You don’t have to win pretty. You just have to win. The Orioles somehow managed to salvage a game of their series in New York on Sunday afternoon in one of those contests that makes you realize just how weird that any one game of baseball can be.
When all was said and done, eleven innings and four hours and 37 minutes later, the Orioles walked away winners, 7-4. They will end the series in the same place they started it: First place. Sure, they had a game lead before and now they’re tied, but first place is first place.
What happens when a pitcher plays first base
The top of the eleventh inning was as bizarre as the rest of the game. Thankfully, in the final accounting, the Orioles ended up on the right end of the score. How weird was the eleventh inning? Yankees reliever Bryan Mitchell was pitching his second inning, but he pitched these innings in Grover Cleveland fashion - non-consecutive terms.
Mitchell actually played first base in the tenth inning and dropped a routine pop-up.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s gambit in keeping Mitchell available through Aroldis Chapman’s tenth inning did not pay off. The O’s started a rally with one out. Joey Rickard hit a single and, after he was left alone, stole second base with two outs. This was actually the third O’s stolen base of the game (I know!) which WNST’s Luke Jones pointed out is the first game where the O’s had three stolen bases since August 19, 2015.
With a base suddenly open, Mitchell issued the auto-intentional walk to Manny Machado, the third walk of the day for Machado. All Mitchell had to do was get Mark Trumbo to escape the jam. Trumbo hit a clutch single to give the Orioles a 5-4 lead. For reasons that will be discussed later, this lead seemed insufficient. Luckily, the Orioles were up to the task of adding more.
Catcher Welington Castillo lined a single the other way into right field. Baseball’s large adult son Aaron Judge, who usually has a good arm in right field, threw a ball towards home that practically rolled to the plate. A sliding Machado scored easily and Trumbo went to third base.
Castillo, over-committed around first base, was hung up, but when the catcher threw to second, no one was home at first to get him. This hesitation led to Trumbo getting hung up a bit off third base. The ball got thrown to third and Trumbo should have been dead to rights, but he basically decided, “Screw it, I’m turning on the jets.”
Trumbo hurried home, third baseman Chase Headley bobbled the ball as it was thrown to him, and Trumbo scored safely for the seventh Orioles run. Wow!
Logan Verrett’s Houdini act
The bottom half of the tenth inning wasn’t any less weird, when fresh call-up Logan Verrett managed to put the first two men on base thanks to an attempt to throw to second on a sacrifice bunt. With a “free” out in .107 hitter Greg Bird at the plate, Verrett even wasted that by hitting Bird with a pitch that rode in.
Verrett held the Yankees scoreless thanks to some sparkling defense: After the bases were loaded with one out, Starlin Castro hit a slow roller that J.J. Hardy fielded and fired home.
Castillo fielded the ball as it bounced and head on for the force to keep the Yankees off the board. Verrett, who frankly looked bad in the tenth, closed out the inning by striking out baseball’s large adult son Aaron Judge, who as you know has killed the Orioles all series.
This could have easily been another horrible loss. It certainly featured another instance of the Zach Britton-less bullpen blowing a lead. The O’s were leading 4-2 headed into the bottom of the ninth inning, with Darren O’Day being summoned for the save. Command and O’Day were not very well acquainted today.
O’Day does not save the day
O’Day’s two-thirds of an inning included two walks and a questionable balk that led to manager Buck Showalter being ejected. Showalter took the opportunity to vent his frustration with rookie home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater, including a hilarious exchange where the crew chief was trying to block Showalter from Scheurwater and Showalter kept reaching around in order to keep gesturing and yelling. The spirit of Earl Weaver lives on.
After O’Day’s second walk loaded the bases, the O’s brought in lefty Donnie Hart to face lefty batter Didi Gregorius, the Yankees shortstop. A good idea in most circumstances, though Gregorius batted .320 against lefties last season. He punished Hart with a single up the middle that scored two runs and tied the game. Hart struck out the struggling Chris Carter to send the game into extra innings.
All of this late drama obscured what might have otherwise looked like a fairly ordinary baseball game. The tenth inning even saw some attempted Yankees gamesmanship with their LED lights.
As the cloudy skies darkened, it became apparent to the MASN broadcast crew that the lights ought to be on, but the Yankees left them off for the top of the tenth and immediately turned them on for the bottom of the inning, in hopes of giving their batters an edge that the Orioles in the top of the inning did not have. Bench coach John Russell came out to protest and the lights were turned off.
Although the Orioles did leave eleven men on base in the game, they were also 5-11 with runners in scoring position in the contest. Lack of clutch hitting was not really their problem. On the other hand, the Yankees ended up leaving sixteen men on base and were only 3-13 with RISP.
Miley stays wild
Many of those men were left on base while starting pitcher Wade Miley was in the game. In what’s becoming a common thing for him in 2017, Miley was wild as hell and gave up plenty of hits, but despite walking five batters in five innings, and giving up eight hits, Miley held the Yankees, somehow, to just two runs. This magic act can’t last forever but it’s worked so far this year.
Miley even had a chance to get the win in the game because the Orioles took the lead in the top of the sixth inning. Entering it down 2-1, they drew back-to-back walks (the Orioles! Two walks in a row!) to chase Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery, who held them to just three hits and struck out seven in five innings of his own.
Reliever Jonathan Holder was welcomed to the game by Castillo, who grounded a single up the middle. This should have been a game-tying hit. However, Machado had another one of those baserunning plays where it went poorly for no apparent reason. Despite the ground ball, Machado hesitated before heading to third and was unable to score on the play.
His teammates picked him up. Trey Mancini grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Machado - perhaps thanks to Headley choosing to try to get the double play rather than cut off the run at the plate. Mancini beat out the relay throw, in the process tripping over his own two feet as he stepped on first. Though he tumbled to the ground, it looked like he only hurt his pride.
A Jonathan Schoop double drove in Trumbo and gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead, with Mancini scoring on a Craig Gentry groundout for a fourth Orioles run that proved to be crucial in the game’s outcome.
So after all of that, the Orioles are 15-8 at the end of April. Over a full season, that’s a 105 win pace. Not bad considering Chris Tillman hasn’t pitched yet and Zach Britton has missed time and didn’t look great even before he was on the disabled list.
This weekend’s series showed problems that may sink the Orioles later, maybe as soon as the upcoming Boston series that will start on Monday night, but they’re sailing in first for now. It’ll be Dylan Bundy facing off against Rick Porcello in the 7:05 series opener against the Red Sox.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 30, 2017?
This poll is closed
Welington Castillo (3-6, RBI, nice defense)
Craig Gentry (1-4, BB, two stolen bases!)
Adam Jones (also 3-6, RBI)
Mychal Givens (two smooth, scoreless innings)