The Orioles capped off the first half of the 2018 season with a 6-5 series-clinching victory over the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards on Sunday in what may prove to be the swan song for several of the team’s high-profile players.
Things did not begin very well for Orioles spot starter Miguel Castro. Following three consecutive walks to kick-off the game, Castro struck out Rougned Odor, and then served up a grand slam to Rangers first baseman Ronald Guzman.
Maybe Chris Tillman should have started after all?
Chris Tillman’s average fastball in his first inning of work at Norfolk today: 87.2 mph. #Orioles— David Hall (@DavidHallVP) July 15, 2018
Luckily, that was as bad as things got for Castro. He retired the next seven batters he faced in-a-row and tossed 60 pitches over 2.2 innings before being replaced by Tanner Scott.
Manny Machado (of course!) was the one to get the Birds on the board. He launched a solo home run in the bottom of the first, cutting the Rangers lead to three runs. But it was the bottom of the third inning where the O’s made their mark on the game, and then did it, miraculously, without help from the long ball.
Joey Rickard led off with a walk and promptly came around to a score on a Caleb Joseph double to the left-center gap. Two batters later, Joseph advanced to third on a Jonathan Schoop single. A Machado walk loaded the bases, and Adam Jones unloaded them with a double down the left field line to drive in all three runs, giving the O’s a 5-4 lead. The good guys increased their advantage after a pitching change when Jurickson Profar threw away a Danny Valencia ground ball to third base, allowing Jones to cross the plate. When the dust settled, the O’s were ahead by a 6-4 scoreline.
On the pitching side of things, the relievers stepped up a in a big way to pick up the slack for Castro’s less-than-stellar start.
Scott rebounded from a tough outing his last time to the mound by delivering 0.2 scoreless innings, striking out two and allowing two hits. Mike Wright Jr. continued his impressive form out of the bullpen. He was responsible for 3.0 innings of work in which his only blemish was a solo home run by Shin-Soo Choo. Paul Fry followed with 1.2 perfect frames. His ERA with the O’s is down to 1.00 over nine innings. Zach Britton wrapped things up with a not-so-simple ninth inning.
The lefty forced a pair of groundouts for the first two outs of the inning, but then walked Choo on seven pitches. Choo was removed from the game for pinch runner Carlos Tocci. The next batter, Elvis Andrus, doubled to right field. Tocci rounded second and then ran right through a stop sign by the third base coach to keep barreling towards home plate. This would prove to be a poor decision. The relay from Mark Trumbo to Schoop to Joseph at home plate beat Tocci by a mile, allowing Joseph to easily tag him out to finish the game.
The only other moment in the game where the collective hearts of Birdland were in their throats involved the O’s shortstop. Following a 26-minute rain delay, Machado was replaced by Jace Peterson.
All eyes were on the dugout. Were hugs being exchanged? Was Manny even there? IS IT FINALLY HAPPENING?
Turns out this was just a precaution. The infield had gotten a little wet prior to the ground’s crew getting the tarp on the field. The last thing this club needs is their top trade chip twisting an ankle in a game that doesn’t matter. As most have speculated, Machado will probably remain an Oriole through Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. After that, all bets are off.
What else is there to walk about? Ah, your daily Chris Davis update: He went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts. He is now hitting .158. Elsewhere on offense, Jones was the only Oriole with more than one hit. The entire lineup only struck out three times and worked three walks. In addition to the double, Joseph stole the first base of his major league career. He is now 1-for-3 all-time on the base-paths.
Maybe this was the last time we see Machado, Britton and Jones in Baltimore. The MASN broadcast spoke to Machado afterwards and basically said “Well, if we don’t see you again, good luck!” It’s not a great feeling to say goodbye to your superstar, but that’s the game. For the most part, we cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. Machado has handled these months of trade talk with class, and the same goes for the number of other Orioles players that may soon find themselves employed elsewhere. Thanks for the years of memories, guys. Thanks for one last weekend of fun. You will always have an important place in Orioles history.
The players and coaches will now go their separate ways for the All-Star break. The Mid-Summer Classic takes place Tuesday at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on FOX. Machado will be the only Oriole taking part. The next Orioles game is Friday, when the boys head to Toronto to begin a three-game series against the Blue Jays. First pitch that day is set for 7:07 p.m.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, July 15?
This poll is closed
Manny Machado (solo home run, two runs scored)
Adam Jones (three-run double)
Caleb Joseph (double, RBI, first career SB)
Mike Wright Jr. (three innings, one run allowed out of the bullpen)