Sometimes this team is a hot flaming disaster, then they go and do something good and you’re flying without wings. Maybe we’re just starved for good news at this point. But can we agree that the offense is really, kinda, not that bad? In their last series against Boston, the Orioles hit Red Sox pitching like a serious team, and on Tuesday night, they put together some great at-bats against Merrill Kelly, a pitcher in the middle of the best year of his career.
It’s a great story: after four seasons in the KBO, Kelly found his way back to the Major Leagues and has gone 7-9 for Arizona this season with a 3.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 7.1 K/9 rate. Kelly came out looking every inch the craft pitcher, all changing velocities and pinpoint location, and he got swings and misses from the first two Orioles he faced, Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini, in a three-up, three-down first.
That changed in short order in the second. Up to the plate came Renato Núñez, and boy, is he locked in. On an easy batting practice swing, Núñez launched a line drive that just sailed into the seats. 1-0 Orioles. After DSJ singled up the middle, Anthony Santander got all over a Kelly changeup—so all over it he almost ripped it foul but the ball sailed just inside the pole. 3-0 Orioles.
Early hits don’t always mean anything with this ofttimes-RISP-challenged offense, but even at that stage in the game, you could see the Orioles were timing up Kelly. More big lumber in the fourth. Mancini and Sisco singled to put guys on first and second for Núñez. With that same easy swing, he lined one into right. Mancini came chugging home, and though the throw should have beat him, catcher Alex Avila booted the ball, allowing Mancini to score and Sisco and Núñez to advance to second and third. (The error, for arbitrary scorekeeping reasons I do not understand, was charged to left fielder Jerrod Dyson, even though the throw was a bullet.)
Still in the third, with one out and four runs in, DSJ came to the plate and at 2-0, received an 89-mph meatball from Kelly. He clobbered it to right for an Earl Weaver Special, and like that, the Orioles had scored seven. Santander followed with a single, the Orioles’ fifth consecutive hit of the inning, which spelled the end of Kelly’s night. Old Orioles friend T.J. McFarland greeted his former team very rudely indeed, striking out Chris Davis with a devastating dive-bomb changeup, and getting Santander to run into an out on the bases on a Baltimore chop by lefty-killer Hanser Alberto.
On the pitching side, it was pretty much all good news today for the Birds. Dylan Bundy has been Jekyll & Hyde this season, and we saw it again today, but the Bad Bundy only came out for one inning. Perhaps Bundy confuses himself as much as he confuses the fanbase.
For the first inning-and-a-third, we got good—actually, great—Dylan. He was painting the corners, and the pitches were HD-quality sharp. In the first, Bundy got the dangerous Ketel Marte swinging on a dive-bombing slider, drew a pop-up from Eduardo Escobar, and froze Christian Walker with a gorgeous changeup. (Yes, I said gorgeous.)
Then with one out in the second inning, Mr. Hyde showed up for a stretch of exactly four batters. Bundy left up a high and clunky fastball that Jake Lamb drilled past a shifted infield for a single. Against outfielder Nick Ahmed, Bundy unleashed two gigantic swooping curveballs—one for a strike, another that bounced away from Sisco to advance the runner—before walking him. Then he also walked Alex Avila to load the bases. Up came the pitcher, so we thought maybe we’d get out of… nope. Bundy left up a fastball that Kelly thwacked the opposite way. Oof. Two runs batted in. (By the pitcher!)
But then Bundy buckled down. He got Dyson to pop out, and, at 3-2 against the .321-hitting Marte, tossed a perfect fastball on the corner for strike three. Phew. Though it felt like a mess entirely of Bundy’s own making, it could have been way worse.
This turned out to be one of those rare 2019 games where, if you were a bleary-eyed East Coaster, you could go to sleep early feeling like the Orioles had it in the bag, and actually wake up and be right! Astute as ever, Gary Thorne observed mid-game: “Everyone must have realized it’s a day game tomorrow!” Maybe the batters decided to phone it in after that, but no runs were scored after the third inning, a fact very much to the pitchers’ credit.
After his rocky second inning, Dr. Jekyll came out and faced the minimum batters in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, aided by a fantastic solo double play by Davis, who snagged a liner and dove to tag the runner, Dyson, as he tried to get back to the base to end the fifth. After the sixth, the camera showed a relaxed Bundy smiling and giving high-fives all through the dugout.
(If you’re wondering how Bundy fared at the dish, well, he struck out twice—one time from each side of the plate no less—including when McFarland fanned him on three straight pitches. I normally wouldn’t make fun, but the camera definitely caught Brandon Hyde smirking into his hand after the at-bat, a new highlight for me this season.)
Other than Kelly’s two rough innings, Arizona pitching impressed tonight. I’m not sure I ever saw T.J. McFarland pitch that well as an Oriole, but tonight he struck out 6 of the 8 batters he faced. The D-Backs’ Zack Godley showed a nasty knuckle curve over three innings. The walrus-mustache-wearing Andrew Chafin got two strikeouts in the ninth.
For the Orioles, Richard Bleier and Shawn Armstrong looked unexpectedly sharp, with just one hit between them over the last three innings.
And that, as they say, was that. Who knew winning could be so easy?
Who was tonight’s Most Birdland Player?
This poll is closed
Dylan Bundy (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 SO)
Renato Núñez (2-for-3, 1 BB, 2-run dong, 2 runs scored, no boneheaded plays at 3B)
Anthony Santander (2-for-3, 2-run dong, solid in CF)
Dwight Smith Jr. (Earl Weaver Special)