Every team is going to lose ugly. It’s how a team responds that distinguishes a winning club from the others. Baltimore suffered a double-digit beat down Friday night, but the stink of that loss did not linger. The Orioles scored early and often, and even the series with a 7-3 victory over the Nationals.
Baltimore wasted no time getting things started. Anthony Santander walked on four pitches, and José Iglesias flicked a 1-2 slider down the left field line to put two runners in scoring position. Renato Núñez lined a ball into the shift for the second out, and Baltimore nearly missed out on a prime opportunity for an early lead.
Pedro Severino worked the count full on Nationals’ starter Patrick Corbin, and eventually ripped a ball just inside the third baseline. Both runners scored with ease, and Severino ended up on second base. Pat Valaika bounced out to end the inning, but Baltimore had made Nationals’ starter Patrick Corbin work. The $140-million man threw 28 pitches in the first inning.
Washington hung a 15-spot on Baltimore last night, so two runs certainly was not going to do it. The Orioles tacked on to their early lead with help from a pair of unlikely contributors. Bryan Holaday, Baltimore’s third catcher, punched a one-out single to left field. Utility man Andrew Velazquez followed with a knock he’ll remember for a long time.
Velazquez, who made his first ever start in center field, ripped a ball down the right-field line that bounced into the corner. Holaday, who, again, is the Orioles third catcher, managed to truck his way all the way around from first. Holaday dove head first and slid around the throw, while Velazquez cruised into third base. The hit marked Velazquez’s first triple and first RBI at the Major League level.
Hanser Alberto stepped in and quickly drove in Velazquez with a sacrifice fly. Two innings in, the Birds led by four.
Orioles’ starter Asher Wojciechowski has notoriously struggled in the first inning, and today flashed potential for more trouble. Leadoff hitter Trea Turner ripped one up the middle, but was erased on a double play. Wojo walked Juan Soto, but struckout Asdrubal Cabrera to end the threat.
Wojciechowski settled down after the first. He sent Washington down in order in the second, and faced the minimum in the third thanks to another double-play ball.
The O’s bats came up empty in the third, and the Nats broke through in the fourth. Adam Eaton sent a leadoff single to left, and Soto followed with a 417-foot blast to center field. At just 21-years-old, Soto continues to strengthen his reputation as one of the best young players in the game.
The blast by Soto cut the lead in half, and put a bit of pressure on Baltimore. The Orioles answered in a hurry.
Rio Ruiz, hitting in the seven-hole, led off the fourth with a solo shot that just cleared the out-of-town scoreboard. The homer stretched the lead to three, but symbolized an answer from the Orioles’ offense. The Nationals would not get within two runs for the remainder of the game.
Wojciechowski responded well with a shutdown inning in the fifth. Brandon Hyde felt confident enough to send the starter back out in the sixth, but Wojciechowski conceded a leadoff home run to Turner. That was all Hyde needed to see.
The Orioles summoned Tanner Scott from the bullpen, and he did not disappoint. Scott produced a pair of ground outs from Eaton and Soto before striking out Cabrera to end the inning. Anytime a reliever punches out a team’s two three and four hitters in order, one has to tip their cap.
Scott delivered two more outs in the seventh, before Hyde turned to Mychal Givens. Givens generated a fly ball from Washington’s top prospect Carter Kierboom to end the inning.
Givens recorded the first two outs in the eighth, but another base hit from Turner chased him from the game. Cole Sulser entered to face Eaton and the veteran gave it a ride, but defensive replacement Cedric Mullins tracked the ball down in right-center field for the final out of the inning.
The Orioles picked up an insurance run after a pair of two-out singles by Alberto and Santander. José Iglesias drove in the game’s final run with a single to left that plated Alberto.
Iglesias finished 3-5 with an RBI and run scored. The shortstop is still visibly nursing a sore quad, but just continues to hit. Alberto went 2-4 with a pair of RBIs and a run scored. They were the only two O’s to record multiple hits.
Eight Baltimore batters hit safely, which is a pretty good recipe for success. Holaday delivered with a knock in a rare DH opportunity, and outfielders Velazquez and Valaika both reached base. Both utility players will be depended on after Austin Hays made his way to the injured list with a fractured rib. Velazquez’s speed allows him to play center field, and a 2-4 night with two runs scored could keep him in the lineup over Mullins.
The Orioles bounced back from last night’s debacle in a big way. No one is printing the World Series shirts just yet, but it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about this team as a contender. In a year with expanded playoffs, Baltimore has a real shot to be there a third of the way through the season.
Every team loses games. Good teams answer with a victory.
Wojciechowski worked long enough to pick up his first win of the season, while Corbin took the loss. The Orioles continue to do damage against top-tier pitchers such as Corbin, Jake Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow.
If the Birds end up in the playoffs, they’ll face quality pitchers. It must provide a young team confidence to have success against some of the league’s best.
With the first of yesterday’s games backdated to last week, the Orioles will need a win tomorrow to take the series. John Means is set to make his return against three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
Don’t count ‘em out yet.
Who was the most Birdland player for August 15?
This poll is closed
Josê Iglesias (3-5, R, RBI)
Andrew Velazquez (2-4, 2 R, 2 RBI. First career start in CF, first triple, first RBIs)
Asher Wojciechowski (5.1 innings, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 K. First win of the season)
Tanner Scott (1.2 innings, 0 H, 0 R, 2 K)