The first couple of innings, I was pretty apprehensive: was Ty Blach getting hit hard, or is everything just loud in the Trop? Turns out, it’s actually just loud. The crack of the bat, the players’ walk-up music, even a lot of really devoted ninth-inning hecklers sounded extra magnified on the broadcast.
Ty has been the Blach sheep of the Orioles rotation (zing!) since he joined the club on August 3, but he definitely did not pitch like one today, with five innings of two-run ball, a vast improvement on his 12.81 ERA thereto. In fact, Blach only allowed two hits all game, even though one of those hits was a two-run homer. His four walks were a little on the high side, but in his defense, they appeared to be the product of an overabundance of caution, as well as a tiny strike zone.
Blach was also aided in his quest by some great defense. In the first, Villar turned in a Gold Glove-worthy play to nab the leadoff man, ranging deep in the hole and effortlessly firing off a bullet to first. Then, a walk was erased when Hanser Alberto turned a double play to get out of the inning.
In the second, we got a taste of what Mason Williams brings—and, at long last, what it’s like to have a real outfielder playing center field!—when he made a nice ranging catch on a tailing bail from Avisail Garcia. Another Villar-Alberto double play ended the inning.
After a third walk to leadoff the third inning, Blach got Daniel Robertson swinging over a breaking ball, then benefitted from more good defense from Villar, who caught a pop-up, then ranged to his left to backhand a grounder and flip it to Alberto for the third out.
I wouldn’t say Blach’s stuff has an enormous amount of movement on it, but he was making the most of it, nibbling right around the corners. Unfortunately, home plate ump Mark Wegner was not doing Blach any favors, especially on those outside calls. So in the fourth, as the walks piled up, Blach started leaving some stuff over the middle. Pham spanked an 89-mph-fastball for a single before Travis D’Arnaud got all of a flat changeup, driving it over Mason Williams’ head for a 2-run blast. Ah, yes, that’s more like it. But Blach buckled down after that, wriggling out of the fourth and pitching a clean fifth before I realized that, miraculously, he had only allowed two hits all game. He was pulled after that inning, with 75 pitches, but gosh, what an improvement.
Coming into the fifth, the Orioles were, like Alice in Chains said, down in a hole, and I didn’t know if they could be saved. Tampa’s Trevor Richards, picked up on July 31st from Miami for Ryne Stanek, had been drawing a lot of weak contact through the first four innings with a slow but rising fastball and a similar changeup, the kind of slow stuff that’s frustrating to watch as a viewer (though I imagine it’s no less frustrating for the hitters).
Fortunately, the Orioles bats woke up in the fifth. Hanser Alberto led off with a single that made him a .500 hitter over his last 32 at-bats. One out later, Rio Ruiz put a beautiful swing on a 1-0 thigh-high changeup and lined it just over the right-field fence. 2-2. Looks like Brandon Hyde’s strategy of meeting Richards with a parade of lefties paid off.
In the sixth, old friend Oliver Drake came in, somewhat of a surprise since he’d faced the Orioles yesterday, and started hanging sliders all over the place. He left one too many up against the red-hot Santander, who smoked a 112-mph line drive into the corner to make it 3-2 Orioles.
Meanwhile, Mason Williams had a great debut, showing plenty of swagger, good speed and range in center, and also putting some great swings on the ball. Mase, as I believe he likes to be called, singled in the seventh, and then again with one out in the top of the ninth, turning on a sinker from Tampa’s lefty sidearmer Hoby Milner. Elder statesman Mark Trumbo followed as a pinch hitter for Ruiz. I’d say that decision worked out OK: Trumbo tagged a liner into the corner that the left fielder Pham bobbled, allowing a speedy Williams to chug home for a huge insurance run. 4-2 O’s.
Wouldn’t you know it, the bullpen did not blow this one. Shawn Armstrong pitched a crisp sixth, striking out D’Arnaud and pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi. He stayed on for the seventh, and escaped without a run allowed. Although Hyde’s attempt at a lefty-lefty matchup in the eighth (pinch hitter Austin Meadows vs. Paul Fry) ended with failure and the leadoff hitter aboard, a fantastic Mychal Givens came in and shut down the side. Against Pham and D’Arnaud, Givens got two swinging strikeouts. Avisail Garcia has owned Givens in the past, with a pair of home runs, but after tossing Garcia a couple of breaking balls out of the zone, Givens came upstairs with the heat and drew a pop foul for out number three. It was a masterful performance.
With a two-run cushion, Hyde turned to Bleier to close this one out, and this time, Bleier did not disappoint. He tossed a perfect ninth, flashing the breaking stuff of olde.
It comes as a surprise to nobody that the Orioles are, at this point in the season, relegated to the spoiler role, but fans who tuned in for this one were treated to a rare masterful start-to-finish performance by the pitching staff, some excellent defense, and a lot of great at-bats put together by the offense. Now onto Game Two.
Who was the Most Birdland Player in Game 1?
This poll is closed
Ty Blach (5 IP, 2R, 2H, major bounceback)
Rio Ruiz (2-for-3, 2-run dong)
Mason Williams (2-for-4 in Orioles debut, good defense in CF)
Mychal Givens (2 SOs, stranded runner in a nasty eighth)
Mark Trumbo (1-for-1 with an RBI double as a PH, crucial insurance run)