The Orioles finally did not strike out like eight thousand times in the same game and they broke a four game losing streak. There may be some connection between these things. They beat the Indians on Friday night, 6-4.
Victory was not assured by any means. Things got quite tense in the end, in fact, as a 6-3 cushion evaporated quickly in the eighth inning under the watchful side-arm of Darren O'Day. He began his inning by giving up a home run to Francisco Lindor, cutting the lead to 6-4.
Before all was said and done, the Orioles intentionally walked Lonnie Chisenhall - representing the go-ahead run - to set up a potential double play by loading the bases. This bold strategy did in fact pay off: The next batter, Chris Gimenez, grounded into a double play, which an acrobatic Jonathan Schoop pounced on and turned to end the drama.
That was the end of the excitement for the night. Zach Britton shut things down in the ninth inning with no trouble whatsoever, as he tends to do, picking up his 13th save of the season.
Breaking out of the Houston funk
From the beginning of the game it was clear that, whatever might happen the rest of the way, the Orioles were at the very least going to pick a different way to lose. With an oddly shaken-up lineup that saw Adam Jones leading off, the O's proceeded to have the bases loaded against Trevor Bauer with one run already in and no one out.
After a couple of flashback-inducing strikeouts from Mark Trumbo and Nolan Reimold, Schoop ripped a single up the middle to give the Orioles an early 3-0 lead. I like this brand of baseball a lot better, don't you?
Bauer settled down after that first inning, however, and kept the Orioles off the board for the duration of his six innings pitched.
While Bauer was busy putting up zeroes on the board, Mike Wright was busy being Mike Wright. Over five innings, Wright steadily gave back the runs, so that by the time Wright left the game, unable to complete the fifth inning, the game was tied up at 3-3 and there were two men on base.
Fortunately for Wright and for the Orioles, Dylan Bundy came out of the bullpen and retired Mike Napoli on an easy pop-up to preserve the score where it was. Bundy went on to pitch the sixth inning without incident, with a leadoff single being erased when Jose Ramirez made the poor decision to try to run on Caleb Joseph at a time when Ubaldo Jimenez was not on the mound.
Wright's night ended after 4.2 innings pitched. He allowed three runs on six hits and two walks, picking up four strikeouts. It took him 99 pitches to get that far into the game. Following this, his eighth start of the year, Wright is now sitting with a 5.05 ERA.
Taking the lead back, eventually
There were a few more innings where the Orioles had chances to score against Bauer. A Reimold double play snuffed out a Trumbo leadoff single in the third. Manny Machado made the poor decision of trying to stretch a leadoff double into a leadoff triple in the fifth inning and was thrown out on the basepath like a nincompoop.
This attempted triple drew the particular ire of MASN analyst Jim Palmer, who groaned in absolute disgust as the play was in progress - it seemed fairly clear to the naked eye that Machado had no chance at all - and prompted a rant about not making the first out at third base. He's not wrong.
That TOOTBLAN notwithstanding, Machado had a heck of a night, putting in a 4-5 at the plate that included two doubles. The lineup shakeup surely worked. Leadoff man Jones was 3-5, too, with three singles.
But eventually Bauer was out of the game and Zach McAllister arrived into it. The right-handed McAllister has actually been better against lefty batters since converting to relief, struggling mightily against righties (1.100 OPS allowed) so far this season.
This proved to be a problem for McAllister and good news for the Orioles. Machado got the party started with a one out double, and Chris Davis, undeterred by the platoon numbers, added a double of his own to break the 3-3 tie and put the Orioles back on top.
McAllister then left a pitch a bit too high for Trumbo and Trumbo did not miss it, blasting the ball on top of an elevated fence just inside of fair territory by the foul pole. Two run home runs may not be Earl Weaver Specials but they're just about as sweet.
This put the Orioles on top, 6-3. With the lead in hand heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, it was time to activate the Brach-O'Day-Britton tandem. Brad Brach allowed a hit in the seventh inning but otherwise cruised. Brach now has a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings pitched this year.
With O'Day's later temporary difficulties the extra two runs from Trumbo's home run proved to be crucial. There was that much more of a cushion as O'Day ultimately worked out of the jam he got himself into.
Thanks to the seventh inning runs, Dylan Bundy became the pitcher of record in the game. He picked up his first win at the MLB level in the process.
Good things can happen when the Orioles actually consistently make contact. They struck out only six times tonight, a totally normal and non-terrible number of strikeouts. It can be done. Hopefully they can carry this success over into tomorrow and beyond.
Elsewhere on Earth, the Red Sox were losers on Friday night. Well, you and I know they're losers all of the time. What I really mean is they lost the game they played on Friday night, so the Orioles pull back to within a game of the AL East lead. They remain at least four games up on every other team in the division.
The series continues with a Saturday mid-afternoon game. The 4:10 contest is scheduled to have Ubaldo Jimenez start for the Orioles, with Danny Salazar starting for the Indians.
Salazar is actually good. He's got a 2.32 ERA after nine starts and has struck out 67 batters in 54.1 innings. Don't get your hopes up too much. The strikeouts may come right back. At least if it's a good pitcher it'll be more understandable.