Just when it seemed a questionable decision was going to doom the Orioles, another shaky decision helped make it a good night for the home team at Camden Yards.
Baltimore’s six-game losing streak is history, as Pedro Severino’s walk-off single capped a two-run rally in the bottom of the 10th and lifted the Orioles to a 5-4 decision over the Boston Red Sox.
The Orioles were staring at a seventh straight loss with a 4-3 deficit going into the final inning, but - aided by the Red Sox - quickly began their comeback. The inning began with Rio Ruiz at second as per the new rule, and with the speedy Cedric Mullins at the plate, Boston, smelling a bunt, pulled the infield in.
The intuition proved correct as Mullins dragged a bunt down the first base line, one that left first baseman Mitch Moreland with only the option of getting Mullins at first and allowing Ruiz to get to third. Moreland, however, went for the lead runner, and with no force on the play, there was no chance at all of getting the out. Suddenly, runner on third with one out became first and third with no outs, and the Orioles were in business.
The decision may not have played much of a role in Baltimore’s tying the game, as Matt Barnes then threw a wild pitch to Hanser Alberto and Ruiz scored easily, but it played a major role in the rally’s extended life. Alberto ended up walking, putting runners at the corners, and with no outs, Boston walked Anthony Santander to set up the force.
Andrew Velazquez struck out looking, which instead of being the second out was only the first, meaning the Red Sox still had to keep their fielders in, even bringing in Jackie Bradley Jr. as a fifth infielder. The desperation alignment didn’t have the desired effect, however, as Severino lined a Barnes offering into the vacant center field to score Mullins with the winner.
Half an inning earlier, the Orioles were the ones who seemed destined to spend the night ruing a debatable decision. Cole Sulser, who had already pitched the ninth, stayed on for the 10th, and though he started off by whiffing Rafael Devers, things quickly went south. He walked J.D. Martinez, putting runners on first and second. Then he walked Xander Bogaerts on four pitches to load the bases, his offerings straying further and further from the strike zone.
Manager Brandon Hyde had his closer just under 30 pitches and Miguel Castro warm in the bullpen, but he stuck with Sulser to work his way out of the jam. The plan worked about as well as everyone else watching the game figured it would, as Sulser walked Moreland on four pitches to bring in Alex Verdugo and put Boston ahead 4-3.
Hyde then went to Castro, who showed what might have been by first fanning Christian Vazquez on three of the nastiest pitches you’ll see, and then getting Kevin Pillar to pop to second.
The lead was still at one. As it turned out, Castro’s relief would loom large.
The exciting finish made up for a sleepy start, as the Orioles were unwitting players in the Martin Perez Show. The Boston left-hander was excellent, allowing only a Pat Valaika home run in the second inning as far as runs and permitting only five hits in seven innings. Meanwhile, he got his support from a Bradley home run and Verdugo RBI double in the fifth, and then a Pillar infield single that scored Moreland in the sixth.
The Orioles rarely made Perez work, but when they did, he was up for the challenge. Down 3-1 in the seventh, Baltimore put two on with one out when Pedro Severino singled and Valaika walked, but a tiring Perez mustered up an escape. He got Ryan Mountcastle to ground weakly to the mound for the second out, then got a flyout to right from Bryan Holaday to end the threat.
That was all for Perez, and the Orioles soon expressed their pleasure at seeing someone else. The free-swinging Alberto drew a two-out walk off Josh Taylor in the eighth, and Santander turned on a Taylor offering and crushed a drive that sailed inside the left field pole for a home run, knotting the score at 3.
The Orioles were closing in on a walk-off win in the ninth, again with two outs, after Mountcastle reached on the first hit of his career (a swinging bunt to third. Don’t worry, kid, it goes in the books as a line drive) and Chance Sisco drew a pinch-hit walk. Ruiz was then summoned to pinch hit, and he struck out swinging against Boston’s Ryan Brasier.
No matter. Ruiz had more work to do in the 10th.
The night featured a bounce-back effort of sorts from starter Alex Cobb, who was hit hard by Toronto in his last start, but who allowed two runs on six hits in five innings this time around.
Cobb wasn’t the story, however. It was an impressive day for the Orioles bullpen, especially after Boston took the 3-1 lead. The Red Sox still had two on, but Tanner Scott came on and got Bradley to fly out and then Jose Peraza to ground out to end the threat.
Mychal Givens took his place and tossed 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, and Sulser started hot before losing his command. Castro capped the team effort with his clutch escape in the 10th, clearing the path for Baltimore’s rally. It’s always a good night when the bullpen is on, and the O’s get just the relief they’re looking for.
Who was the most Birdland player for August 22?
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Pedro Severino (2-for-5, game-winning single)
Anthony Santander (1-for-4, game-tying two-run HR)
Pat Valaika (2-for-3, HR)
Miguel Castro (WP, left bases loaded in 10th)