The Orioles are quite bad. This we know. For the majority of the season, they have been bad at hitting, pitching, and fielding alike.
Once in a while, though, one of those facets comes through with a gem, temporarily outweighing the badness of the other two. Tonight was one of those nights, as the O’s pitching staff delivered its fifth shutout of the season to overcome a quiet offense and sloppy defense.
I will start by describing, in rigorous detail, all the runs that were scored in the first five innings of this game. So grab a coffee, get comfortable, settle in, and...oh, I’m done.
There was a whole lot of nothing for the first half of the contest, as Yefry Ramirez and Martin Perez were locked in what some would call a pitcher’s duel, and what others would call two terrible offenses making not-great pitchers look dominant.
On the Orioles’ side, Ramirez was making his fourth major league start, and while he again didn’t crack the five-inning mark, he made the most of those frames. Ramirez blanked the weak Rangers offense for his entire night, racking up a career-high seven strikeouts in that span.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. Ramirez labored for 26 pitches in the first inning despite facing only four hitters, going to six pitches on three of them. He struck out No. 3 and No. 4 hitters Nomar Mazara and Adrian Beltre to strand a runner in scoring position. In the second, Ramirez threw another 24 pitches, but again he escaped a jam. With two runners aboard, he retired Joey Gallo on a foul pop and fanned Delino DeShields.
Ramirez settled down from there, facing just 10 batters in the next three innings, but his exhausting early innings meant he wouldn’t get to start the sixth at 94 pitches. Still, a pretty impressive job by Yefry, who allowed only five baserunners.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ offense once again allowed a struggling opposing pitcher to have his best game of the season. That’s become a common theme. This time it was Perez, who entered the game with a 9.67 ERA in five starts and was just coming off the DL with a sore elbow. Perez had only one quality start this season, a six-inning, two-run outing April 22.
Tonight, he breezed through the Orioles’ lineup. Funny how that happens! Perez was particularly good at inducing double-play grounders, which he did not once, not twice, but thrice. (I love the word “thrice.” People should use it more often.) In the first, with two runners aboard, Adam Jones grounded into an inning-ending double play. In the fourth, Mark Trumbo was the double-play victim, and in the fifth, it was Chris Davis. In between, Perez struck out three batters in a scoreless second and third.
After the Orioles turned to the bullpen in the sixth, with Brad Brach tossing a scoreless frame, the Rangers stuck with Perez and his minuscule pitch count. The O’s finally got to him in the sixth. Perez got himself into trouble with a leadoff walk to Caleb Joseph. Then Tim Beckham chopped a check-swing bleeder down the third-base line. Adrian Beltre, in his haste to make a quick pickup and throw, fired the ball wide of first base. That allowed Joseph to advance to third.
All the O’s needed was a fly ball, and they got one, courtesy of Jonathan Schoop. His sac fly to deep center plated Joseph with the game’s first — and, as it would turn out, only — run. A Manny Machado single and another Rangers error put two runners in scoring position, but the Birds couldn’t cash them in, as Jones’ blistering line drive was caught by leaping shortstop Elvis Andrus before Trumbo grounded out.
Perez ended up working seven innings, throwing 91 pitches and giving up one run on five hits. He threw fewer pitches in seven innings than Ramirez did in five.
The Orioles’ bullpen set out to protect the slim lead, and they succeeded, though with little help from their defense. Donnie Hart and Mychal Givens combined on a scoreless seventh before things got dicey in the eighth.
Shin-Soo Choo led off with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner Isiah Kiner-Falefa. So many hyphens in that sentence! Then, Andrus hit a soft liner toward second. Schoop, seeing Kiner-Falefa freeze at first base, decided to let the ball drop and try to get a double play by going first to second. But his throw to first was a bit wide of Davis and both runners were safe. Just an ugly play. The Orioles, it seemed, were determined to lose this game.
But the Rangers, it should be said, are also very good at losing games. No sooner had the Orioles given them a gift than the Rangers returned the favor. Givens caught Kiner-Falefa napping off second base and picked him off with a snap throw to Machado. Thanks for the free out, guys! Now with a little more breathing room, Givens retired the next two hitters to preserve the lead.
The ninth inning was Zach Britton time, and he continues to look better with each passing day. Just in time for the trade deadline! Britton picked up two easy outs, including a strikeout of a hapless Ryan Rua, before temporarily losing control. He walked Robinson Chirinos on four pitches and then bounced a pitch way in front of the plate that advanced the possible tying run to second. But Britton rebounded to strike out Gallo, and an improbable Orioles 1-0 win was in the books.
Who says this team can’t be watchable for a night?
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, July 14?
This poll is closed
Yefry Ramirez (five shutout innings, seven strikeouts)
Mychal Givens (1.1 scoreless innings, clutch pickoff)
Jonathan Schoop (drove in O’s only run with sac fly)
Zach Britton (scoreless ninth, two strikeouts)