When the Orioles hit home runs at the right time, that solves a lot of problems, at least for one day. Two home runs, one from Manny Machado to tie the game and one from world home run leader Mark Trumbo to break the tie, proved to be enough to beat the Rays in a 2-1 win on Sunday afternoon.
The win was not a pretty one by any means. The O’s hitters continued to fail with their chances with runners in scoring position, ending up with a horrible 0-7 for the game. In general, a team is not going to win very many games like that, yet the Orioles managed to do so anyway. An ugly win goes into the win column and counts just the same as a blowout.
The Orioles really needed to find a way to salvage a split in the four game set with the Rays. It is sad enough that they needed a split, but they couldn’t change any of the previous games. They could only try to win today. So, however it happened, it’s good that they were able to do so.
A different version of Wade Miley
There is a version of Wade Miley who is not a bad pitcher. Orioles fans have seen scant little of that guy and as a result, his every start is something to dread. Imagine the surprise when he sent down the first nine Rays he faced in order. Is that even allowed? Apparently, it is.
Miley also pitched a scoreless fourth inning although he lost his nascent no-hitter right away on a Mikie Mahtook single. After a pitch got away from Miley and hit Kevin Kiermaier, it was suddenly quite a hairy situation with two men on and none out and last night’s Orioles destroyer, Evan Longoria, at the plate.
The good version of Miley continued to show his quality, however, and Miley ended up striking out Longoria. On the strikeout pitch, both runners took off. Catcher Caleb Joseph threw out the lead runner, Mahtook, at third base on the play without even leaving his knees.
Joseph’s quest for an RBI may still be ongoing - and he surely got none today, being asked to bunt when he had a first and second, none out situation before him - but he can contribute in other ways, and that was such a way.
Miley went on to walk Brad Miller before getting Steven Souza to ground out to end the inning.
There would be no finding out whether the good version of Miley would stay for another inning. He was lifted from the game after taking a warm-up toss before the fifth inning with what the Orioles announced as upper back cramps.
They hit one of yours into the stands...
Entering in relief for Miley was Darren O’Day, freshly activated from the disabled list today. O’Day in the fifth inning? Hey, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.
Which, it didn’t work. The very first pitch that O’Day threw to the very first batter he saw, Corey Dickerson, was launched several rows deep into the left field seats. It was hard to even get too mad. Dickerson hit a pitcher’s pitch the opposite way for a homer. He can do that, which is why he now has 21 home runs but also 120 strikeouts in 135 games.
So the Orioles were trailing 1-0, and with the way the offense was looking, it was one of those games where you had to wonder if that was going to be that - for the game, for the season, whatever.
But the Orioles bullpen is still good, and even when they run into problems they can still do well. Lefty Donnie Hart was tasked with the sixth inning, including a tough stretch of right-handed batters that got hairy. Longoria hit an infield single and Hart walked Miller, then Souza added another single that fell in just in front of left fielder Hyun Soo Kim.
That brought up Dickerson, a lefty against whom Hart should specialize. And he did. Dickerson bounced into an inning-ending double play to squash the bases loaded, one out rally. Hart’s scoreless inning streak lives on. He now has 14.2 IP under his belt with no runs allowed, earned or otherwise.
...you hit two of theirs into the bullpen
A home run is only a swing away. The Orioles seem to live by this as a life philosophy even when it is deleterious to their success for them to do so. There are days where they look more like windmills than professional hitters.
Sunday afternoon wasn’t exactly one of those strikeout-heavy days, with the O’s striking out only six times, but the fact is they had zero runs through five innings and looked to be on the way to limping towards another one of "those" losses in a game they really ought to have found a way to win.
Then they found a way to win, and it’s the same way the Orioles usually win. They hit home runs. Machado ambushed Rays starter Jake Odorizzi to lead off the sixth inning and tie the game. That was #36 on the year for Machado, setting a new career high for him.
With the game tied and the Orioles playing at home, manager Buck Showalter kept parading his best relievers through the contest. That’s what you should do and it worked. Scoreless seventh and eighth innings from Mychal Givens and Brad Brach preserved the tie. Zach Britton started warming up for the ninth, just in case.
Trumbo delivered. With one out in the eighth, he launched a home run 433 feet up above even the Rays bullpen. On the MASN broadcast of the game, Jim Palmer reacted as soon as the ball left the bat, and basically just kept saying, "Ohhhhh! Oh, oh! Ohhhh!" until the ball landed. He’s the best. And so’s Trumbo, who now has 43 home runs.
Abruptly, it was Britton time. Good thing they had him warming. Although Britton gave up a leadoff single and ended up with the tying run on second with one out due to a wild pitch, he preserved his perfect save season (45 with no blown saves) with a strikeout and a groundout to put the Orioles in the win column for the 82nd time this season.
Brach picked up the win to hit double digits, now 10-3 for the season. It doesn’t mean much for a reliever to do that but it is kind of hilarious and also awesome. Ryan Garton, the poor sod on the wrong end of Trumbo’s homer, took the loss, falling to 1-1.
No matter what happens later on Sunday, the O’s will take a three game lead over two different teams for the second wild card spot with 13 games to play. They could even pick a game on the Blue Jays to occupy the first wild card spot. If the Yankees can avoid a sweep against the Red Sox on Sunday night, the O’s will enter that series two games behind for the division lead.
The O’s draw the tough task of possible AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello on Monday night. Dylan Bundy starts for the O’s in the 7:05 series opener. Hopefully Bundy can do to the Red Sox what Kevin Gausman did the last time Porcello faced the O’s.