Imagine, if you will, an inspiring story of a shipwrecked castaway on a desert island, heroically rescued after years without contact to the outside world.
Upon his return to civilization, this individual — after reuniting with his family and eating a gillion hamburgers — decides to tune in to some baseball. It’s June 28. He has no knowledge of each team’s place in the standings, or how the 2019 season has played out so far. He’s a blank slate, ready to make his own judgments.
After two days of watching baseball, my friends, that individual would come to one unmistakable conclusion: the Baltimore Orioles are the best team on the planet.
And he’d be right. For the last two days, no team has been more dominant on the mound, more productive at the plate, more all-around sensational, than the O’s. If it’s possible to play a perfect baseball game, the Orioles did exactly that today — after doing it the previous night, too, by an identical 13-0 score.
It doesn’t matter that the Orioles have the worst record in baseball, or that they hadn’t won a series since April 22-24 or even two games in a row since May 4-6. This weekend, everything is coming up Orioles. They didn’t just win. They steamrolled their competition.
As for that competition, well, let’s just say it’s been a rough couple of days for the Cleveland Indians. Our rescued castaway friend must think the 2019 Indians are the worst team that ever existed. No matter how the series ends tomorrow, these two losses are going to hurt. The three-time defending AL Central champions are soon to be dethroned for the division crown — they trailed the Twins by eight games entering Saturday — and if they ultimately miss out on a wild card, too, they’ll look back regretfully at this series in Baltimore.
Perhaps the Indians were flummoxed by the Orioles’ game of three-card Monte with their starting pitcher. Andrew Cashner was originally slated to start, but about half an hour before the scheduled game time, the O’s announced that Shawn Armstrong would get the assignment instead. With inclement weather approaching, they were apparently hedging their bets in case the game began and then got interrupted early. Instead, the Birds delayed the start of the game for an hour and six minutes, waiting through a passing storm. Once the skies cleared, the Orioles shifted the starting gig back to Cashner. Okay then.
Considering how the Orioles hit today, the O’s could’ve thrown any random pitcher out there and he would’ve had a good time. It’s hard to go wrong with double-digit run support. The fun began in the second inning, when an RBI double by Hanser Alberto plated the Orioles’ first run. The guy affectionately known as Singlin’ Hanser has recently diversified his hits portfolio; Alberto has six extra-base hits in his last five games (for reference, he had only two extra-base hits in the entire month of April). Alberto is now hitting .320 this year.
The Birds blew the game open with a six-run fourth inning against Indians starter Zach Plesac, nephew of longtime big league pitcher Dan. It started with a historic Camden Yards home run by Anthony Santander.
From there, the O’s strung together a bunch of baserunners — punching in three of them on back-to-back RBI doubles by Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini — before returning to the long ball, with the recently slumping Renato Nunez cranking a two-run homer to extend the Orioles’ lead to 7-0. That was all for poor Plesac, who lasted just 3.2 innings and was torched for seven earned runs.
The Indians’ bullpen fared no better. Tyler Clippard, who I was surprised to learn is still playing major league baseball, loaded the bases in the fifth on two walks and a hit batsman, and a Mancini bouncer up the middle skipped past second baseman Jason Kipnis for a two-run single.
An inning later, the red-hot Chance Sisco crushed a two-run homer off A.J. Cole to put the Birds’ run total in double digits a second straight day. The Indians have surely seen enough of Sisco, who has worn them out for four hits, two homers, and seven RBIs in the first two games of the series.
One of the few effective Indians pitchers, in fact, was an infielder. Mike Freeman, who started the game at third base, took the mound in the seventh and ate up two solid innings while barely throwing hard enough to break a pane of glass. His only blemish was a Nunez two-run homer in the seventh, giving Renato his first multi-homer game since April 20.
What’s more unlikely — that the Orioles would score 13 runs for the second game in a row, or that they’d throw a shutout for the second game in a row? Yes, folks, it actually happened. For that, you can thank Cashner, who was simply brilliant after the Orioles’ fakeout “who’s starting?” shenanigans.
Cashner’s changeup was as crisp as it’s been all season, and he tied Cleveland hitters in knots. Cashner mowed down the first 11 batters he faced, striking out three, before Carlos Santana stymied his modest perfect game bid with a two-out single in the fourth.
As the Orioles’ lead grew, Cashner remained aggressive. The Indians put the leadoff man aboard in both the fifth and sixth, but Cashner escaped both jams, the former on a double-play grounder and the latter on a pair of strikeouts. The Indians didn’t even put a runner in scoring position until Cashner’s final inning, the seventh, when Tyler Naquin doubled with one out. Unfazed, the Orioles righty induced a flyout and then struck out Bobby Bradley, pumping his fist in celebration as he headed back to the dugout.
What a performance by Cashner, who twirled seven shutout innings, struck out six, and surrendered just four baserunners. The enigmatic Tanner Scott looked quite effective himself, racking up four strikeouts in two scoreless frames to finish off the Birds’ shutout.
With that, the Orioles sealed their second consecutive 13-0 victory. Just another day at the office for the best team on the planet. Am I right, castaway guy?
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, June 29?
This poll is closed
Andrew Cashner (seven scoreless IP, six Ks)
Trey Mancini (three hits, three RBIs)
Renato Nunez (two home runs)
Anthony Santander (the 100th Eutaw St HR)