On Wednesday night, the Orioles kept a few early-season streaks alive including: not losing in consecutive days, not losing an extra-inning game (3-0), not losing a rubber match, and not losing a series. How did they do it? Not in the usual manner—that’s for sure.
Dad Leads A Fun First Few Innings
If you haven’t taken to calling 2017 Oriole, Seth Smith, “Dad” yet, you should try it on. It fits like a glove. Dad led off the first inning with a line-drive 1B, but couldn’t get his teammates to pick him up, as he ended up stranded on base. Manny tried, but nobody else seemed to care that early in the game.
That’s okay, though, because in the second, Dad would be in the center of a three-run rally. How? I’m glad you asked.
With one man down, Hyun Soo Kim looped a single in front of a charging Kevin Kiermaier in center. Jonathan Schoop followed by blasting a ground ball through the shift. I wouldn’t usually describe ground balls as “blasted,” but this play looked like the Rays weren’t touching the ball even if they had piled five guys over on the left side of the infield.
With runners on first and second and one down, Ryan Flaherty poked a 1B into RF. Kim would score on the play, but because the Rays didn’t try to throw him out at the plate, they caught Schoop easily trying to advance to third. It was a complete TOOTBLAN. Two outs, Flaherty on first, and Dad stepping into the batters’ box.
Dad worked the count to 2-2, and then “Flash” Flaherty took off for second base on the pitch. It turned out to be a decent idea because on that very pitch, Dad slapped the ball into CF again in front of a charging Kevin Kiermaier. If you saw what happened next, you’ll probably remember it for quite some time to come.
Flaherty decided to try and take third against said charging Kiermaier. He should have been out by a mile. It should have been TOOTBLAN #2 in the inning. He was not; it was not. Flaherty somehow became entangled almost completely with Evan Longoria right as Longoria was trying to receive Kiermaier’s throw.
The ball skipped past the bag. Good thing Alex Cobb was backing up the base, right? Not quite. Flaherty committed what should have been TOOTBLAN #3 of the inning by rounding third just a touch too generously. Cobb had him; Flaherty knew it. Flaherty retreated, ducking. Cobb’s throw hit off of Flaherty’s back, and went rolling into left field!
On a combination of the throw, and a weak relay, both Ryan and Dad came around to score. Have I completely lost you? Are you confused as to why so much ink has been spilled over one play? Just... just, watch:
You see something new every day at the ballpark. #Birdland pic.twitter.com/j0tjkcmIGD— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 27, 2017
The play would officially be scored as a 1B, E8 to advance Smith to second, and E1 allowing both Flaherty and Smith to score. While everybody was still trying to figure out what the heck happened, Adam Jones singled, and Manny Machado grounded out to end the second inning. The Orioles were up 3-0. They didn’t know it at the time, but they wouldn’t score again for nine more innings.
Dylan Pumps The Breaks
For the bulk of the game, Dylan Bundy continued to flash signs of a finished product: a young pitcher converting promise into action. He was overall very effective with a final line of 6.1 IP, 4H, 2R, 2BB, 3SO. However, for those who have watched Bundy pitch so far this season, there was some worry to be had.
Bundy came out of the gate with his fastball sitting consistently around 88mph. This is much below average for him, and sparked a few concerned reactions, including this one:
Dylan Bundy's fastball a few ticks down tonight. Averaging just 89.3 mph, topping at 91.2 mph. Avged 92.4 mph over 1st four starts. #Orioles— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) April 27, 2017
Bundy would go on to tick these numbers up a bit over the course of the game, touching 92 a bunch, but his fastball velocity still ended the night trending down on the season:
The four lines in the 2017 portion of this graph represent the range of speed Bundy has thrown his fastball in his first four starts (including tonight), with the green dot being the average velocity. Worried or not, it’s trending downward.
Note that in 2016, Dylan seemed to build strength (and by extension velocity) while he continued to gain health in the bullpen, and then largely trended downward when he switched to starting full-time. If you recall, his effectiveness went with his velocity last year.
