This game, man. Holy crap.
If Thursday’s ludicrous 16-inning marathon didn’t satiate your hunger for momentum-shifting, roller-coaster baseball games, the Orioles and Angels upped the ante on Saturday with another wild, back-and-forth hullabaloo.
The O’s held a lead, then blew it. The Angels took a lead, then blew it, only for the Orioles to instantly blow their newly retaken lead. The Orioles took another lead and blew it. The O’s took still another lead and came a hair’s breath from blowing it, surviving a ninth-inning debacle by the skin of their teeth.
When the dust settled, the Birds had secured their third straight victory over the Angels, clinching a series win. Easy as pie!
We’ll start with that aforementioned bottom of the ninth, which the Orioles entered with an 8-6 lead. Mychal Givens, who had retired the final batter of the eighth, stayed in for the ninth to attempt the save. Nothing bad ever happens when Givens has to pitch more than one inning, said nobody, ever.
Sure enough, Givens quickly found himself in hot water. He started with a strikeout, but lost the strike zone to Matt Thaiss, walking him on four pitches.
Then the Orioles’ defense committed a costly brain fart. Luis Rengifo grounded to the right side, with shifted-over shortstop Richie Martin fielding the ball, but Martin inexplicably tried to tag Thaiss (who, remember, didn’t even represent the tying run) instead of getting the sure out at first. Instead, Martin missed the tag, fell over, and didn’t get anyone out.
David Fletcher followed with a sharp single to center that plated Thaiss and moved Rengifo to third, and Givens was in a world of trouble. The lead was cut to one run, with runners at the corners and one out for a guy named Mike Trout. The Orioles’ chances of escaping with the lead were microscopic, at best.
Givens, though, dominated the mano a mano showdown. He struck out Trout on four pitches, the last one a 96-mph fastball up in the zone, for the crucial second out. An intentional walk to Shohei Ohtani loaded the bases for another do-or-die, sudden-death matchup with Justin Upton. Every pitch of the at-bat represented a chance for a thrilling O’s victory or a heartbreaking defeat, and of course, the count ran full.
Finally, Upton swung at a 3-2 heater and popped it up harmlessly in the infield, with Hanser Alberto squeezing it securely to end a panic-inducing ninth.
Even getting to that point was no picnic, either.
For the third straight game of this series, the Angels’ starting pitcher was a guy they just called up a couple hours before the game. Seems like a totally sustainable strategy! In this case it was lefty Dillon Peters, who was greeted rudely with two Orioles runs in the first inning on a Pedro Severino two-out single.
It took only two batters for the Angels to erase the deficit, mainly because that second batter was Trout, who crushed a no-doubter roundtripper off Aaron Brooks with a runner aboard in the bottom of the first. That’s pretty much how you’d expect a Mike Trout/Aaron Brooks matchup to turn out. No offense, Aaron. The Angels took their first lead in the second inning on a Fletcher two-run double, though Brooks retired Trout on a flyout to center to strand two runners.
The pendulum swung in the other direction in the third when the Birds mounted a two-out rally. A Renato Nunez scorcher to third ate up Fletcher and resulted in a double, with Anthony Santander following with an RBI two-bagger to left. Severino then golfed a low Peters offering over the wall in left-center, his 10th of the year, to put the O’s back in front, 5-4.
Again, Brooks immediately frittered away the lead his offense had handed him. The first batter he faced in the bottom of the third, Ohtani, knotted the game with a 441-foot home run. At that point, there had been runs scored in five of the six half-innings, and this game was well on its way to emulating Thursday’s ridiculous contest.
Then, shockingly, two entire innings passed without either team scoring. Each starter ended his outing with his only clean inning; Peters retired the O’s 1-2-3 in the fourth before exiting, while Brooks made it through a perfect fifth before his departure. So while Brooks wasn’t particularly good — five runs, seven hits — he did work five innings for the first time as an Oriole. So maybe he’s not an opener anymore? He’s a full-fledged starter? Let’s keep an eye on this.
In the sixth, the O’s broke the brief scoring drought — and went into the history books while they were at it. Jonathan Villar pulled a leadoff home run just inside the right-field foul pole against Trevor Cahill. That marked the Orioles’ 10th straight game in which they hit two or more home runs, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a new MLB record.
Is anyone else kind of surprised that this is the first time it’s ever happened? I mean, it doesn’t seem like it should be that unusual a feat. Heck, I would’ve guessed another team had already done it this year with the way the balls are flying out. But kudos to the 2019 Orioles for making history in a positive way. Betcha didn’t expect that!
For the third time, the Orioles had the lead. And for the third time, they surrendered it before even retiring a batter. Albert Pujols, leading off the sixth against Miguel Castro, lofted a high fly to right that somehow carried just far enough to sneak into the second row of seats. It will certainly not go down as the most prodigious clout of Pujols’ career, but a home run is a home run, and this one tied the score at six. And the roller coaster continues.
We’ll jump to the top of the eighth, which began with a Villar single off Ty Buttrey. Poor Villar spent the next seven or eight pitches completely tiring himself out, taking off for second on nearly every one, only for Stevie Wilkerson to foul off pitch after pitch and send Villar trudging back to first. The hard-fought Wilkerson at-bat included nine pitches and seven foul balls until Buttrey came too far inside and plunked him, putting two on with none out.
Richie Martin, after squaring to bunt, pulled the ol’ Butcher Boy technique and chopped a bouncer to the pitcher with the runners in motion. Buttrey’s only play was at first as the runners advanced. That set up Singlin’ Hanser Alberto to be the hero with — what else? — a single. Sometimes that’s all you need! His sizzling liner up the middle plated both Villar and Wilkerson, giving the Orioles an 8-6 lead. By gawd, they’ve done it again.
Castro, after allowing the Pujols homer, retired five batters in a row, and Richard Bleier set down three before Givens came in. And the rest was history. Heart-stopping, nail-biting history.
I must say, the ninth-inning near-collapse aside, this Orioles team is fun to watch right now. They’re now 11-10 in July, and they only need to win one of their next three games to clinch their first .500 month since August 2017.
The Birds will have a chance to complete an improbable four-game sweep of the Angels on Sunday afternoon. After a game like tonight, who’s to say they can’t do it?
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, July 27?
This poll is closed
Hanser Alberto (go-ahead two-run single in 8th)
Pedro Severino (4-for-5, HR, 4 RBIs)
Jonathan Villar (3-for-3, record-breaking HR)