The Orioles are in first place in the AL East in late July. Their lineup collected 10 hits, walked eight times and secured a 7-4, series-clinching win over the division rival Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon. Baseball is back, and it is glorious!
Jose Iglesias registered his first hit of the day in the top of the first inning, setting the table for clean-up hitter Rio Ruiz to smack his league-leading second home run of the season into the Boston bullpen.
Rio Ruiz - Baltimore Orioles (2) Solo— MLB Home Runs (@HomeRunVideos) July 26, 2020
Distance: 388 ft
Exit Velocity: 102.0 mph
Launch Angle: 22°pic.twitter.com/fePWATucP9
Orioles starter Wade LeBlanc started his afternoon with a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the first but did serve up a two-out home run to Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez in the second, cutting the road team’s advantage in half.
Christian Vázquez - Boston Red Sox (1) Solo— MLB Home Runs (@HomeRunVideos) July 26, 2020
Distance: 389 ft
Exit Velocity: 101.0 mph
Launch Angle: 41°pic.twitter.com/4RkNR3KWxL
It wouldn’t be long before the O’s would reclaim the ground they lost. Anthony Santander led off the third inning with a walk before coming around to score on Iglesias’s second knock of the day, a double to the left-center gap. It looked like Santander was going to stay at third, but a loopy throw from left fielder Alex Verdugo to the cut-off man allowed the baserunner to score from first and give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
That lead grew in the top of the fourth inning. DJ Stewart bunted to move over Renato Nunez and Chance Sisco, who had singled and walked, respectively, ahead of him. A long sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Austin Hays would score Nunez and move Sisco to third. Moments later, Santander launched a line drive homer into the Orioles bullpen to make it a 6-1 advantage for the good guys.
Anthony Santander - Baltimore Orioles (1) 2-run— MLB Home Runs (@HomeRunVideos) July 26, 2020
Distance: 401 ft
Exit Velocity: 102.7 mph
Launch Angle: 23° pic.twitter.com/sVYtgHDfoK
The “Santander Show” continued in the bottom of the frame as he recorded the final out in impressive fashion, stealing a wall-scraping home run away from Xander Bogarts near the Pesky Pole in right field.
We feel like we've seen this before pic.twitter.com/8RAXw3hoUu— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 26, 2020
Meanwhile, LeBlanc was cruising. Through his first four innings the lefty faced just 13 hitters and recorded 12 outs, striking out three. Kevin Pillar messed things up a tad by leading off the fifth inning with a solo shot of his own. But LeBlanc rebounded to retire the next three hitters in order.
Kevin Pillar - Pittsburgh Pirates (1) Solopic.twitter.com/shv0GtWd5g— MLB Home Runs (@HomeRunVideos) July 26, 2020
The 35-year-old returned to the bump for the sixth inning, but wouldn’t make it out. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to open up the frame and would move to third on a double from Rafael Devers, which knocked LeBlanc from the game.
Miguel Castro was the first to trot in from the ‘pen. He was set to face Xander Bogaerts again, just as he had on Saturday, when he struck out the slugger to end a threat. Castro wouldn’t be as fortunate on this day. Bogaerts smacked the second pitch he saw from Castro into left field, scoring both base-runners and closing the book on LeBlanc.
Over 5.2 innings LeBlanc allowed four runs on four hits, no walks, four strikeouts and two home runs. It’s not the prettiest line, but it felt like a much more impressive performance in the moment. He will certainly get another turn in the Orioles pitching-starved rotation.
The O’s added an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning. Hanser Alberto singled and then crossed the plate a few pitches later on a Chris Davis double (his first hit of the year!) off the top of the Green Monster.
It was up to Cole Sulser to finish off the game, and he did just that. In two scoreless innings of work, Sulser struck out two and allowed just one hit en route to the first save of his career. The 30-year-old rookie seems poised to play an important role in Brandon Hyde’s bullpen moving forward.
You can only glean so much from one game, but there was a lot to like about this performance. This was the second straight day that the pitching staff did not issue any walks. At the same time, the lineup walked eight times.
Conversely, there is room for improvement. For the second straight day an Orioles base runner (Alberto on Saturday, Davis today) seemingly forgot how many outs there were and got doubled up because of it. Even on a rebuilding team, that is an unacceptable mistake that should rarely —if ever— happen on a professional field.
The Orioles are now slated to face the Marlins for two games in Miami before heading to Camden Yards for the first time this year to play two more games against those same Marlins. That team is currently dealing with a minor outbreak of COVID-19 in their clubhouse, but that doesn’t seem like it will impact the start of the series.
Asher Wojciechowski (4-8, 4.92 ERA in 2019) takes the mound for the O’s. He will be opposed by righty Pablo Lopez (5-8, 5.09 ERA in 2019). First pitch is 7:10 p.m. from Miami.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, July 26?
This poll is closed
Wade LeBlanc (W, 5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 4 SO)
Cole Sulser (S, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 SO)
Jose Iglesias (4-for-5, 2 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI)
Anthony Santander (1-for-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, nice defense)
Rio Ruiz (2nd dong of the year)