The Orioles earned their first win of 2019 on Saturday by a score of 5-3. The offense had to manufacture their runs and the pitching staff had to tip toe around a few precarious situations, but they got it done all the same. Rebuild or not, beating the Yankees is still a whole lot of fun.
There was a good chance, however, that the Orioles afternoon could have gone much differently.
Nate Karns, making his team debut and his first major league appearance since May 19, 2017, started for the Birds. After getting Brett Gardner to fly out on one pitch, the right hander loaded the bases on consecutive walks to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit in the first inning. Just about every pitch out of his hand was missing low, and the Yankees hitters weren’t tempted to swing.
That brought up Miguel Andujar, a man who walked just 25 times in 2018. He was likely to swing and hit the ball really hard.
Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened. Andujar swung at a belt-high fastball and put it in play with an exit velocity of 105.2 mph. Luckily, he hit it right back at Karns, who made the stop, spun around, looked at second base and then decided to go home to Jesus Sucre for the force-out. Sucre then threw to first base to complete the double play and end the threat. Crisis: averted.
The New York offense would continue to threaten all day as they had only one 1-2-3 inning the entire game, walked six times, cobbled together 10 hits and continually forced the Baltimore pitchers into deep counts. However, they also did not manage any extra-base hits until the ninth inning and left 11 men on base.
That didn’t stop the Bombers from getting on the scoreboard first. With two outs in the fourth inning, DJ LeMahieu drove in Gleyber Torres on a single up the middle off of Richie Martin’s glove. Martin should have done better. It would have been a tough play to field and then throw out LeMahieu at first, but Martin should have been able to make the catch and prevent the run from scoring. Alas, those are the rookie growing pains that are to be expected.
Meanwhile, James Paxton kept the O’s bats silent through the game’s early goings. Their first hit didn’t come until Dwight Smith Jr. led off the fourth inning with a single, and they remained scoreless until the sixth inning.
In that sixth inning, the Birds took their first lead of the season. Back-to-back singles for Jesus Sucre and Richie Martin set the stage for Smith, who delivered a one-out single through the right side of the infield to drive in Sucre. With Trey Mancini batting, Martin and Smith performed a double steal. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez attempted to nab Smith on the back end, but his throw went into centerfield, allowing Martin to score and give the O’s a 2-1 advantage.
Sucre extended that lead in the seventh inning, driving in Rio Ruiz from second base with a base hit to right field to make it a 3-1 game.
But they weren’t done there. Joey Rickard got aboard to begin the ninth inning thanks to a two-base throwing error from LeMahieu. A Cedric Mullins single moved Rickard to third, and then both Rickard and Mullins came home on a Sucre double down the third base line. Just like that, the Birds went in front 5-1.
Of course, we can’t have nice things. Mychal Givens, who had pitched an impressive eighth inning, striking out three batters, was pulled in favor of Richard Bleier for the ninth. The New York hitters had no problem squaring up the soft-tossing lefty. Troy Tulowitzki led off the frame with a home run. LeMahieu followed with a double, and then Judge singled. Hyde had seen enough, and made the move to bring in...Mike Wright Jr.?
Wright had struggled during his appearance on opening day, but admittedly looked like a different pitcher on Saturday, reaching into the high-90s with his fastball along with some solid movement on his other offerings. He struck out Stanton to relieve some pressure. Then, he induced a weak fly ball from Voit into shallow right center field. But the outfielders were playing deep. Rickard came sprinting in from right and looked like he should have made the catch, but the ball fell in anyway, scoring LeMahieu to cut the lead to two runs.
Andujar came to the plate with a chance to redeem himself from the bases-loaded double play he hit into back in the first inning. Unfortunately for him, it was not his day. Wright got Andujar to strike out on four pitches, three of them swings and misses, to close out the win. It was Wright’s first career save and, hopefully, a sign of better things to come from for the 29-year-old.
There were some serious positives to take away from this game. Karns, Miguel Castro and Jimmy Yacabonis all looked effectively wild. Provided they can reign that in a bit, they should be fine. Givens was lights out, and Wright had his good stuff. On the offensive side of things, Sucre provided what will likely be some rare production and the O’s forced the Yankees to make mistakes with some base-running aggressiveness.
It was far from perfect. Bleier looked terrible. When he doesn’t locate well, he gets crushed. Smith got thrown out at home on a poor decision to run on contact with the infield drawn in. That can’t happen.
But the boys got the win. That has to relieve some internal pressure. There is a lot of talk about the Orioles being the worst team in the league, and they probably are. But they are good enough to win a game against what is expected to be one of the best teams in the league. That’s a big deal!
These two teams face off in the rubber match on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Dylan Bundy will take the hill for the O’s, and he will be opposed by lefty J.A. Happ.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, March 30, 2019?
This poll is closed
Jimmy Yacabonis (W, 3.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO)
Nate Karns (got out of bases loaded jam in first inning)
Mike Wright Jr. (first career save, cleaned up Bleier’s mess)
Mychal Givens (dominant inning of relief)
Jesus Sucre (3 hits, 3 RBI, 1 R)
Rio Ruiz (double, one run, solid defense)
Richie Martin (first MLB hit)