On their way to one of the worst records in the major leagues, the Orioles have been victimized by lowlights of every order. Errors in the field, miscues on the basepaths, and other mistakes that make any bad situation worse.
On Sunday, however, Baltimore got a glimpse of what it’s like when the shoe’s on the other foot.
This time, it was an opponent - in this case, the Blue Jays - having those lapses, and the Orioles made them stand up in a 6-5 victory that gave them a split of their four-game series with their division rival.
This was a game the Blue Jays probably left the field thinking they should have won. They almost pinned the Orioles early, almost stormed back late, and outhit Baltimore 13-6.
But in baseball, you need to make the little plays to win. And it was in that area, and maybe only that area, that the Orioles were better.
The tone was set from the first inning, even the first pitch. Bo Bichette lined it to left field for a double, and Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. drew walks off of Jimmy Yacabonis, loading the bases with no outs for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the third leg of Toronto’s 1990s superstar progeny.
Somehow, with help from the Jays, the Orioles got out of it. Guerrero Jr. chopped to first and Chris Davis’s throw home got Bichette, and Justin Smoak flied to left. The fly was going to score Biggio, but Gurriel took off from second, and Anthony Santander’s throw to third got him before Biggio crossed the plate.
They say you should never make the last out of an inning at third base. That goes double for when someone is scoring in the process.
In the bottom of the first, after two-out walks to Santander and Renato Nunez, Jace Peterson hit a high pop-up down the left field line. Third baseman Brandon Drury, for some reason, took charge on a ball that was over his shoulder, and it hit off his glove and fell for a hit that allowed Santander to score and make it 1-0.
Toronto drew even in the second when Randal Grichuk doubled and scored on Teoscar Hernandez’s single. but the Blue Jays continued their sloppy ways in the second. Chance Sisco singled to center on a soft liner after Hernandez took a bad route to the ball, and he then scored when Jonathan Villar’s two-out grounder up the middle was dropped by Bichette after he lost his footing going from left to right.
With extra life, Trey Mancini cashed in, grounding a hard double down the left field line that scored Chris Davis and Villar and made it 4-1.
Toronto made it 4-2 in the fifth when Gurriel scored on Smoak’s grounder, but the Blue Jays’ lack of control on the mound, which had contributed to those Orioles runs in the first two innings, took center stage in the bottom half. Toronto summoned Yennsy Diaz for his major league debut, and the 22-year-old gave up a single to Mancini and then proceeded to walk four of the next batters, with the last two free passes being issued to Sisco and Davis with the bases loaded to make it 6-2.
The four-run lead lasted into the seventh, when Toronto tried to make up for its generosity. Bichette and Biggio led off the inning with home runs off of Tom Eshelman (you didn’t think the O’s would keep the ball in the yard all game, did you?), making it 6-4 in the blink of an eye.
Eshelman gave way to Dillon Tate, who gave up a single to Guerrero, threw two wild pitches, and then walked Smoak to put runners at the corners with one out. The stage was set for an Orioles collapse, and perhaps in May or June, that’s what would have happened. But with little margin for error, Tate buckled down, whiffing Hernandez and then getting Drury to ground to third to end the threat.
The Blue Jays wouldn’t score again. Branden Kline, who had pitched to a 6.18 ERA in his earlier stints with the team but was recalled Saturday, struck out two before giving way to Richard Bleier for the final out of a 1-2-3 eighth, and Shawn Armstrong worked out of his own runners-at-the-corners jam by striking out Hernandez to end the game.
Given the Blue Jays’ mistakes, both mental and physical, it could appear that the Orioles got a gift win. After all, the only real offensive highlight for Baltimore was Mancini’s double down the line, which wouldn’t have even happened had Bichette made the play on Villar’s grounder.
But a team deserves credit for making the most out of the opportunities it’s given, and the O’s also deserve credit for the work they did and the plays they made to limit the damage Toronto tried to inflict. Gurriel’s baserunning decision in the first was a poor one, but it took a great throw from Santander to make it costly. And Tate and Armstrong both made their best pitches when the margin for error was at its lowest.
The Orioles got help, sure. But they got the win Sunday because they also helped themselves.
Who was the most Birdland player for Sunday, August 3?
This poll is closed
Trey Mancini (2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI)
Tom Eshelman (5 IP, 4 ER, 2 Ks, win)
Anthony Santander (1-for-3, run, assist)
Shawn Armstrong (1 IP, 3 Ks, save)