A lot of this game’s cut shots were focused on a long, passionate dugout powwow between starter Aaron Brooks and pitching coatch Doug Brocail. Well, whatever “Broke” is up to in there, keep it going!
I admit, I was not excited today for an Aaron Brooks start. (Were you?) But he silenced me, just like he silenced the Royals’ bats. Yes, 92 pitches over five innings is too many pitches. But one earned run on seven hits in that stretch? From Brooks, who got his first win as an Oriole, we’ll take that just about any time.
Brooks made easy work of the Royals’ lineup the first two innings, racking up a lot of swinging strikes. His sinker sunk, the knuckle curve curved and the fastball managed to not come zooming in with a big “Hit Me” sign on it. The only blemish on his night was in the third when, suddenly staked with a 3-0 lead, Brooks proceeded to surrender a historic home run to Whit Merrifield. It was No. 258 on the year, guaranteeing us at least a tie in ignominy with the 2016 Reds for most home runs allowed in the season. Load up the cannons, everyone.
In the fifth, a confident Brooks got Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier watching while he painted the corner. Yes, he really did! A comebacker single from Alex Gordon marred the dominant inning, but Brooks got a popout to close out the inning and his night.
Meanwhile, the Orioles bats produced consistently all game. The second inning was the first window of opportunity. The Mike Montgomery who had dominated in the first must have gone to the showers early, because this was not that guy. After walking Núñez—you know what happens with those leadoff walks—Montgomery allowed an authoritative home run to Jonathan Villar. With 18 HRs and 28 (oh, make that 29!) stolen bases, Villar is fast closing in on becoming just the eighth Oriole with 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season. A Severino gapper just went for a double. DJ Stewart stung one just over the glove over the second baseman, Nicky Lopez. With a first-and-third and one out situation for Stevie Wilkerson, alas, Stewart had his first-ever MLB TOOTBLAN, and he was caught leaning at first. Wilkerson still dug a knuckle curve out of the dirt after that and chipped it over the rightfielder Alex Gordon’s head to score Severino. 3-0 Orioles!
Then, in the fifth, Tony Santander, who’s been on a cold stretch lately, smoked a high fastball into the bleachers for a solo shot. He looked more relieved than elated. The next batter, Renato Núñez, also saw something he liked, with the same result. This time it was smiles all down the dugout. Baseball is fun when you’re hitting and not giving up runs! 5-0.
Montgomery’s day was done after five, and the Royals called in the cavalry: the lefty Tim Hill. He looked… not great! A walk to Stewart was followed by a grounder up the middle by Richie Martin, who, y’all, is continuing his pitiless assault on the Mendoza line (.198 now and counting…). One-man LHP wrecking crew Alberto step up to face the unfortunate Hill and took him deep! Earl Weaver Special! 8-1 Orioles.
The bullpen, unexpectedly, also looked great. The sixth inning has been the worst one this year for the Orioles in terms of home runs and runs allowed. But Paul Fry doesn’t care for your statistics, nay, not a whit. After working to a 15.19 ERA in his last 7 appearances, this Fry looked extremely sharp, especially the big, looping slider.
Ditto for Armstrong, whose velocity looked good, and who would have pitched a clean seventh had it not been for another embarrassing fielding gaffe by Stewart. It was the definition of a routine pop fly, but this one bounced off the heel of his glove and onto the grass. Fortunately, the fourth out was wiped out by a Richie Martin putout and didn’t end up meaning anything, but you know it’s bad when Jim Palmer starts speculating that maybe you have “an eyesight problem”?
I was very pleasantly surprised at a big bounceback appearance for Richard Bleier, who pitched two tidy innings in the eighth and ninth. Everything was biting—was it something in the air? Bleier had two perfect innings. Like I said, never doubted him for a moment.
As for that all-time season record in home runs allowed—who us, worry? This time, we stood together as a team and told them:
Who was the Most Birdland Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Jonathan Villar (2-run homer, single, walk, SB, couple good fielding plays, the usual TOOTBLAN)
Hanser Alberto (EWS, BB)
Aaron Brooks (starter, did not give up record-breaking homer)
Stevie Wilkerson (3-for-4, RBI, first career three-hit game)
The Bullpen (don’t look a gift horse in the mouth)