Bundy’s 2017 1.65 ERA to-date is a bit unsustainable for reasons of luck, evidenced by fielding-independent pitching: 2.88 FIP and 3.96 xFIP. Regression to those numbers would still make for a solid, if not spectacular starter—he just wouldn’t be a Cy Young winner walking.
Bundy tonight was able to navigate his drop in velocity with some love from the BABIP gods. He was getting hit hard left and right, but those balls were mostly going right at people... except for the two solo-shots off of Tim Beckham’s bat. Nobody caught those who didn’t pay admission.
Those who think that Bundy could use a little extra rest on his way to building stamina in his young career certainly weren’t happy to see him come back on to work the seventh inning after barely escaping the sixth, having thrown 99 pitches already. He would end up throwing six more pitches: a hard-hit fly out by Steven Souza Jr., and a double ripped down the LF line by Logan Morrison.
It was past time for the bullpen to take over, and Buck seemed to notice just then.
A New Ballgame
What’s better than baseball? Free baseball... except possibly when it’s The O’s bullpen that coughs up a late lead to force extras. Let’s recap how The Orioles got to that point: once Dylan Bundy exited, Mychal Givens came in and got two outs on two pitches. Seriously. The Bundy Crusher, Beckham, lined out to LF, and Shane Peterson hit a ball that appeared to catch his foot in the batter’s box, but the umpires disagreed, and for some reason such a play cannot be challenged. Inning over.
Givens came back on in the top of the eighth to allow Derek Norris to 2B, and was immediately replaced by Donnie Hart. Rickie Weeks Jr. pinch hit in place of Corey Dickerson, and Hart immediately dispensed with the righty by drilling him with a pitch... wait... no... okay, two on, none out.
Hart would then walkKiermaier, and give way to Darren O’Day. It wasn’t his most successful outing of the year. Thankfully, O’Day would limit the bases-loaded and none-out damage by inducing a couple of ground balls and a pop out that only plated one Ray. The damage was done though, as the game was now tied 3-3.
The game would stay deadlocked until the 11th inning when the Orioles brought on Alec Asher to throw. Asher looks like he has the potential to be a bright spot in the swing-man role, but he was a little (let’s call it) excited tonight. He struck out Steven Souza Jr. to start the inning, but then he proceeded to walk Logan Morrison. Tim Beckham flew out to Adam Jones, but then Asher hit Shane Peterson, and allowed Jesus Sucre to 1B, plating Peterson to break the tie. 4-3 Rays.
Before getting Kiermaier to ground out for the third out, Asher also hit Rickie Weeks Jr. for good measure. The Orioles would go into the bottom of the 11th inning trailing.
Can We Keep Him?
The Orioles would not go quietly into that good night. With Rays closer, Alex Colomé on for his second inning of work, Chris Davis started things off in the Orioles half of the 11th by slapping a line drive into CF. Mark Trumbo continued his drought (0-5 with 6 LOB for the night). Welington Castillo wasn’t having any of that, however, as he lined a single to LF, advancing Davis to second base.
Kim walked in a pivotal spot to load the bases, and The O’s lifted Castillo in favor of pinch-runner, Craig Gentry. The winning run was now packing speed in scoring position. He wouldn’t end up needing that speed, but it was a nice thought. With the bases loaded and one down, Jonathan Schoop sent a sac. fly soaring into center, and Chris Davis scored easily. Tie game!
Flaherty worked a tough walk to re-load the bases with two down. That brought up (who else but) Dad. The Rays countered with fresh reliever, Danny Farquhar. Dad proceeded to heroically take four consecutive pitches out of the zone for the rare walk-off walk! Gentry crossed the plate and the Orioles were in the win column!
Dad gave a very humble post-game speech, and smiled a lot. Things are good at 14-6 for the year so far.
The Orioles have off tomorrow before heading to New York to see the Yankees and wrap-up April.
Who was the Most Birdland player for April 26, 2017?
This poll is closed
Dylan Bundy (6.1 IP, 4H, 2R, 3 SO)
Mychal Givens (#BullpenAce, 0.2 IP, Crucial Hold)
Brad Brach (Scoreless Ninth and 10th IP, 0.00 ERA This Season)
Seth "Dad" Smith (2-5, Walk-off Walk, General Tom-Foolery)