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Orioles prevail 8-7 over Yankees in battle of the bullpens

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Craig Gentry was the hero. Mike Wright Jr. was the goat. And the O’s bullpen was extraordinary.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This Orioles-Yankees series has been insane, and Sunday’s final game was no exception. These two AL East foes battled for 12 innings at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and neither starting pitcher made it out of the fifth inning. When it was all said and done, it was the visiting Birds that came out on top 8-7 in the game and 3-1 in the series.

Mike Wright Jr. held his own against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros last week. But Sunday afternoon was a fine example of why so many were concerned about having the right-hander as a regular member of the Orioles rotation. When things go poorly, he struggles to stop the bleeding and keep his team in a position to compete

It was a disaster outing from the words “Play Ball”. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge led off with back-to-back singles before Wright struck out Giancarlo Stanton. Neil Walker followed with a weak nubber in front of home plate. For a moment, it seemed everything was going to be OK. (Narrator: things would, in fact, not be OK)

Wright fielded the dribbler from Walker, but rather than taking the easy out at first base, he made the perilous decision to try for the force out at second base. Wright bounced the throw and pulled the covering Manny Machado off the bag. Everyone was safe and Gardner scored to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.

From there, things went from bad to worse. Tyler Austin walked. Miguel Andujar singled. Jace Peterson popped out. Austin Romine singled. Ronald Torreyes doubled. When the dust cleared, it was 5-0 and Wright’s afternoon was over just two-thirds of an inning after it started. He did not take the news well.

I’m no expert, but even his boxing form needs work. That left jab lacks power. And you don’t want to be facing your opponent (in this case: a padded wall) head-on like that. Turn to the side and make yourself a smaller target. The point is, Wright is still a better pitcher than he is a boxer, and that’s gotta be worth something.

On the bright side, Wright’s collapse happened so early on in the game that it gave the offense enough time to catch up. Unfortunately, it also meant that an already-taxed Baltimore relief staff would be needed for even more innings.

Tim Beckham started the O’s half of the second inning with a double and was promptly driven home by an Anthony Santander single, making it a 5-1 game.

Baltimore added another run in the top of the third but could have had more. Danny Valencia hit into a double play after Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones both singled to begin the inning, killing what could have been a bigger inning. Schoop did come around to score later via a Beckham single, so it wasn’t a completely wasted opportunity.

In the fifth inning, Valencia made up for the earlier double play with a one-out, two-run DONG to left field. The round-tripper scored Jones and drew the Birds within one run of their hosts.

It became a back and forth game for the rest of the afternoon. A trio of singles in the fifth inning scored one run for New York. Two singles and a stolen base in the sixth inning gave Baltimore a run of their own. The O’s took their first lead of the game in the seventh inning thanks to Santander’s first career home run, scoring Valencia. But the Yanks tied things up in the bottom of inning when Romine drove in Austin from third base with a single to right field.

After seven innings, the score was knotted at seven runs apiece, which is right where it would stay until the 12th inning. However, there were still enough tense moments to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The closest either team came to scoring in that time was the Yankees half of the 10th inning. Didi Gregorius had the softest double you will ever seen. On a fly ball to center field, Jones lost the ball in the sun. Gardner followed with a line drive to left field, where Craig Gentry was playing shallow to cut off the potential winning run at the plate. Gentry had to track backwards, got turned around and somehow still found the ball in time to make a diving catch and nearly double up Gregorius at second base. Crisis: averted.

The wildest parts of the this game were saved for last.

Pedro Alvarez, the savior from earlier in the series, came through again with a one-out walk. After a Beckham strikeout, Santander singled to give the O’s runners on first and second with two outs and, wouldn’t ya know it, Gentry striding to the plate. Both Chris Davis and Chance Sisco were on the bench; two left-handed hitters that could have been fits to hit against the righty Adam Warren. Buck Showalter stuck with his guy. On a 3-2 pitch, Gentry poked a hard ground ball to left field, scoring El Toro and putting the Birds back on top.

Now, all that sat between the Orioles and winning a four-game set with the Yankees was three outs by Brad Brach (gulp). If you have a heart condition, this was not the inning to watch. Before you knew it, Brach had loaded the bases. Romine and Gregoius walked on 10 total pitches. The entire stadium knew Gardner was going to bunt them over, which he did. Brach tried to bare-hand the bunt and, it appears, throw to third base. He could never get a grip on the ball, leaving everyone safe.

Things weren’t looking good. Brach was unnerved and didn’t seem to have his best stuff as it was. The situation had disaster written all over it. Even worse: Aaron Judge was up to bat. (double gulp).

For a brief moment, the skies parted and the baseball gods smiled down on the Orioles. Judge grounded back to Brach. This time, he handled it with little problem, throwing the ball back to Caleb Joseph at home, getting the first out there. Joseph gunned the ball down to Beckham at third base to get the second out there. All of the sudden, New York went from bases load with no outs to runners on first and second with two outs.

The final boss: Giancarlo Stanton (triple gulp). Only it wasn’t so scary. Stanton has struggled this series and had already struck out four times in the game. It turns out, Brach made short work of him, striking him out on four pitches. The Orioles are one of five MLB teams that Stanton has not hit a home run against. For now, that remains true.

What a rush! This game, and this series, had everything in it. The two teams played 44 innings in four days. Two games went to extra innings. There were home run-robbing catches. There were clutch DONGS. The weather was ice cold. This felt like a playoff series in the early part of April.

The O’s were able to rescue what was looking like a bleak road trip by winning three games in New York. They now sit 4-6 overall and head back home to begin a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays. Even better: it’s Dylan Bundy’s turn in the rotation on Monday. Hopefully he can provide the bullpen with a little bit of a breather.

Poll

Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 8, 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Craig Gentry (awesome defense, game-winning RBI)
    (418 votes)
  • 8%
    Pedro Araujo (2.1 innings, five SO, bailed out Wright)
    (95 votes)
  • 19%
    Richard Bleier (three innings out of the ‘pen, win)
    (209 votes)
  • 16%
    Anthony Santander (3-for-6, first career HR, three RBI)
    (172 votes)
  • 15%
    Giancarlo Stanton (0-for-7, five K’s, double play)
    (168 votes)
1062 votes total Vote Now