If there’s one thing this season that’s even rarer than an Orioles win, it’s a decisive Orioles win. Entering tonight, the O’s had only 11 victories all season by more than three runs, and none since July 29.
You wouldn’t have expected tonight to be one of them. Not against the Blue Jays, who had won 12 of their 13 games against the Orioles this year. Not when the O’s failed to score a run in the first five innings of this game. Yet the clouds parted, the stars aligned, and the Orioles delivered a 7-0 victory to snap their eight-game losing streak.
David Hess has had his ups and downs during his brief big league career, but the Blue Jays wouldn’t know about the downs. Hess was superb in his previous two outings against Toronto — a six-inning, one-run gem June 7 and seven innings of one-run ball just last week — and tonight brought more of the same.
Hess retired the first seven Blue Jays batters he faced before No. 8 hitter Luke Maile spoiled his modest perfecto with a third-inning single. Hess didn’t face a legitimate scoring threat until the fourth, which Billy McKinney led off with a double. Kendrys Morales — riding a seven-game home run streak, one shy of tying the major league record — was kept in the ballpark, grounding to first. McKinney advanced to third with one out, but Hess left him stranded, striking out Justin Smoak on a borderline pitch before Randal Grichuk lined to left.
Starting with that inning, Hess had to dance out of the fire for the rest of his night. Is “dance out of the fire” an expression? If it’s not, it should be. The Blue Jays put two runners aboard with one out in the fifth on a double and a walk, but a lineout and a grounder quashed the threat.
In the sixth, Morales walked, and Grichuk laced a two-out double into the left-field corner. Most major league runners would’ve been able to score from first on that play, but Morales is, as Baymax would say, not fast. He had to hold at third, and both runners were stranded in scoring position when Aledmys Diaz grounded to short.
Those three long innings inflated Hess’s pitch count to 99 and hastened his exit, but you can’t complain about six shutout innings. It was Hess’s first scoreless start since May 25 in Tampa Bay, his third big league outing.
For a while, though, it appeared that Hess would go unrewarded for his quality effort. While Hess was throwing goose eggs, so too was Blue Jays starter Sam Gaviglio, who entered the game with 15 strikeouts in 14.2 innings against the Orioles this year.
The Orioles had early opportunities, putting four runners on base in the first three innings, but came up empty. Then they went down 1-2-3 in both the fourth and fifth. In fairness, the O’s hit some balls right on the button that were swallowed up by the Blue Jays’ infield defense. Second baseman Devon Travis made a pair of fine plays, as did catcher-turned-third baseman Russell Martin. So the Orioles have muddled through the whole season with some of the worst infield defense in baseball, but the Blue Jays can just stick a catcher out there and not miss a beat? Sheesh.
With Hess exiting after six, the Orioles’ last chance to get him a win was to rally in the bottom of that inning. And wouldn’t you know it? They did.
Cedric Mullins started it off with a sharp single. Jonathan Villar then squared to bunt twice, taking two strikes. On a 1-2 count, Villar bunted AGAIN. Whoa! Had it rolled foul for a strikeout, I would’ve chalked it up to yet more 2018 Orioles ineptitude. But Villar dropped down a beauty to third, with Martin having no play anywhere. Gutsy play, Jonathan. The O’s were in business.
A Gaviglio wild pitch advanced both runners to scoring position, prompting the Jays to intentionally walk Adam Jones to face cleanup hitter Chris Davis. It was a solid plan, but Davis drove in the run on a fielder’s choice grounder to second (on another diving play by Travis). The Orioles had broken through with the game’s first run.
Trey Mancini quickly quadrupled that total, powering a three-run homer into the bleachers to open up a 4-0 lead. There’s the kind of big hit that’s been way too few and far between for the Orioles — and Mancini — this year.
Trey wasn’t done. One inning later, with two on and two out, he ripped a double down the left-field line to plate another pair. Mancini tied his career high with five RBIs tonight. For good measure, he also scored a run, thanks to a Tim Beckham RBI single that made it 7-0.
For once, the Orioles held the lead with minimal drama. The struggling Miguel Castro had one of his finest outings in weeks, a 1-2-3 seventh inning. It was Castro’s first baserunner-free appearance since July 12. Paul Fry put two men on base to start the eighth but came back to retire the next three, including a strikeout of Morales in what was his last chance to extend his home run streak. Better luck next time, Kendrys. #sorrynotsorry
Just to be safe, Buck Showalter turned to closer Mychal Givens to protect the seven-run lead in the ninth, which he did with a scoreless frame. And that’ll do it. The Orioles threw their sixth shutout of the year, and first since July 14, to exorcise their demons against the Blue Jays — at least for one game.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Tuesday, August 28?
This poll is closed
Josh Rogers (First career win, 5 IP, 3 ER, 1 K)
Tim Beckham (3 run homer, 2 runs scored)
Craig Gentry (2 run homer, 2 hits, 1 run scored)
Chris Davis (3 hits, 3 RBI, 1 run scored)
Adam Jones (4 hits, 1 RBI, 2 runs scored)