First, it was encouraging. Then it was infuriating.
But, most importantly, in the end, Sunday afternoon proved to be a sensational day at the Yard.
The Orioles appeared to give away a win with a collapse in the top of the ninth, only to storm back, get a walk-off home run from Rio Ruiz and come away with an 8-7 victory over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
Baltimore was looking for an answer to Saturday’s 23-2 debacle, and for eight innings, seemed to find it. The O’s got a quality start from Asher Wojciechowski, pestered one of the game’s best pitchers in Justin Verlander, and had it all add up to a 5-4 lead that they took into the ninth inning - only for Houston to score three runs before the O’s could record a single out, and take a 7-5 lead into the bottom half.
Another heartbreaker to add to the scrapbook telling the story of the 2019 Orioles?
Jace Peterson led off with a double, slicing a ball down the left field line that just landed fair. Richie Martin then grounded to shortstop, but closer Roberto Osuna hit Chance Sisco with a pitch, putting runners at the corners. Chris Davis lofted a fly ball to left that was deep enough to score Peterson, making it 7-6, and Ruiz, a minor leaguer until Friday, came up with two outs.
The count went to 2-2, and Osuna tried a changeup that Ruiz didn’t miss. The third baseman hit a no-doubter over the right field wall and onto the flag court, giving the Orioles a stunning 8-7 victory - their first walk-off decision of the year.
Which was great - because the top half of the ninth was a certifiable trainwreck. It started when George Springer led off with a soft liner to left off Mychal Givens that was able to fall for a single because Peterson was pretty much playing in the third row of the bleachers. (Quick aside: Read this story by Andrea SK from Friday, if you haven’t already. It was on-point then. It’s prescient now.)
Perhaps the best lineup in the American League had its leadoff hitter on, and it’s pretty predictable what happened next. Jose Altuve dropped a perfect bunt and beat it out for a single, and Givens got two strikes on Michael Brantley before the AL’s second-leading hitter roped a triple down the right-field line to score both the tying and go-ahead runs. The relay was botched, allowing Brantley himself to come in to make it 7-5 and flip the game in a matter of seconds.
Richard Bleier came on to limit the damage and prevent any more scoring in what felt at the time to be little more than a footnote.
Ruiz made sure Bleier’s work was a little more important than that.
The frantic ninth inning overshadowed eight innings of what was a near picture-perfect response to Saturday’s shellacking. The Astros took a 3-1 lead on Carlos Correa’s three-run homer in the second, but the Orioles - showing a trait that would serve them well in the ninth - bounced back, getting a run back in the bottom half of the second when Sisco singled, Jonathan Villar walked and Trey Mancini singled to left field.
In the fifth, the Orioles went ahead. Pedro Severino roped a one-out double down the third-base line, and Peterson smashed a triple to center just beyond Springer’s reach to tie the game. The next batter, Hanser Alberto, hit a Verlander offering deep enough to left to score Peterson with the go-ahead run, making it 4-3.
The inning was Verlander’s last, and the Orioles made life difficult for the potential Cy Young winner. Verlander struck out 11 but went only the five innings, and allowed four runs - all earned - on nine hits. He’s been on cruise control all season, but he had a rough afternoon at Oriole Park.
The Orioles added another run in the sixth after Villar stroked a two-out single to center and stole second. Mancini then ripped a single to left field, scoring Villar to make it 5-3. The Astros answered in the seventh, drawing within a run when Josh Reddick singled and Springer doubled to lead off the inning, and Altuve grounded to short to bring in Reddick.
The Astros had early tries to tie the score, but the Orioles rebuffed their first attempts. In the seventh, Paul Fry came on with Springer on second, then struck out Brantley and, two batters later, Yordan Alvarez to strand a pair of runners. In the eighth, Houston again threatened when Correa led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch, but Miguel Castro whiffed Robinson Chirinos and Givens punched out Reddick to end the threat.
Instead, the Astros were saving their best punch for the ninth. But as it turned out, so were the Orioles.
Perhaps buried by the hoopla late was the performance of Wojciechowski, who was coming off of two rough starts and who seemed headed for a third early. Baltimore took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI double by Peterson, but Wojciechowski put the first two runners of the second on and then gave up a mammoth home run to Correa that landed in the bullpens he cleared yesterday, making it 3-1 Astros.
After the home run, though, Wojciechowski settled down, and looked like the quality starter he had been for two starts at the end of July. He ended up going six innings and throwing 103 pitches while allowing the three runs (all on one hit) and four hits and striking out five. In following the theme of the afternoon, it was a bounce-back effort.
As the Orioles proved, however, they were saving the biggest bounce-back for later.
Who was the most Birdland player for Sunday, Aug. 11?
This poll is closed
Rio Ruiz (2-for-5, walkoff HR)
Jace Peterson (3-for-5, 3B, 2 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI)
Trey Mancini (3-for-4, 2 RBI, R)
Jonathan Villar (3-for-4, R, 2 SBs)