Even a blind squirrel will occasionally find a nut. A similar principle applies to baseball teams. A team that’s struggling mightily can still, in a particular game, beat a better team. The Orioles pulled this trick off on Sunday afternoon in the Bronx, salvaging the final game of their series against the Yankees with a 6-4 win.
It wasn’t easy, because nothing ever is allowed to be easy with these Orioles. Despite an offense that was able to score five runs off of a solid Yankees starter, Sonny Gray, the bullpen let New York back into the game enough that the Yankees were able to bring the winning run to the plate in both the eighth and ninth innings.
In the end, Zach Britton closed things out with a four out save and the O’s can head back to Baltimore with a win under their belts. It’s no help to their microscopic remaining wild card chances, because the Twins blew out the Blue Jays on Sunday. This leaves the O’s with an elimination number of eight (Orioles losses plus Twins wins) with 12 games left in the season.
First and foremost among the positives from this game was starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who turned in the kind of performance that the O’s have been dying for from the rotation all season. Although Jimenez only pitched five innings, he struck out ten Yankees and gave up just a run on three hits and a walk. From Jimenez, we would have taken that all year long.
In fact, Jimenez really just made one mistake the whole time he was in the game. After the O’s picked up a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, Jimenez gave up a game-tying home run to Didi Gregorius in the bottom of the inning. This was not, it turned out, a harbinger of bad things to come.
While Jimenez was striking out Yankees left and right, the Orioles offense was getting to Gray with a series of clutch hits. The team has needed it in September with a dormant offense.
The O’s got on the board first. They were gifted a baserunner on a play that was scored as a double for Chris Davis. It was a fly ball to the warning track that Yankees left fielder Clint Frazier completely overran and it kicked off of his glove.
The Statcast catch probability, according to the MASN post-game show, was 93%. Davis advanced in a groundout and eventually was driven in by rookie Austin Hays.
That lead didn’t last long, but the O’s got right back to scoring in the third inning. Trey Mancini put the Orioles back on top with a two out double that was able to score Manny Machado from first base. They did not relinquish the lead from here, though it did get interesting later.
For the O’s, the big blow was dealt by Tim Beckham in the fourth inning. Beckham rocketed his 22nd home run of the season, and tenth as an Oriole, to put three runs on the board all at once and really ruin Gray’s day. The O’s had a pair of baserunners on base with Seth Smith’s leadoff walk and Caleb Joseph’s two out single to turn the lineup over.
Smith drove in a sixth Orioles run the next inning with a fielder’s choice that was able to score a run. From the sixth inning on, the Orioles only had one hit: Hays had a sixth inning single that was immediately wiped out by a ground ball double play. From the seventh inning on, they did not have a batter reach base.
The O’s seemed to have the back end of their bullpen lined up starting with the sixth inning, bringing in Mychal Givens for that inning. Unfortunately, Givens ran into problems, putting men on base before surrendering a two-run double to bring the Yankees back within three runs. Givens couldn’t finish the inning, with the O’s needing lefty Richard Bleier to retire lefty Greg Bird to end that inning.
Darren O’Day got through the seventh inning without incident. Moving on to the eighth, it was Brad Brach who had a bit of an issue, thanks to a little bit of non-help from his friends. The inning started with Aaron Judge doubling off of Brach.
From there, Brach got a strikeout and a ground ball that should have resulted in the second out. Instead, Beckham’s throw to first base pulled Davis off the bag, letting Gregorius on base with the error and allowing Judge to advance. That let Starlin Castro come through with a sacrifice fly to score Judge and bring the score to 6-4 in favor of the O’s.
The fun didn’t stop there. Brach walked Matt Holliday, putting the tying run on base with two outs. Here, the O’s chose to summon Britton for a four-out save. This did not go well recently. On Sunday afternoon, Britton ended the eighth inning threat easily, retiring pinch hitter Chase Headley.
Britton’s ninth inning had some excitement, with Todd Frazier slicing a one-out double down the left field line, bringing the tying run to the plate. After Britton retired Brett Gardner, the O’s intentionally walked Judge, deciding not to mess around with him. That’s a bit of a curious decision, since it brought Gary Sanchez and his 31 home runs to the plate.
Britton doesn’t give up many home runs, though. He struck out Sanchez to end the game and pick up his 15th save of the season. The win brings the Orioles back up to four games below .500. They need to go 8-4 the rest of the way just to end the season at .500. Even that seems farfetched, but hey, it’s not over until it’s over.
The Orioles will be back in Baltimore on Monday night to take on the division-leading Red Sox. Boston is still trying to hold off the late-charging Yankees for the AL East title. They definitely have something to play for. Dylan Bundy and Doug Fister are the scheduled starters for the 7:05 opener.
Who was the Most Birdland Player on September 17, 2017?
This poll is closed
Tim Beckham (Earl Weaver Special)
Trey Mancini (2-4, 2B, RBI)
Austin Hays (another multi-hit game)
Ubaldo Jimenez (5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO)