Orioles GM Dan Duquette raised some eyebrows yesterday when he said that the Orioles could compete if only they had better starting pitching. Sometimes, they don’t even need that. The O’s unexpectedly teed off on Houston on Sunday, overcoming another downer of an outing by Dylan Bundy to stave off a sweep with a 9-7 victory over the Astros.
Like many Orioles wins this season, it wasn’t exactly a pretty one, doing little to make anybody feel better about the biggest flaws that have plagued them this season. But in the end, despite Bundy serving up not one, but two three-run home runs in the game, the O’s grabbed an eighth inning lead and Zach Britton held on in the ninth inning to set the American League record for consecutive saves converted with 55 in a row.
It was the O’s who scored first in the game, and they didn’t even have to do much in order to do so. Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers, who by ERA would be the best by far on the Orioles staff, abruptly found himself unable to find the strike zone. After Chris Davis hit a shift-beating single, McCullers hit a batter and walked a batter to load the bases, then hit a second batter to score the first Orioles run.
This left the O’s having a prime chance to pile on: Bases loaded and still no one out. Shortstop Ruben Tejada dimmed those chances with the classic no-RBI double play. Oops. With a man on third, Adam Jones drove in a third Orioles run with a two-out single. Hooray, a 3-0 lead!
The lead did not survive even a half inning. Notoriously powerless Nori Aoki led off with a ground rule double. After a bunt single that Manny Machado just couldn’t make a barehanded play on, the tying run was at the plate: Jose Altuve. The Astros second baseman didn’t miss a Bundy mistake and tied the game with one swing, crushing to left field his 15th home run of the season.
Home runs have been an awful problem for Bundy this season. He came into the game with 19 allowed in 114 innings. That made 20. That’s... no good.
Fortunately for the O’s, McCullers was not having his best day. They were able to retake the lead in the bottom of the third. Jonathan Schoop led off with a single, advanced a base each on two groundouts, then scored on a little Trey Mancini blooper into right field.
The O’s were able to add to this lead before McCullers was sent packing. Schoop singled and Mark Trumbo doubled in the fifth to give the O’s a nice one-out scoring chance. Davis chipped in with a sacrifice fly to plate one run, while a Mancini double scored the sixth O’s run. That chased McCullers, who gave up six runs on nine hits, two walks, and two hit batsmen in 4.2 innings.
Hey, a lead! What could possibly go wrong with that? Yeah, about that...
It would be nice to feel good about an Orioles starting pitcher for more than one start at a time. That’s just not allowed in the 2017 season. In the sixth inning, the Astros put two men on for Aoki, who entered the game with one home run in 204 plate appearances this season.
I just want to know, how does Bundy manage to give up a home run to Aoki? Why does that happen? Aoki re-tied the game with a three-run home run, just his second of the season. Worse, it was Bundy’s 21st home run allowed. Ouch.
That wasn’t even enough for Bundy to get pulled from the game. It took a walk to #9 hitter Jake Marisnick to get Bundy out of there. That seventh run would come around to score after Miguel Castro relieved Bundy. So at the end of the day, Bundy surrendered seven runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings.
Since May 18, Bundy has a 6.25 ERA over 12 starts. With his ERA’s escalation, the O’s rotation does not have a pitcher with an ERA below 4.50. That is a mess, and earlier Sunday discussion about getting Bundy to 180 innings seemed like they may have been optimistic.
Which is not to say that the Orioles were done. It turns out that the Astros could probably really use some relief help. The O’s knotted the game, 7-7, in the seventh inning, when Mark Trumbo hit a moonshot off of Chris Devenski - seriously, it had a 41.8 degree launch angle, per Statcast - that cleared the fence into the left field seats. That was Trumbo’s 17th homer of the season.
The eighth inning saw the O’s score the decisive runs. With one out, Tejada doubled to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. He was not able to score, though, on a sharp single up the middle by Jones. That was the fourth hit of the game for the O’s leadoff man.
Not to worry, this time at least, because Machado took advantage of the RBI chance by hitting a sacrifice fly to score Tejada and put the O’s up, 8-7. Schoop delivered a single to drive in the ninth Orioles run. This set up the record-setting save chance by Britton.
Did Britton help his trade value with his outing? Do the Orioles even still intend to trade him? I don’t know the answer to those things. I do know that he walked one batter and struck out two in a scoreless ninth for his sixth save of the season. The old record-holder for consecutive saves was Tom Gordon, who did so for Boston from 1998-99.
With the win, the Orioles are four games below .500. They still need to win five of six games before the trade deadline just to be .500 at that point. Can it be done? Sure, maybe. They’re going to need better starting pitching eventually, though. The offense can’t score nine runs every game.
The homestand concluded with a 5-5 record, the O’s will now hit the road for Tampa for a three-game series against the Rays. They will open on Monday at 7:10. Kevin Gausman and Blake Snell are the scheduled starters.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for July 23, 2017?
This poll is closed
Adam Jones (4-5)
Jonathan Schoop (3-5, two runs scored)
Trey Mancini (2-3, two runs driven in)