There are a lot of ways to lose a baseball game. In their Sunday afternoon attempt to pick up a sweep against the Red Sox, the Orioles tried out a number of those ways to lose. Lucky for them, the Red Sox ended up trying even harder than the O's did to lose. The Orioles were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth for a 2-1 win to seal the road sweep.
The win brings the Orioles back up to a .500 record. With losses by both the Mariners and Royals already on Sunday, the O's have gained ground on two of their wild card competitors. They remain two games back of the Twins, who beat the Blue Jays, though for now the O's have gotten it so they only have three things to pass. If they keep winning, they will keep climbing.
This Orioles win is one of those games where if you look at things in the box score, it's hard to believe it even happened. The O's had only six hits all game. Three of their six hits came in the first inning. They did not score after the first inning.
After two first inning runs, the Orioles got only three more hits and two walks from innings 2-9. Over the whole game, Trey Mancini had half of their hits. Balanced against this, the Red Sox had eight hits, and almost more importantly, eight walks, with the free passes piling up particularly from the sixth inning on.
However, Boston went just 1-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded a whopping 13 men on base in the game. They probably wish they could have this game back. Their lead over the Yankees in the division is now just 2.5 games. The Red Sox don't get the game back, though. They're losers today, as they were losers every day for this entire weekend.
The O's first and effectively only offense came as part of a two out rally in the top of the first inning. Tim Beckham led off the game with a single, and after a groundout and balk, found himself on third base with two outs. Adam Jones hit a double to drive in Beckham, with Mancini following with a ground rule double of his own to score Jones. This gave the O's the only two runs they would get all day.
Somehow, those runs were enough, despite the involvement of Wade Miley in this game. Miley continues to be the worst pitcher in MLB in WHIP, which is to say that he allows more baserunners than anyone else. In five-plus innings, Miley surrendered seven hits and walked three Red Sox, so his league-leading WHIP is only going up.
Despite these chances, the Red Sox just weren't able to get the big hit against Miley. That included a first inning rally where the Sox got men on second and third with one out, a first and third with two out in the third inning, and a first and second rally with one out in the fifth inning. In none of these situations did the Red Sox get a run across.
With a pitch count near 100 and a fifth inning struggle, manager Buck Showalter still chose to try to have Miley start the sixth inning. That may be because the O's bullpen is a bit short-handed as long as Zach Britton remains shelved with his knee problem. Whatever the case, Miley pushed on and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Xander Bogaerts.
This was finally enough for Showalter, who summoned reliever Mychal Givens. Some days, Givens is lights out. This was not one of those days. Sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts were an RBI double and a walk. Showalter chose to bring in lefty Richard Bleier to face lefty Andrew Benintendi, who entered the day with a .573 OPS against lefties.
That's a good strategy. Unfortunately, Bleier walked Benintendi on four pitches to load the bases. It is worth noting that two of the four pitches Bleier threw were actually strikes. The reliever merry-go-round spun on. Miguel Castro came out next and, after an agonizing 3-2 count, froze Mookie Betts with a strikeout to end the inning.
Castro continued for the seventh inning, where he issued another pair of walks. Stop walking people! But he got the ground ball he wanted for a double play. Manny Machado fielded and fired to Jonathan Schoop at second base... before Schoop decided to try to throw back to third base to get the lead runner rather than get the easy out at first base.
What the heck was that about? I have no idea. It could have been a disaster. It wasn't, though, because Castro just went ahead and got another ground ball, this one to Beckham, and it went for a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
After an eighth inning walk, the third issued by Castro, Showalter next brought in Brad Brach, the substitute closer, for a five out save. Brach retired all five Red Sox he faced to complete the sweep for the O's.
They don't have to be pretty. They just have to win. You're probably not supposed to win a game where you only score two runs off of Doug Fister and let him pitch seven innings. Deserve has got nothing to do with it.
Miley's effort, which saw him allow just one earned run over his five-plus innings, brings his season ERA below 5.00. After Kevin Gausman's Saturday outing did the same for his ERA, the Orioles now have three starters with an ERA below 5. Yes, that is allowed. They still have the worst ERA in the American League, but for the moment, it's good enough.
The Orioles will head back to Baltimore to start a series against those same Mariners on Monday, with a chance to get back above .500 for the first time since June 11. It's been an agonizing two months of mediocrity at best. If the O's can emerge from the doldrums in time for the stretch run, many things will be forgiven.
About that chance to get back over .500... the 7:05 series opener has Chris Tillman as a scheduled starter for the Orioles. If they do get back above .500 on Monday, they'll have surely earned it. TIllman will be opposed by Seattle's Marco Gonzales.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 27, 2017?
This poll is closed
Trey Mancini (3-4, drove in game-winning run)
Brad Brach (1.2 perfect innings for 17th save)
Adam Jones (1-3, walk, RBI)