Can I just say how lucky I felt when I found out that my recap landed on the night John Means returned from the injured list? True, with this team, that’s no guarantee of anything, but I calculated that whatever happened, I was probably going to be spared a five-home-run-dumpster fire like Wednesday’s game against San Diego.
Well, after the unholy smackdown the Orioles unleashed on Cleveland, I feel like I owe the other Camden Chat writers an apology.
Tonight’s matchup featured two starting pitchers just off the injured list, and for both, the rust showed early on. Means labored to retire Cleveland’s first two hitters, Francisco Lindor and Oscar Mercado, before giving up a single to Carlos Santana, owner of the second-best OBP in the league, and allowing a walk to Jordan Luplow. Means looked plenty frustrated, but he escaped damage with a flyout.
Ditto for Mike Clevinger, who is a very weird presence on the mound, with a jerky delivery and a “tangled mess” of hair decorated with feathers, ribbons, and cowrie shells. Clevinger’s stuff is clearly impressive—he sat down Trey Mancini on three pitches, including a 99-mph fastball—but he had trouble finding the zone today. The breaking ball was all over the place, but Clevinger kept going to it—if you’ve got 99 on the fastball and are facing a .169-hitting Chris Davis, why wouldn’t you just go right to that?
Clevinger walked Villar to lead off the bottom of the first, then retired Dwight Smith Jr. and Mancini. He then tried to big-league Chance Sisco with a 98-mph fastball and it turned out poorly. Sisco took the center-cut offering deep to Eutaw Street to score Villar. Sisco is the 99th hitter to hit Eutaw Street, and for that, he gets a plaque. By the way, this is where that ball ended up:
Down two runs, Clevinger issued back-to-back walks to Anthony Santander and Rio Ruiz. He went down 2-0 to Hanser Alberto, and left up a fastball. The red-hot Alberto sent it whistling into the left-field corner for a two-run double. 4-0 Orioles.
Means allowed one baserunner in the second, when Cleveland’s 23-year-old DH Bobby Bradley hit a zinger right at Villar that the shortstop du jour dropped for an error. Means then struck out Yu Chang, fresh out of Taiwan for his Majors debut, on a tailing fastball. It’s a great pitch—it looks like it’ll keep running on in on the righty, but stays outside the plate. A flyout ended the inning.
In the bottom of the second, Clevinger kept going back to the fastball, and Orioles hitters smoked him out. Stevie Wilkerson led off by cranking a high fastball into right-center for a ground-rule double. Villar dropped a perfect bunt that went for a hit, rolling all the way to second baseman Jason Kipnis. Then he stole second. (Loving the small ball!) With runners on second and third and nobody out, the Orioles struck again. DSJ tagged a fly ball just deep enough to score Wilkerson. Mancini flied out, but Clevinger challenged Sisco again with a fastball, and Sisco ripped it to right to score Villar from second. 6-0 Orioles.
Out came Clevinger after 1.2 innings, and in came Tyler Olson to clean up the mess—er, hold that thought. Olson hung a curve to Anthony Santander, who crushed it 427 feet into the night. 8-0 Orioles. (How many times have we gotten to write that this year? Quick BaseballReference check: once, a 9-1 win over Chicago on April 23.)
Even with a nine-run lead, the Orioles didn’t let up. In the eighth, they put together a nice rally when Davis singled (look! a unicorn!), Villar walked, and DSJ singled the other way. Today’s MBP Sisco (go ahead and vote for Means, I dare you) came up and drove one to the gap that bounced for a 2 RBI ground-rule double. 11-0 Orioles. Santander hit a rocket over first base, and in came runs 12 and 13.
It was an unequivocally superlative day for Orioles pitching. Whatever was ailing John Means’ shoulder seems to belong to the past. I was bummed to see him pulled after just 84 pitches, but Orioles fans aren’t going to look this gift horse in the mouth: five brilliant innings of shutout, one-hit, one-walk baseball. Means’ stuff, by the way, looked as good today as it has all season: he hit the corners all game, tossed in a few rare sliders for strikes, and even hit 95 on the radar gun in the fifth.
The bullpen even pulled off a performance that wouldn’t have embarrassed a real staff. Branden Kline came on in the sixth looking a bit wild, but he wriggled out of the sixth and seventh with two well-timed double plays. Paul Fry pitched a great eighth—this is the same guy who had an 11.57 ERA in his last seven games? Miguel Castro came on in the ninth fastballs a-blazing, got two quick outs, gave up a single, and then gritted out the third out when Bradley hit a grounder to Davis at first.
It was a great day at the plate for several Orioles. Sisco had 3 hits, 5 RBIs and would have gone deep a second time but for getting robbed at the wall. Santander uncorked a bomb in the second, singled in the seventh (though he ran into a TOOTBLAN), and drove in two in the eighth. The red-hot Alberto went 2-for-4 and has a .356 average in June. DSJ, Mancini, Wilkerson, and Ruiz snapped cold streaks, Ruiz with his first 3-hit game of the season. Even Chris Davis got a single! (I hate having to write that.)
It turns out baseball is plenty of fun to watch when you win!
Who Was the Most Birdland Player of the game?
This poll is closed
Chance Sisco (3 hits, 5 RBIs, Eutaw Street bomb - C’mon, this one is easy!)
John Means (5 dominant innings)
Rio Ruiz (RBI, first 3-hit game of the season)
Anthony Santander (3 hits, 4 RBIs, spectacular HR to deep center)