Our long national nightmare is over - at least for now. The Orioles have finally won a game against the Kansas City Royals. How did they do it? That's easy. The Orioles rained down home runs on the Royals in a way they simply could never manage last October. The O's kicked up five home runs worth of dust and when everything settled they were 8-5 winners.
With the win, the O's return to .500 and, due to some fortuitous results elsewhere, have inched a half-game closer to the second wild card spot, now sitting two games behind the Twins, with the Rangers and Angels both also in the way. There's still a lot of work to do, but it's a little bit less work than they had to do yesterday. They've still got to keep winning games. But they won today and that's not worth nothing.
Increasingly creative ways to avoid scoring runs
They really out-do themselves sometimes. The O's got the first promising scoring opportunity of the game, starting out with Chris Davis leading off the second inning of the game with a double to right. An immediate runner in scoring position! And even better, the next batter, Matt Wieters, hit a single - though this still wasn't enough to score Davis, who did not get a good read on the ball as it fell in to the outfield and Davis stopped despite a Bobby Dickerson windmill.
Probably it was good that Davis stopped because he was not going full speed the whole play due to not being sure if he would have to beat a hasty retreat to second base. But it was frustrating to not get the run in on the base hit where he started out at second, and the bottom of the Orioles lineup being what it is, the next three batters went strikeout, foul popout, strikeout, and the O's, despite having men on first and third with no one out, got nothing.
You know what happens next. Kendrys Morales led off the Royals half of the second inning with a double. Morales was bunted over to third base by Mike Moustakas because Ned Yost is the kind of man who hits on 20 and draws an ace. Why give up an out? Thanks, though. Another double, this one by Salvador Perez, got the Royals on the board. Then came the infield singles, because this is the Royals we're talking about. First Paulo Orlando and then Omar Infante pulled them off, with the result being that the Royals would plate another run.
It could have been worse than that. Next up was Alcides Escobar. He drove a ball deep to center field that Adam Jones was able to run down. Infante, on first, tried to tag on the play. Orlando, at second, did not. That is as TOOTBLAN (thrown out on the basepaths like a nincompoop) as TOOTBLAN gets.
Dingers - the solution to all of life's problems
The Royals went out of their way at the trade deadline to add ace Johnny Cueto to bolster a rotation. He'd never pitched against the Orioles and only three batters had ever seen him before. You might think this was a recipe for disaster. It was - well, for two innings. And after that it was still a disaster, only the disaster belonged to Cueto, not the Orioles.
The third inning began with Ryan Flaherty getting a base hit. That brought up Manny Machado, who socked a Cueto pitch over the fence in left field. Just like that, the Orioles were tied up again. Nor were they done hitting dingers on the night, either.
They struck again the very next inning, in fact. Steve Pearce singled with one out, where he still stood when, one batter later, Jonathan Schoop stepped to the plate. Perez set up inside. Cueto missed. Schoop did not miss. This was the result:
The reaction of Adam Jones to this home run says it all. Jones is a man who hits a lot of home runs, some of which have gone quite a long way. Yet even Jones, watching that ball soar out of the stadium, is like, "Holy f---! Wow!" Wow is right. The distance on that ball was measured at 484 feet, which is the second-longest home run anywhere in MLB this season. BABIP that one.
Just for fun, they added another two-run dinger in the fifth inning as well - Gerardo Parra led off with a single before Chris Davis got in on the home run party. Those homers, by the way, represented #26 for Machado, #10 for Schoop, and #35 for Davis, and they left the Orioles ahead 6-2.
A sixth inning Royals rally brought a run across the plate and the tying run to the plate, but Wei-Yin Chen was able to escape the jam without things getting much worse. On the night, Chen gave up three runs on ten hits and a walk in 6.2 innings of work. That's more hits than you'd like, but against this devil magic-infused squad, take what you can get.
The only thing better than dingers is more dingers
Cueto was yanked from the game after throwing 97 pitches in five innings. He was relieved by Jeremy Guthrie. Orioles fans know a thing or two about Guthrie's penchant for giving up dingers. At Camden Yards, away from Camden Yards, it didn't matter. He gave up dingers. In that way not much has changed.
In the eighth inning, Steve Pearce got in on the party, blasting his eighth home run of the year over the left field fence. Machado responded to this home run by rubbing Pearce's bald head. I see you out there, you perv reader. Stop giggling. This insurance run looked significant right away, as in the bottom of the eighth, Brad Brach, after retiring two batters, issued a walk to Morales and was relieved by Brian Matusz - bringing the lefty in to face lefty Mike Moustakas.
We saw this movie last October. It didn't go any better on Wednesday night. Moustakas inexplicably homered off Matusz to bring the Royals within 7-5.
The Orioles, however, had not quite yet emptied out their dinger quiver. Even Ryan Flaherty got in on the act with a center field shot off of Guthrie in the ninth inning. It's nice to know that some things never change.
From there, Zach Britton came on for the ninth and did his thing, and for once the easy grounders were really easy grounders. A two-out walk to Escobar was frustrating, but Britton struck out Ben Zobrist to end the game with the tying run still on deck. The losing streak was finally snapped.
The O's still have a chance to salvage a split of this four-game series tomorrow afternoon. The game is scheduled to get underway at 2:10, with Chris Tillman and Yordano Ventura the scheduled starters. Win and they're back above .500. Lose and they're back below. It's pretty simple.