Any offense might have done. Any damage dealt by the Baltimore bats, and the Orioles may have just riden a strong outing from Dylan Bundy to a victory and a series win over the Houston Astros.
Instead, an old friend helped keep that from happening. Wade Miley and his bullpen shut down the Orioles en route to a 4-0 victory Sunday afternoon.
Miley is most famous around these parts for going 8-15 with a 5.61 ERA with the Orioles in 2017, but the Orioles made him look like a Cy Young contender Sunday. Miley was excellent while tossing six shutout innings and allowing six hits - all singles - and two walks and striking out five.
And yet, the Orioles had a golden chance to make Miley’s day all for naught. In the seventh, the O’s chased the lefty from the game when Renato Nunez led off with a single, Pedro Severino followed with a walk and Jonathan Villar then hit a single to left that Nunez had to see through the infield before going to third, taking his coming home out of the question.
The situation was growing ominous for Houston, but the Astros have just the pitcher for such a spot. Ryan Pressly relieved Miley and went to work on the Houdini act, getting first Anthony Santander to ground directly to third baseman Alex Bregman, who made several impressive plays at the hot corner Sunday and who fired a strike to home for the first out.
The bases were still loaded, and pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz (not Chris Davis, in an interesting move) flew to left field, but shallow enough to persuade third base coach Jose Flores to hold Severino at third. The conclusion the Orioles feared was developing occurred moments later, when Pressly got Stevie Wilkerson to fly harmlessly to right, ending the threat and giving Pressly his 17th hold while lowering his ERA to 0.90.
It was the best chance of the afternoon to make a winner out of Dylan Bundy, who had one of his sharper outings of the season. Bundy had one slip-up; in the fourth, he gave up his first hit to Yuri Gurriel, and then let a changeup stray a bit too high and catch a bit too much of the plate, and rookie Yordan Alvarez - making his major league debut - smashed it to center field for a two-run home run and a 2-0 lead.
Otherwise, Bundy was great, retiring the first eight batters of the game and pitching well enough throughout to come out with the win, going six innings while allowing two earned runs, four hits and one walk and striking out six. The third run he allowed was not his fault; in the sixth, Derek Fisher grounded straight to Richie Martin, who was shifted to the right of second base, and the shortstop inexplicably was wide right with the short throw.
Bad went to worse when Fisher stole second and took third when Severino’s throw skipped past Villar and into center field. Bundy got Bregman for the first out, and forced Josh Reddick to pop out to shallow center for what should have been the second. Instead, with the infield playing in there were no infielders able to get back to the ball, and center fielder Keon Broxton was too deep to make it in in time. The ball dropped in, Fisher scored, and the Astros went up 3-0.
Houston tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when Gurriel’s sacrifice fly off of Evan Phillips scored Bregman for the final 4-0 margin. The Orioles tried to mount a final rally in the ninth when Villar and Santander drew two-out walks, but Ruiz grounded back to the pitcher for the final out.
The Orioles’ other best chance to score came in the third, when Renato Nunez and Hanser Alberto reached on consecutive one-out seeing-eye singles, with Nunez’s sneaking through the shortstop/third base hole and Alberto’s bouncing through to the right of second base. The threat was short-lived; Trey Mancini hit a chopper down the third-base line to Bregman, who stepped on the base and made the long throw to first in time for the double play.
The game was a frustrating end to a series in which the Orioles played well - better than expected, even - but still had to settle for one of the three games. It’s rare in games these days to allow only five hits, outhit your opponent and lose, but the blueprint to do so certainly exists. And on Sunday, the Orioles followed it.