Mancini crushed a blast to deep left-center field off Ryan Brasier. As the ball sailed toward the O’s bullpen, it looked for all the world like a walkoff home run. Only a supernaturally amazing defensive play would keep the Orioles from victory.
Jackie Bradley Jr., you dream-crushing son of a gun.
Are you kidding me?? How does a human being make that play? And how does said human being react so nonchalantly to making one of the greatest catches you’ll ever see? Seriously, Bradley just casually tossed the ball back in and meandered back to his position like he was taking a relaxing morning walk. He didn’t even crack a smile! I would’ve been jumping around like a madman and gesturing at everybody like, “Did you see that, guys? Did you see what I did? Can you believe how great I am?”
Sometimes in baseball, it’s too simplistic to point to one single play as the difference in a game. Not this time. That play was the difference between a feel-good O’s victory and a grueling, 12-inning defeat. Given new life, the Red Sox broke the tie in the top of the 12th on Andrew Benintendi’s two-out solo homer off Yefry Ramirez. And that was that.
I’ll be honest — for a while, I thought this recap was going a different way. I fully expected I’d be writing about a Chris Sale no-hitter. Considering how he carved up the overmatched O’s lineup for the better part of six innings, it seemed inevitable. This was vintage Chris Sale, not the off-brand version who sputtered through most of April. He was blowing hitters away with his fastball. He was fooling them with his changeup. He had crazy movement on his slider — arguably too much, leading to two hit batsmen that accounted for the Orioles’ only runners in the first five innings.
When Sale got the first two outs of the sixth inning on three pitches, there appeared to be no escaping the Orioles’ fate. Yet it took only two batters for the entire narrative to shift. Joey Rickard flicked a clean single up the middle to bust up the no-no. Three pitches later, Trey Mancini laced a double into the gap in left-center, plating Rickard with the Orioles’ first run — which also happened to tie the game.
Just like that, Sale wasn’t headed for no-hit glory. He wasn’t even headed for a win. That didn’t make him any less dominant, though. He returned the next inning and threw an immaculate inning — nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts. It was only the 95th time in MLB history a pitcher has accomplished that feat. Hey, Sale found a way to get into the history books after all.
Sale ended up throwing eight dominant innings and racking up 14 strikeouts, both season highs. And yet he walked away from his dazzling outing with nothing but a no-decision, thanks to Andrew Cashner. (checks notes) Wait, Andrew Cashner? Really?
It’s true. Cashner was quite good, though he had to work out of a couple jams. The game got off to an uninspiring start when the first batter, Andrew Benintendi, lifted a fly to left that Dwight Smith Jr. dropped for a two-base error. Benintendi advanced to third on a flyout, but Cashner induced a groundout and fanned Mitch Moreland (complete with Pedro Severino fist-pump) to leave the runner stranded.
In the fourth, a walk and a single put runners at the corners with one out. But Eduardo Nunez lined out softly to short, and Cashner racked up another big strikeout, this time of Bradley. The Sox went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position against Cashner.
The only run they scored against the right-hander came on one big blast, a Mookie Betts no-doubt home run into the left field seats in the third. That’s just what Mookie Betts does at Camden Yards, where he’s hit 14 home runs lifetime, including a ballpark-record eight dingers as a visitor in 2016.
Apart from that, though, Cashner delivered a quality outing. He held the Red Sox to one run and four hits, striking out five, while throwing 104 pitches in six innings. Guys, is Andrew Cashner the Orioles’...ace?
Paul Fry worked a scoreless seventh, and Mychal Givens held the 1-1 tie in the eighth, with help from a bizarre Boston baserunning blunder. Betts drew a leadoff walk and was still there with two outs. Xander Bogaerts then smoked a hot shot to third that Hanser Alberto muffed and inadvertently kicked toward second base. Betts, inexplicably, tried to advance to third, but Jonathan Villar scooped up the ball and fed it to a waiting Alberto to tag him out. Betts is normally a heads-up player, but I’m not sure what he was thinking trying to get to third base with two outs. The Orioles were the lucky beneficiaries of his brain lapse.
Brandon Hyde pressed his luck and brought Givens back for a second inning, which, as our Drew Bonifant pointed out a couple weeks ago, has often been bad news. Of the five games in which Givens has allowed a run this year, four of them came when he was pushed beyond one inning of work. The fact that Givens gave up a leadoff single to Rafael Devers didn’t make me any more enthused about the decision. But Givens and Severino pulled off a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play to erase the runner — sparking another Severino first-pump — and after a two-out walk, Givens induced a groundout on his 32nd pitch.
The O’s squandered a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. With Sale finally out of the game, Mancini lashed a leadoff double against Matt Barnes. Renato Nunez, though, couldn’t advance the runner, grounding out to third. Pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz followed with a sharp knock up the middle that Eduardo Nunez blocked but couldn’t corral. Mancini took a wide turn around third and thought about steaming to the plate, but the shortstop Bogaerts got to the ball quickly enough that Trey slammed on the brakes instead.
The winning run was 90 feet away with one out, but Smith couldn’t bring him home, hitting a squibber in front of the mound. Again, Mancini initially broke to the plate but thought better of it once Barnes got to the ball, retreating to third as Smith was thrown out at first. Stevie Wilkerson struck out to strand both runners and send the game to extras.
You know what happened then. Despite a valiant effort by Shawn Armstrong, who worked a scoreless 10th and 11th, Ramirez lost it in the 12th. For the Red Sox, Brandon Workman, Brasier (with major help from Bradley), and Heath Hembree combined for three scoreless innings of relief in extras. Hembree struck out the side in the 12th to notch the save.
Did I mention that Orioles batters struck out 22 times today? That seems bad. That’s bad, right?
It was one of many frustrating things to happen on a night that could’ve had a much less frustrating ending. A pox upon your house, Jackie Bradley Jr.