Gonzalez gets it done as Orioles win 6-2 to finish April with 12-13 record
With the 6-2 victory tonight, their fourth in the past five games and their second straight over the reeling Chicago White Sox, the Orioles finished April with a 12-13 record. It is their most wins in the season's first month since the 2007 team also won 12 games.
Chris Tillman pitched five innings to claim his first win of the season, and Robert Andino, in addition to making a superb diving play to start a double play in the fourth, went 2-for-4 with a solo homer, two runs scored and a stolen base. Andino's baserunning keyed the Orioles' four-run eighth inning.
But as manager Buck Showalter pointed out, the star of this game was much-maligned lefty relief specialist Michael Gonzalez. After giving up runs in four consecutive outings and in six of his first seven this year, Gonzalez inherited Tillman's bases loaded and no-out mess in the sixth inning. The Orioles led by two runs and left-handed hitting slugger Adam Dunn was at the plate for the White Sox. When Showalter handed Gonzalez the ball, he told him, "Hey, you got nothing to lose, let it hang out, let’s go."
Gonzalez struck out Dunn looking. He then got Alex Rios to hit a flyball to medium center field. It should have meant the end of the inning because Adam Jones caught the ball and fired a perfect throw home that beat Alexei Ramirez, who tagged up from third. However, catcher Jake Fox dropped the ball. Still, Gonzalez fanned A.J. Pierzynski to end the inning, strand two White Sox and keep the Orioles' lead at 2-1.
"He’s got a new look," Showalter said. "We talked about it with you all after his last outing. He had good quality stuff. It was a big momentum swing there, him coming in to get Dunn there."
Gonzalez then pitched a perfect seventh, retiring two of the three White Sox that he faced on strikeouts. He was hitting 96 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun.
"Overall, it was a huge for me," he said. "Like I said, the last few outings I had I felt like I was a click, a tick away. It had nothing to do with velocity, velocity was good. It’s been good the whole year. It’s just been getting that rhythm. I felt the rhythm that last outing. I didn’t get the results I wanted. I was just so anxious to get out there tonight and show the rhythm I had."
Gonzalez had a 13.50 ERA entering the game, but he decided recently that he was going to go back to "square one" and his old style. That's why you saw the rocking on the mound, and all his clutching in his delivery. You also saw plenty of emotion with him on the mound.
"I think we all thought he threw the ball great the other time at home [against Boston]," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "I think that’s the first time I’ve seen the old Gonzo even though things didn’t go exactly his way that day. The ball was coming out of his hand really well. He talked to me about going back to his old ways and having that confidence and swagger. He seems to have that back hopefully. We could really use him. He’s a huge part of that bullpen."
Gonzalez, who many fans have been calling for his release, was hoping that tonight was just a start.
"This is, overall, the best I’ve felt arm-wise and everything," he said. "I’ve felt good the last few outings. But seriously since I got here to Baltimore, I hadn’t felt this good. And by that I mean mentally and rhythm wise. I hadn’t felt this good since Atlanta. So I’m definitely going to feed off of this."