Chris Davis finally got back into the lineup and hit a home run and the Orioles almost lost. Alex Cobb pitched seven fantastic innings and the Orioles almost lost. They scored six runs in the ninth inning and they almost lost. The exact circumstances are different with each game, but the result is generally the same. Except for when it’s not. The Orioles beat the Braves on Friday night, finishing early Saturday morning after 15 innings, 10-7.
We have long since passed the point where any individual win or loss really matters all that much to the fortunes of the 2018 Orioles. They are a bad team that has played badly and they are far down in last place, where they will likely remain. What matters is how the players the O’s need for the future perform, be they young players who will stay around or veterans whose trade value is important.
The one that matters the most, of course, is Machado. He has been slumping in June. The O’s need him to get hot again. Perhaps crushing his 19th home run of the season, in way, way extra innings, to give the O’s a 9-7 lead that was good to finish off the game.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Zach Britton was called upon to protect a 7-3 lead in the ninth inning, a lead the Orioles had just staked out with a six run top of the ninth. Even on a bad day an MLB pitcher is generally going to be able to get three outs before giving up four runs. Once you are good enough to be in MLB, this is not a hard thing to do.
Britton’s total meltdown is all the worse, considering that. There is no good reason for it to have happened except maybe that he’s not good any more, and he won’t be able to convince anyone who might trade for him that he will be good. The radar gun tells a lot of the story. The hardest pitch Britton threw tonight was 94.8 miles per hour, according to Statcast. In his successful 2016 season, Britton’s two-seam fastball averaged 96.3 miles per hour.
By total meltdown, I mean that Britton gave up four runs on five hits and he got only one out - and that on an ambitious Braves play at the plate. In the game log it looks like this: Single, double, hit by pitch, single, single, double. And just like that the game was tied, the winning run was thrown out at the plate on the second double - hit by former Oriole Nick Markakis, of course - and the next winning run was at third base.
At that moment, Darren O’Day stopped the bleeding before the game carried on into extra innings and its eventual resolution much later in the night.
All of this effectively rendered everything that came before meaningless. That’s just what it feels like right now. Cobb was good against this quality Braves team, scattering four hits and two walks over seven innings with just one run allowed. If he carries that forward, that matters, since the O’s have him signed for another three years after this.
Even that one run only scored off of Cobb because of Dansby Swanson being able to hit a triple to center field that had a Statcast hit probability of 23%. Adam Jones not being up to these challenges is one of the sadder stories of the 2018 squad.
And on the subject of sad 2018 O’s stories, there’s Davis. We got our first look at the possibly new and possibly improved Davis on Friday night, the first time he had played since June 11. Maybe he is improved! He walked in his first plate appearance, and in his second, he hit a home run. No, really!
Davis powered a pitch from Braves starter Sean Newcomb over the fence in left field in the fifth inning. This was his first home run since May 9 and fifth of the season. It broke the scoreless tie in the game. Davis later added a run batted in - what was, at that moment, the go-ahead RBI - on a sacrifice fly during the six run ninth. The Braves even intentionally walked him in the 15th inning. Sure, it was only to bring up Mike Wright, but still.
In case you were wondering, Newcomb was good for the Braves, which is why the score was tied 1-1 when he left after seven innings. Newcomb gave up five hits and two walks to the O’s, his only real blemish being the Davis home run. Many times this year, the Orioles have done poorly against mediocre pitchers. Newcomb is at least a good pitcher in 2018. After this outing, he lowered his ERA to 2.59.
For these O’s, this could have been an automatic loss. It felt like one at several points. And then it wasn’t. Even a bad baseball team still gets some crazy, fun wins. At least, I think it was fun. Maybe I just need to tell myself it was fun because the game ended after 1am.
Before the wild ninth came a depressing eighth inning where Tanner Scott was not pitching like the best version of himself. Scott issued a one-out walk to Ozzie Albies, served up a double to Freddie Freeman, and then was present when an intentional pass was handed to Markakis.
For this performance, Scott was rewarded with an early shower and Brad Brach inheriting his runners. The second batter Brach faced, Charlie Culberson, ripped a two-run double to give the Braves a temporary 3-1 lead. The awesome Orioles ninth came next, and then the horrible Orioles ninth after that.
At about 12:30am Saturday, Wright came into the game for the Orioles in the bottom of the 14th inning. The game did not immediately end. Indeed, Wright got through the 14th, setting up the Machado go-ahead home run. He had gone since June 2 without a home run. Here’s hoping it’s not another 20 days before he homers again.
During this barnburner, rookie Steve Wilkerson picked up his first career MLB hit for the O’s. Congratulations to him! He only has to get another 2,146 hits to catch up to Markakis, who got two hits in this game and still has some people talking about his chances at 3,000 hits.
Sleep fast. The two teams will be back in action on Saturday afternoon beginning at 4:10. Dylan Bundy is scheduled to start the game for the O’s, with Julio Teheran pitching for the Braves.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for the game that began on June 22, 2018?
This poll is closed
Manny Machado (extra-inning go-ahead HR)
Alex Cobb (deserved better than he got)
Chris Davis (he’s back, baby! or something)