild­card play­off berth, they’ve got an­other think com­ing.

They’re try­ing to both over­take the Toronto Blue Jays and hold off the Detroit Tigers, who are just one game out of the sec­ond wild-card spot and ap­pear to have an amaz­ingly smooth path to the post­sea­son. AL WILD-CARD STAND­INGS Toronto 87-71 +1 Ori­oles 86-72 — Detroit 85-73 1 Seat­tle 84-74 2 Hous­ton 83-76 31⁄ Through Wednes­day

TORONTO — Hyun Soo Kim has hit 148 ca­reer home runs, all but six in the Korean Base­ball Or­ga­ni­za­tion, but his two-run pinch­hit homer in the top of the ninth in­ning at the Rogers Cen­tre on Wednes­day night — a blast that gave the reel­ing Ori­oles a much-needed 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays — was with­out a doubt the big­gest of them all.

“First,” Kim said through in­ter­preter Danny Lee when asked where it ranked. “It’s No. 1. … No. 1.”

Kim — the South Korean im­port whose

spring train­ing strug­gles had the Ori­oles try­ing to send him to the mi­nors to open the year — might have saved the Ori­oles’ sea­son by com­ing off the bench and giv­ing his team the clutch hit it was miss­ing through its first 17 in­nings in Toronto with its post­sea­son hopes on the line.

He saw Blue Jays re­liever Roberto Osuna’s en­tire ar­se­nal — fast­balls, change­ups, sinkers and slid­ers — in a nine-pitch at-bat that he ex­tended with four foul balls be­fore send­ing a full-count, 95-mph fast­ball over the right­field wall to si­lence an an­nounced crowd of 44,668.

“I think that’s what it’s all about,” said right fielder Mark Trumbo, whose 46th homer of the sea­son rep­re­sented the Ori­oles’ only run go­ing into the ninth. “I think ev­ery­one in the dugout was go­ing nuts. Ob­vi­ously, that was a re­ally hard-fought win, but es­pe­cially to be him. That was great. … This is a very tough place to play. The fans, they’re al­ways giv­ing it to you and they’re very pas­sion­ate. Some­times it’s tough to get some­thing go­ing, but a mo­ment like that, that was big for us.”

Com­ing off the bench has been an ad­just­ment for Kim, who be­came known as Korea’s Iron­man for play­ing ev­ery day. Now, he’s mostly used against right-handed pitch­ing. But he’s ex­celled off the bench, go­ing 6-for-9 with two walks in 11 ap­pear­ances as a pinch hit­ter.

“There’s no se­cret as to why I’ve been so suc­cess­ful pinch hit­ting,” Kim said. “I’m just happy I’m put into that sit­u­a­tion be­cause it’s al­ways clutch sit­u­a­tions. So I’m en­joy­ing and I’m do­ing well with it. … I re­ally try to be ready when I have to hit. That helps me a lot.”

A loss Wednes­day would have put a dag­ger in the Ori­oles’ post­sea­son hopes, es­pe­cially with both teams chas­ing them hav­ing fa­vor­able sched­ules down the stretch. But Kim’s homer pro­vided an in­jec­tion of life into an Ori­oles team that had fallen flat in Toronto.

“It was big,” right-han­der Chris Till­man said of the win. “I think that could push a team a long way in wins. It was a big team win, and I think ev­ery­one played a part in it. … It was price­less, [Kim] com­ing in the dugout with big smile on his face. Not a bet­ter guy for that to hap­pen to.”

The win kept the Ori­oles one game ahead of the Detroit Tigers — who mo­ments be­fore Kim’s homer took the lead on Miguel Cabr­era’s three-run homer and even­tu­ally won — for the sec­ond AL wild-card spot with four games to play. The Seat­tle Mariners are two games back. The vic­tory also put the Ori­oles one game be­hind Toronto for the first wild card.

“It’s been a while, not just this year,” man­ager Buck Showal­ter said of the team’s re­silience. “It’s been go­ing on for a while. … I know our city and our or­ga­ni­za­tion are proud of that type of base­ball. We’re try­ing to con­tinue to play it, just like Toronto has.”

The Ori­oles (86-72) trailed through­out, spoil­ing scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties through­out the night.

They woke up late. Trumbo’s homer in the eighth off Ja­son Grilli cut the gap to one.

Jonathan Schoop looped a one­out sin­gle to right in the ninth, and pinch run­ner Michael Bourn stole sec­ond base, be­fore Kim came to the plate to pinch hit for Nolan Reimold.

The Ori­oles haven’t been good against left­ies all sea­son, and Blue Jays starter Fran­cisco Liri­ano held them score­less for 61⁄ in­nings, strik­ing out 10 bat­ters and giv­ing Toronto back-to-back 10-strike­out out­ings from its starters for the first time in more than five years.

The Ori­oles had their chances ear­lier in the game. They put their first two bat­ters on base in the fourth on sin­gles by Adam Jones and Chris Davis, but Liri­ano then struck out the Ori­oles’ 3-4-5 hit­ters — Manny Machado, Trumbo and Trey Mancini.

They loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Davis struck out look­ing on a curve­ball at the let­ters to end that in­ning.

And in the sev­enth, the Ori­oles had two on with one out, chas­ing Liri­ano from the game, but left­hander Brett Ce­cil struck out Reimold and re­ceived a fine de­fen­sive play from short­stop Troy Tu­low­itzki on Jones’ grounder in the hole to end the in­ning.

Af­ter Trumbo’s homer in the eighth, pinch hit­ter Pe­dro Al­varez dou­bled, but Matt Wi­eters flied out to left to strand the po­ten­tial ty­ing run in scor­ing po­si­tion.

Till­man al­lowed just two runs, one earned, over 52⁄ in­nings.

The bullpen ac­counted for 31⁄ 1/3 score­less in­nings, no out more im­por­tant than left-han­der Brian Duensing’s strike­out of Melvin Up­ton Jr. with the bases loaded in the eighth. Zach Brit­ton re­tired the Blue Jays in or­der in the ninth, strik­ing out two for his 47th save to re­main per­fect on the sea­son.

FRANK GUNN/CANA­DIAN PRESS

Hyun Soo Kim, right, is con­grat­u­lated by Manny Machado af­ter hit­ting a two-run homer off Roberto Osuna with one out in the ninth.

FRANK GUNN/CANA­DIAN PRESS

Mark Trumbo, right, is con­grat­u­lated by Pe­dro Al­varez af­ter home­r­ing to left field off re­liever Ja­son Grilli with two out in the eighth to cut the Blue Jays’ lead to 2-1. Trumbo leads the ma­jors with 46 homers.

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