The Orioles have been on a long road through some dark places to get where they are right now. If they want to get back to where they were, they’re going to have to go back down the same road. All they can do is win the game in front of them that day. The O’s finished off the Cardinals with an 8-5 victory on Sunday afternoon to seal a home series win.
This was one of those games that, ahead of time, it looked like the Orioles should have absolutely no business winning. After all, a starting pitching matchup featuring Lance Lynn, who entered the game with the fourth-best ERA in the NL, and Ubaldo Jimenez, who was returning from bullpen exile, didn’t look like anything that would ever favor the Orioles.
As ever, the best you can do with a baseball game is guess about what’s most likely to happen, not what will happen. After running into an Orioles offense that was powered by the usual big swings, a dose of Baltimore summer heat and humidity, and helped further by a Cardinals outfield that at times seemed simply lethargic, Lynn was tagged with seven runs in 4.2 innings, with nine hits allowed, including four home runs.
That performance has Lynn tumbling down the ERA leaderboard to 11th. Oops. And opposite Lynn, Jimenez surprised just about everybody by putting together a seven inning start in which he held Cardinals batters to just two runs - both runs scoring thanks to Cardinals right fielder Steven Piscotty hitting a pair of homers off of Jimenez.
In all, Jimenez gave up just four hits and survived four walks over those seven innings. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Jimenez’s two best starts of the season so far came against National League teams. Now he has added a third good one against the Cardinals.
Fun from the get-go
An Orioles batter hitting a leadoff home run is the greatest way for a game to get started. Fittingly enough, as Father’s Day was celebrated all over, it was Seth “Dad” Smith who opened up the scoring with a home run, putting the Orioles on top, 1-0, after their very first batter.
By the time the game ended, Smith finished the standard triple short of a cycle and scored three of the Orioles eight runs. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Piscotty quickly tied the score in the top of the second with the first of his home runs. However, Trey Mancini just as quickly put the Orioles ahead again in the bottom of the inning, muscling an opposite field line drive that cleared the fence above the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.
That’s the 12th home run for Mancini in 199 plate appearances, or about one every 17 PA. If Mancini kept up that kind of pace, he’d end up with 35 home runs over a season where he had 600 PA. Not bad. Mancini’s homer put the Orioles up for what turned out for good, although in true 2017 Orioles fashion, even once they took a big lead, things still proved to be more dramatic than you’d hope.
Triple the fun
First, the Orioles had to take a big lead. They chased Lynn from the game with a four-run fifth inning that saw them hit two home runs, which isn’t surprising, and also two triples, which I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it happen.
After all, the Orioles quite notoriously do not hit triples. They had six all of last season, worst in MLB by far, and they came into today with three as a team. How about that for speed?
Adam Jones got the fifth inning party started with a one-out triple. Jones socked a ball to center field that almost-Oriole Dexter Fowler couldn’t run down. Jones was running hard out of the box and when Fowler was a little slow getting to the bounce, Jones turned on the jets and made it into third base.
As it turned out, the extra base didn’t matter very much. Mark Trumbo followed Jones by ambushing a Lynn curveball - a pitch that had been eating Orioles batters up before that - and hitting it into the left field seats. Like many fly balls on the day, the ball just kept carrying. Trumbo had his tenth home run and with that, the Orioles now have six players with 10+ home runs.
With the bases cleared by the home run, Mancini hit a ball to deep center of his own that took a tough bounce away from Fowler. He, too, was running hard out of the box and seemed to catch the Cardinals fielders flat-footed as he rounded second base looking for three on the play. This was the first triple of his MLB career.
For the O’s, this marked the first time they had two triples in the same inning since August 14, 2009, which you may recall as the game where Felix Pie hit for the cycle. Cesar Izturis also tripled in the seventh inning of that game.
Following Mancini, Jonathan Schoop socked a ball that was headed over the fence in front of the center field bleachers until Fowler jumped up and pulled it back in. Mancini trotted home to score easily on the sacrifice fly.
They weren’t done with the inning’s power: Welington Castillo followed Schoop by crushing a pitch into the Orioles bullpen. Bullpen home run bandit Darren O’Day, despite being on the disabled list, was well enough to range over to the far end of the O’s bullpen and make his traditional catch. The score was 7-2 at this point and Lynn was finally bounced from the game.
Don’t look at the Orioles bullpen
By the time Jimenez came out of the game, the Orioles had extended their lead to 8-2. If you think that sounds like the kind of game to try to turn to the underperforming parts of the O’s bullpen because even they can’t be bad enough to give up six runs in two innings, you’re right.
If you think those struggling parts of the bullpen would then try their best to give all of the runs back, you’re also right. Vidal Nuno started the eighth inning and lasted all of two batters. A walk and a home run hit by Fowler sent him packing quickly. Fowler has now homered in four straight games.
Relieving Nuno, Miguel Castro did at least manage to successfully get outs, though he mixed in a home run to Yadier Molina that put the game in Brad Brach range. Yes, seriously.
In fairness to Nuno and Castro, if you want to be fair to them, it was clearly one of THOSE games where the ball was just sailing out at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Brach, pitching for a second consecutive game, mowed through the bottom of the Cardinals lineup easily in the ninth inning.
Next up for the O’s is a four game series with the now-division-leading Indians. The series gets started on Monday night with a 7:05 game. Corey Kluber and Dylan Bundy are the scheduled starters. Sounds like a good matchup.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for June 18, 2017?
This poll is closed
Trey Mancini (triple and home run, is awesome)
Seth Smith (leadoff HR, triple short of cycle)
Ubaldo Jimenez (seven pretty darn good innings)