Imagine if someone had come up to you before the start of Sunday’s game between the Orioles and the Red Sox to tell you that one team would be no-hitting the other into the seventh inning. You know what you would have thought. Anyone would have thought the same. Instead, the O’s played an unexpectedly awesome game and shut out the Red Sox, 5-0, to win the weekend’s series.
There hasn’t been much to excite O’s fans over the course of this dismal season. As I sit here thinking about what to say about this baseball game, what I keep thinking about is how much the panic-stricken people who call in radio shows, and others who use their sports columnist sinecures, to yell about Boston sports teams, will be flipping their lids, and it gives me far more joy than any fan of a 31-67 team can expect to regularly experience.
The unlikely star of the show for the Orioles on this scorching Sunday afternoon where the temperature felt like over 100 degrees for the whole game was starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski. That’s only a joke in the sense that it’s been played on the Red Sox that they were no-hit for six innings by Wojciechowski, the 30-year-old journeyman who came into this start with a career MLB ERA of 6.49.
Wojciechowski was ready to rock from the get-go. He struck out five of the first six Red Sox batters he faced and had nine strikeouts by the time he was through four innings. Even more impressive than doing this while allowing no hits is that he kept his pitch count at a reasonable level, throwing just 58 pitches to get through four. The only baserunners he allowed through six innings were a third inning hit by pitch and a sixth inning walk, both involving Brock Holt.
There was an almost dream-like quality to this dominance. It inspired a constant, “Is this really happening?” feeling, and almost before you could blink he was through six no-hit innings. How could Asher Wojciechowski be no-hitting the Red Sox? And after the earlier in the season experience with David Hess, one had to start wondering what manager Brandon Hyde would do as the pitch count escalated.
Hyde was spared a tough decision this time. Wojciechowski finally gave up a hit against Rafael Devers, the first batter he faced in the seventh inning. Devers drove a pitch into right-center field that bounced off the padding above the chain link fence in front of the grounds crew’s shed. This was mere inches away from being a home run, but alas for Devers, he didn’t quite get it on top of the roof of the shed. The padding is still in play. It was a double.
Wojciechowski got a couple of easy groundouts and a liner to short to strand Devers and preserve his shutout. He came out for the eighth, picked up his tenth strikeout of the day, then was relieved after walking Jackie Bradley Jr. For the day, Wojciechowski threw 105 pitches, of which 68 were strikes. He allowed just the one hit in 7.1 innings, with two walks and ten strikeouts. His previous career high for strikeouts in a game was seven, set in his last O’s start before this.
This is the kind of thing that happens to the Orioles where they’re on the wrong end. Some guy comes out of nowhere, no-hits them for a long time, sets a new career high in strikeouts. Not this time. I come back, again with a smile, to my imagined talk radio circuits in New England, “And then we almost got no-hit by some losah nobody, uh, Ashahhh...”
Those callers will probably not be much happier about “Cashnah,” who now has two losses in two Red Sox starts. Cashner wasn’t even bad against his former team, allowing six hits and two walks in six innings. Unfortunately for the former Oriole, two of those six hits were Trey Mancini home runs that scored a total of three runs. Just as unfortunately for him, he pitched on the day his offense scored zero runs instead of the day his offense scored 17.
Mancini’s first home run of the day was a solo shot to center field in the first inning. This was his 20th of the season and it would have been enough for the Orioles to win the game on its own. Isn’t that fun? It’s just their fourth time shutting out an opponent this season.
The O’s added a second run off of Cashner in the second inning when Chris Davis snuck a sliced line drive just fair down the left field line, scoring Dwight Smith Jr. Smith, who snapped a lengthy 0-for in last night’s game, was 1-3 and also drew a walk today. Mancini’s second homer of the day put the O’s up 4-0, and in the eighth, Jonathan Villar added his 11th homer of the season to set a 5-0 final score.
Villar and Mancini both had multi-hit games. The O’s themselves only had seven hits, which on most days probably adds up to a loss. Today, it was enough.
We all know the Orioles bullpen has been bad a lot this year. It’s easier to have a good bullpen day when the starter pitches 7.1 innings. Paul Fry relieved Wojciechowski in the eighth and struck out the two Red Sox he faced. Mychal Givens pitched the ninth, perhaps in hopes that he might show off for any scouts that might be in attendance. After walking the leadoff man, Givens retired three batters to end the game.
It was not a dream. It really happened.
The Tigers pulled off a 10-inning win over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon, so they keep pace with the O’s in the race for the worst record in MLB, with the O’s still “ahead” by half a game.
Next up for the O’s is another swing out into the Pacific time zone. They start out with a three-game set against the Diamondbacks, scheduled to get under way at 9:40 Eastern on Monday night. Aaron Brooks and Robbie Ray are the listed starters for the series opener.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for July 21, 2019?
This poll is closed
Asher Wojciechowski (no-hit Sox through 6)
Trey Mancini (two homers)
Jonathan Villar (two hits including a homer)