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Orioles play of the game: Mark Trumbo hits walkoff home run

It’s not very hard to figure out who had the game’s most important play when the Orioles won on a walkoff home run. Why did it happen that way?

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There are dozens of little reasons why one team wins a particular baseball game and the other team loses the game. After all, every time a batter makes an out, there’s something he could have done better. Every time a pitcher gives up a hit or walk, there’s something he could have done better. Sometimes, fielders can do better on balls in play, too. It all adds up.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is a fan of making a note of those plays that don’t show up big in the box score but are still significant. It’s great to be aware of that stuff.

When you get down to it, though, there’s nearly always one play that stands above all the rest. You don’t have to squint to figure out that Mark Trumbo hitting a walkoff home run on Opening Day is the proximate cause for the Orioles winning the game and the Blue Jays losing it.

An occasional feature I’ll be trying throughout this season is this, breaking down the key play of a game, win or lose, why that one thing happened and not something else.

The Play

This one is pretty easy, isn’t it? Mark Trumbo homered off of Jays reliever Jason Grilli in the 11th inning. He rounded the bases and got a Gatorade bath at home plate. Game over. The Orioles are 1-0 after a 3-2 win.

According to the Fangraphs win probability for the game, Trumbo’s home run propelled the Orioles from a 53.7% chance to win to the 100% of a completed victory. This was the best, by far, in the game.

The next closest was when closer Zach Britton got Jose Bautista to ground into a double play to shut down a two on, one out rally in the top of the ninth. This one play cost the Jays 22.2% - that is, before the GIDP, the Jays had a 58% chance of winning the game. Afterwards, their win chance was only 35.8%.

The At-Bat

Trumbo saw three pitches from Grilli before launching the game-winning dinger. Over the four pitch at-bat, he got three sliders and one lone fastball.

The first slider was low. Jays catcher Russell Martin wanted it low and got it low. Trumbo did not swing. The count was 1-0 in Trumbo’s favor.

Then came the fastball, 95mph after an 84mph slider, elevated but slightly away from Trumbo. He was late on the fastball and fouled off the pitch.

Pitch #3 is where you can see the problem really pop up for Grilli. Here’s where Martin sets up his target for the pitch:

“Hey, throw this slider low and away!”

The slider low and away is the classic. You can’t beat it... as long as you get it right. Orioles batters swinging at sliders is part of why they struck out a ton last season and it’s a part of why they’ll strike out a ton this season.

Grilli does not throw the slider down and away. It’s elevated and right out over the plate:

“Missed it by THAT much!”

Although Trumbo ends up swinging underneath the pitch for strike two, he was dialed in to blast the hanging slider, as MASN’s Mike Bordick notes on the broadcast. This pitch was inches away from ending up as a walkoff home run itself.

So what do Martin and Grilli do? They go right back to the slider, with Martin again setting up down and away, looking to get a strikeout on a pitch in a nonthreatening location for the Jays:

“Surely, if I give you another chance to throw a slider, it will go better.”

That is another good idea! Except for the fact that on this particular moment of this particular day, Grilli seemed to be unable to execute that aspect of the slider. And so he ended up with another hanging slider, one that just so happened to travel into almost the exact bat path that Trumbo had used in the previous swing.

If Trumbo was ready for that first hanger, he was even more ready for the second. So he put the same swing out there, and because he is a strong human being, he muscled a walkoff home run that turned out a little something like this:

And that’s why the Orioles are 1-0. Here’s Joe Angel calling the Trumbo Jumbo that sealed the deal.

The moral of the story? Don’t hang sliders, kids.