With two on, one out, and the game tied at two, Jonathan Villar just needed to put the ball in play. A fly ball would give the Orioles the lead, and a base hit would score two. Instead, Villar blasted an absolutely no doubt, 443-foot home run to left field. An Earl Weaver Special. The Birds led by three, and would hold on for a 7-3 victory of the Dodgers.
Renato Núñez worked a leadoff walk to start the rally in the seventh, and was quickly replaced by pinch runner Mason Williams. Major League outfielder Austin Hays followed with a base hit the other way to right-center field, and both runners took an extra bag when Dodgers right fielder Chris Taylor bobbled the ball.
Mark Trumbo stepped up for a pinch-hit, RBI opportunity, but rolled over on a curve ball and grounded out without plating a runner. Then it was Villar’s turn.
Villar turned around a first pitch, 93 MPH fastball from reliever Caleb Ferguson and blasted it well into the left field seats. It was the type of blast that would cause complete pandemonium from a sell-out, September crowd if the Orioles were in the middle of a pennant race. Instead, it brought cheers from however many of an announced 11,438 were actually at the Yard. The wins may not be quite as special right now as they are during a playoff chase, but they’re certainly appreciated when they’re this hard to come by.
John Means pitched like a playoff-pitcher, working into the seventh inning for the fourth consecutive game. He allowed only four hits, two runs and struck out six in the no decision. Another win may have helped Means cause for a better finish in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, but the 26-year-old continues to carry himself like a young leader of this club.
Mike Bordick shared a brief anecdote during the MASN broadcast of Means telling him “give us three years” in regards to watching the Dodgers clinch a division crown. Who knows where the Orioles will be in three years, but Bordick got the sense that Means meant what he said. And Bordick may have believed it too, for what that’s worth.
The Orioles added a pair of insurance runs in the eight on another powerful blast. Dwight Smith Jr. reached on an error to start the inning, and Pedro Severino provided Baltimore its final two runs with a 430 foot rocket to left center field. Severino and Villar both finished 1-4, but they both made their hits count.
Means began the game with five scoreless innings before surrendering a double to Austin Barnes and a two-run homer to A.J. Pollock in the sixth. He settled down to finish the sixth inning, and recorded the first out on the seventh before being pulled for Shawn Armstrong.
Armstrong retired the final two batters of the seventh, and used a timely double-play ball to get through the eighth. Armstrong notched his first win of the season, and Mychal Givens shut the door after allowing one run in the ninth.
The Orioles struck first with back-to-back doubles by Trey Mancini and Smith Jr in the second inning. Smith Jr. did not do himself any favors on the base path, and cost Baltimore a shot at another early run. He could have been thrown out at second with an accurate throw, but Taylor’s throw trickled away. Instead of taking the break, Smith Jr. attempted to take third and was easily thrown out to wipe the bases clean.
After the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the sixth, Hanser Alberto worked a leadoff walk and moved up on a wild pitch. Smith Jr. delivered again with a single to right that evened the score at two. Smith Jr. finished 2-4 with 2 RBIs and a run scored.
Villar’s home run should get some national attention, and not just for the mammoth homer that it was. The moon shot marked the 6,106th home run that has been hit this season. That’s a new record, folks. The Orioles aren’t the only club giving up homers at an increased rate, and it was a Baltimore hitter, not a pitcher, that made it official.
This is the type of win that everyone can feel good about. The Orioles sent an All-Star pitcher to the mound against a first place team, scored seven runs, and came away with a victory. Can Dylan Bundy keep the momentum going tomorrow against Rich Hill? We’ll know soon enough.
Who was the most Birdland player on Wednesday, September 11, 2019?
This poll is closed
Jonathan Villar (Go-ahead, record setting, 443 foot, three-run home run)
John Means (6.1 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 6 K)
Dwight Smith Jr. (2-4, 2 RBI, R)
Pedro Severino (Two-run home run, insurance provider)