The Orioles might’ve just gotten back from a miserable road trip, but nobody would know that Buck Showalter’s team was slumping if they tuned in to the first two games of this series against the Blue Jays.
Who knows for how long, but the Birds are officially back to their winning ways with a series-winning victory over Toronto on Saturday night. Below, the rundown of a wild and action-packed game at Camden Yards.
The Jays jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning, but Kevin Gausman’s ability to limit the damage was key in the game’s first crucial moment.
After struggling with command and allowing a weak infield single to Jose Bautista, Gausman faced Kendrys Morales with the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the first. The O’s starter fell behind 2-0 to Morales, but tossed a perfect fastball on the corner to induce a double play.
Kevin Pillar would score from first to make the early score 1-0 Toronto, but Gausman would exit from the inning relatively clean after a strikeout of Justin Smoak. He tossed 23 pitches in the inning, but it was an early success to crush the threat with his dominant upper-90s four-seamer.
Mike Bolsinger toed the rubber for the Blue Jays on the night, entering the contest with a 1.64 WHIP in just 10.1 innings on the young season. In the bottom of the first he too failed to put a zero on the scoreboard, courtesy of three Orioles singles through the left side of the infield.
One-out singles by Adam Jones and Manny Machado gave Mark Trumbo the opportunity to even the game at one, an opportunity he cashed in on with a grounder through the hole between third and short. It was an RBI single, getting the run right back and tying things up for Kevin Gausman to trot back out to the mound with a clean slate.
He would hunker down and work two more gritty, scoreless innings, putting more pressure on Bolsinger to keep up in the early innings. And while the Blue Jays starter held on to avoid major crooked numbers, Manny Machado just couldn’t stand to see the game be tied for much longer.
On the first pitch in the bottom of the third, Machado turned on one to left field, putting the ball over the wall for his 10th home run of the season. His second hit of the night was a no-doubter, giving the Birds a 2-1 lead after a trio of innings.
Once he was given the lead, Gausman had the outing he truly needed to get back on track to and, in a sense, reboot for the 2017 season. We’ll have to see just how long he can continue to pile up productive outings, but there’s no doubt that this Saturday night performance was a step in the right direction.
Gausman allowed his baserunners on the night — Toronto had 10 hits — but the movement on his fastball and his ability to rebound with his control were the two aspects that stood out the most in this start.
Mixing pitches as good as he has all season long, the right-hander escaped several mini-jams with brilliant usage of his off-speed to pair with the fastball that reached 99 MPH on the night. Gausman might not be at his peak, but if the “stuff” continues to develop off of what he showed on Saturday, there’s a decent chance the rest of 2017 will see a significant turnaround.
Of course, no pitcher can feed off of confidence without a proper amount of run support — that’s where Trumbo, as he did in the first inning, came into play with help for his starter in the bottom half of the fifth inning.
With Machado on base after a walk, Trumbo took a 2-1 hanging slider and launched it over the outfield wall in left field. The ball sailed about eight or ten rows deep into the seats, good for Trumbo’s sixth blast of the year and a three-run lead for the Birds.
Gausman gave up a solo HR to Smoak in the sixth, but he’d find a way to fight through and finish the outing, stranding a runner on second base to wrap up his night with the 4-2 lead in tact. It wasn’t the cleanest six-inning effort for the 26-year-old, but it was one that spotlighted his ability to maintain velocity throughout the game (pitch 106 was 99 MPH) and keep batters on their toes when his stuff is moving.
Gausman’s final line: 6 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
The Orioles had the opportunity to do significant damage against Gausman’s opponent in the bottom of the sixth, but a poorly-timed 5-4-3 double-play helped Bolsinger hold onto a respectable start.
After the Jays’ starter surrendered his fourth and fifth walks of the night to Hyun-Soo Kim and J.J. Hardy, skipper John Gibbons made a call to the bullpen to put Dominic Leone on the hill to face the top of the Orioles lineup in a potentially game-changing moment.
Leone walked Seth Smith to load the bases with one out, but Adam Jones followed by rolling over on an 1-0 offering low in the zone. He grounded into the twin-killing, ending the threat that could’ve meant a whole lot — especially considering what happened when the game was turned over to the bullpen in the seventh.
Richard Bleier started the inning with a strikeout and appeared to be on his way to a perfectly quiet frame. But when Hardy buried a ball in the dirt to Chris Davis on what should’ve been a routine out, the tying run stepped to the plate and the go-ahead run reached the on-deck circle, a run that just happened to be represented by Jose Bautista.
Bleier would walk the tying run to first before his exit, handing over to Mychal Givens a rather critical situation — Bautista up with two on and just one out.
Of course, you know what happened next.
Givens left a 2-2 fastball right over the heart of the plate, a pitch that not many in this league would miss. Bautista crushed it inside the foul pole in left, a three-run home run that shifted the lead to the Blue Jays in the blink of an eye, 5-4.
It wasn’t the ideal situation, but doubting the Orioles in a night game at Camden Yards isn’t a very good idea. And with the clutch factor that the lineup owns, there’s no telling what kind of fireworks are going to be lit on a nightly basis.
Plus, did you forget that the Orioles own the catcher with the hottest bat in baseball?
Down 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, the bottom half of the inning perfectly followed the same exciting script as Friday’s extra-innings win. After Chris Davis singled off of Toronto reliever Aaron Loup, Gibbons called Danny Barnes into the game to face Trumbo and Welington Castillo.
Barnes walked Trumbo, providing Castillo with the opportunity to be the hero yet again.
With one out and runners on first and second, Castillo clobbered an 0-2 fastball up in the zone, hitting it over the wall in left to give Toronto their own taste of an Earl Weaver Special. The round-tripper was gone as soon as it left the bat, putting an all-important three spot on the scoreboard to swing the lead right back to the home team, 7-5.
From there, the Orioles bullpen was spotted another opportunity to close out the game with the lead, one they wouldn’t squander the second time around.
Darren O’Day worked a perfect eighth inning and Brad Brach did the same in the ninth to notch his ninth save of the season.
With the win and the Yankees earlier loss, the Orioles are now 25-16 and back on top of the American League East. It’s only a half-game advantage, but it’s one that feels rather significant after the rough patch the team just endured.
Tomorrow the O’s are back at it with Wade Miley taking the hill for a 1:35 p.m. ET first pitch.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, May 20th?
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Kevin Gausman (6 IP, 2 R)
Mark Trumbo (3-4, HR, 3 RBI)
Welington Castillo (1-3, go-ahead 3-run HR)