The Royals came to Baltimore as winners of 10 of their last 11 games. They now leave as losers of three straight. The Orioles completed the sweep of Kansas City with a 6-0 win on a rainy Thursday night at Camden Yards.
With the sweep, the Orioles now move to within just 2.5 games of the second wild card spot, behind these very Royals. As an added bonus, the AL East-leading Red Sox were rained out, which means the Birds gained a half-game in the pennant race as well, leaving them 5.5 games off the pace. As crazy as it sounds, this team has played itself back into the thick of the AL playoff race.
Get ahead, stay ahead
The O’s went on top early with a big second inning off of Royals starter Jason Vargas. Trey Mancini led off with a single. A Chris Davis groundout moved Mancini to second base. From there, the rookie scored on a double by the newest Oriole, Tim Beckham, down the right field line to make it a 1-0 lead for the Birds.
Joey Rickard followed with a line out that required a nice diving catch from third baseman Ramon Torres. But Caleb Joseph made sure Beckham would come around to score anyway by smacking a two-run homer to left-center field on a mid-80s fastball that the Kansas City lefty delivered over the heart of the plate.
During the Royals turn at bat in the third inning, new Baltimore right-hander Jeremy Hellickson retired the first two batters before a heavy rain forced a stop in play. Mother Nature would cause a 35-minute delay, but neither team removed their starting pitcher from the game.
Hellickson finished his work, with some labor, in the third, and then Vargas hit the mound in the bottom of the frame for the visitors. In fact, both hurlers made pretty easy work of the opposing lineups for the remainder of their respective outings.
Vargas lasted just five innings and 96 pitches, allowing those three runs on four hits, two walks and six strikeouts. The Orioles did a nice of working the count (*gasp*) and forcing Vargas to throw strikes (*double gasp*), leading to a semi-early shower for the southpaw.
Starting to come together
Hellickson, making his Orioles debut, was impressive all-around. He had just two 1-2-3 innings, but managed to work around five hits, one walk, one hit-by-pitch (allegedly) to toss seven scoreless innings while striking out three.
The righty was as advertised in his approach. His fastball sat in the low-90s, but both his curveball and changeup worked well for him as he kept both down in the zone. Of his 94 pitches, 62 were strikes, and the Royals helped him by chasing pitches and failing to get solid contact on a handful of poor pitches, but that’s nit-picky. This was an outstanding performance.
Kansas City came closest to scoring in the sixth inning. Melky Cabrera led off with a walk. And Eric Hosmer followed with a double down the right field line to give the Royals runners at second and third with no outs. Then Hellickson went to work, forcing a pop up, strikeout and ground out to get out of trouble.
Not to mention, Hellickson caught two pop-ups himself. Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, from his couch, got all excited about that.
Last time an Orioles pitcher caught two pop ups in one game! Never seen that! @masnOrioles— Jim Palmer (@Jim22Palmer) August 3, 2017
The MASN broadcast team informed the viewing audience that, indeed, it has happened before. The most recent occurrence was from Pat Hentgen against the Red Sox on September 14, 2002. So, yeah...it’s been a while.
All of the sudden, this Orioles starting rotation is really, really good. Over the last five games (all Baltimore wins), the starters have thrown 35.2 total innings and allowed three earned runs. Whoa.
Orioles last five starts:— Dillon Atkinson (@DAtkinsonOU) August 3, 2017
Gausman — 8.2 IP, 0 ER
Miley — 5 IP, 2 ER
Jimenez — 7 IP, 1 ER
Bundy — 8 IP, 0 ER
Hellickson — 7 IP, 0 ER pic.twitter.com/DulWG3UZnd
While the Royals’ bats stayed quiet all night, the Orioles made only a tad bit more noise, but it always came at the right time. As an encore to their three-spot in the second inning, the O’s added another trio of runs in the eighth inning.
Jonathan Schoop started things with a one-out walk ahead of a Trey Mancini double. Then, Chris Davis had a double of his own to drive in both of the guys on base. And finally, not to be outdone, Beckham tripled (his first as an Oriole) to the right-center gap to score Davis and wrap up the scoring for the night. As I trust you can do the math, that gave us the 6-0 final score.
It was a smooth finish for the Baltimore bullpen. Mychal Givens tossed a perfect eighth inning. Darren O’Day was handed the final frame and, apart from a two-out walk, made quick work of the Royals to finalize the win and the sweep.
Next up for the Birds is a four-game set with the Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park. The opening game is tomorrow, Thursday, at 7:05 p.m. Chris Tillman (1-6, 7.65 ERA) with a well-rested bullpen behind him. The Tigers will counter with 26-year-old lefty Matthew Boyd (5-5, 5.30 ERA).
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 2?
This poll is closed
Jeremy Hellickson (win, 7 scoreless innings, O’s debut)
Tim Beckham (2-for-4, double, triple, 2 RBI)
Caleb Joseph (2-run DONG)