The Orioles — as you may have heard — have had a rough go of things in the last couple of years.
Most of what ails them, of course, has been self-inflicted. But on top of that, they just never seem to catch any breaks. The ball always seems to bounce the wrong way, or an umpiring call goes against them, or some other unforeseen circumstance arises that casts the already woebegone club into further disarray.
On this fine August night, though, the baseball gods finally decided to smile on the Orioles. A number of lucky plays and some Blue Jays sloppiness turned what could’ve been another frustrating O’s loss into a 6-4 victory at Camden Yards.
Despite what I just said, it was the Blue Jays who caught the game’s first break. In the first, with Bo Bichette at third and two outs, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ripped a fly ball to left that, frankly, should’ve been caught. But Anthony Santander mistakenly broke in, then couldn’t recover to make the catch as the ball sailed over his head. Guerrero was gifted a double, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead against Dylan Bundy.
The home half of the first brought a bizarre play. Blue Jays right fielder Derek Fisher was seemingly planted underneath a routine Trey Mancini pop fly, only for the ball to smack him in the face and land safely for an error. Adding injury to insult, Fisher was forced to leave the game. Though the O’s didn’t score the free baserunner, it was the first sign that some strange happenings were going to occur in this game, usually to the Orioles’ benefit.
The Jays extended their lead to 2-0 in the third when Freddy Galvis homered in the midst of Bundy striking out the side. But they missed a chance to further pad their edge in the fifth. With runners at first and second and nobody out, Bundy got a key double-play grounder to second from Reese McGuire.
Replays showed, though, that McGuire may have beaten out the relay throw to first. Jays manager Charlie Montoyo asked for a challenge, but the umpires denied it because he’d taken too long to make the request. That was a nice break for the O’s, who didn’t have to run the risk of the call being overturned and putting runners at the corners with one out. Bundy escaped the inning unscathed.
Jays starter Thomas Pannone, meanwhile, was making mincemeat of O’s hitters. It took him just four innings to set a new career high in strikeouts with eight. Oh, and he didn’t allow a hit in that span. I’m sorry, Thomas Pannone did this? The guy with a 5.98 ERA coming into this game? All right, sure, whatever.
In the bottom of the fifth, though, the floodgates opened. Jonathan Villar ruined Pannone’s no-hit bid and shutout in one fell swoop, swatting a leadoff home run to get the Birds on the board. Stevie Wilkerson later singled, putting him on first base with two outs.
That’s when the Orioles benefited from another fortunate break. On a Hanser Alberto sharp single to center, Wilkerson made the absolutely terrible decision to try to go to third base, even though the center fielder had the ball by the time he was rounding second. The throw to third beat Wilkerson by a country mile, but Guerrero muffed it, allowing the runner to slide in safely. You got lucky, Stevie.
That kept the inning alive for Mancini, who delivered the crushing blow, a three-run homer into the bleachers that instantly gave the Birds a 4-2 lead. Talk about a momentum shifter.
Well, for a little while, at least. Bundy (5.1 IP, 2 ER, 7 K) and Shawn Armstrong combined on a scoreless sixth, but not before a Randal Grichuk shot down the right-field line fell just inches foul — denying him a game-tying two-run double — before he struck out to end the threat. Another break in the Orioles’ column.
Still, it only delayed the Blue Jays’ comeback for an inning. In the seventh, with one on and one out, Brandon Hyde summoned southpaw Richard Bleier to face the lefty-swinging McGuire. Boy, did that not work. McGuire swatted a game-tying two-run homer just over the right-field wall, knotting the score at four.
Bleier’s struggles didn’t stop there. Bichette singled, and Galvis followed with a double into the left-field corner. As Bichette steamed for the plate, the O’s pulled off a strong relay from Santander to the cutoff man to catcher Pedro Severino, who swipe tagged Bichette as he slid into the plate. The runner was ruled safe, seemingly giving the Jays a 5-4 advantage.
The O’s, though, called for a replay review, which revealed that Bichette’s pop-up slide kept his leg off the bag just long enough for Severino to place the tag on him. The call was overturned, the run was taken off the board, and another break had gone the Orioles’ way. The Blue Jays didn’t score, with Mychal Givens striking out Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to end the inning.
The Orioles wasted no time pulling back in front. In the bottom of the seventh, Chris Davis worked a leadoff walk from reliever Buddy Boshers, then advanced to third on a Wilkerson double. Justin Shafer came in for Toronto and induced a popout before Alberto came to the plate.
On an 0-1 pitch, Alberto squeaked an infield roller to the third base side and beat out the throw for a single. But wait! Alberto was called back to home plate because, as it turned out, the ball had hit his bat twice, rendering it a foul ball. That actually ended up being a good thing for the Orioles. Whereas his (negated) infield hit didn’t score Davis from third, Alberto — given another chance — roped a clean single to right to plate the go-ahead run.
Mancini followed with a grounder to short that normally would’ve been an inning-ending double play, but because Alberto was running on the pitch, the Jays had to settle for the out at first. Wilkerson scored from third to build the Orioles’ lead to 6-4.
The Birds’ bullpen held fast from there. Givens worked past a single to toss a scoreless eighth, and Paul Fry served as the closer of the night, giving up a leadoff single in the ninth but ending the game on a double-play grounder. Fry notched his third save.
It may not have been the prettiest, but the Orioles are in the win column for the first time in August.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, August 3?
This poll is closed
Hanser Alberto (2-for-4, go-ahead RBI single)
Dylan Bundy (5.1 innings, two runs, seven strikeouts)
Trey Mancini (Earl Weaver special)