Even though it was a close, dramatic game all afternoon, it really looked like the Orioles were going to get their first win of the road trip. But everything unraveled in the ninth, with Cole Sulser’s blown save plunging a dagger into those hopes.
As far as silver linings, you can just keep checking off boxes on the list of firsts for Oriole rookie Ryan Mountcastle. Included today were the following: first three hit game, first major league home run and first multi-homer game.
But a team is only as good as it’s starting pitching, which brings us to Jorge Lopez. We’d seen a few appearances from Lopez out of the Orioles’ bullpen over the past couple weeks, but today we got to see him start a game. Talk about roster turnover...he wasn’t even in the organization until a couple weeks ago.
Lopez’s efficiency and demeanor were the first two things that stuck out. He only needed 11 pitches to retire the Blue Jays in order in the first and he looked calm and confident doing it.
Tanner Roark’s pitch efficiency stood in stark contrast early on. Through two innings, the Blue Jays starter’s pitch count was up to 41.
Mountcastle hit the first home run of his major league career in the second and it was a no-doubter, leaving the bat at 104.1 mph and traveling an estimated 420 feet over the left field fence.
Back to the pitching side, Orioles’ starter Jorge Lopez threw a whopping five pitches in his half of the second. Then another 10 in the third. The righty navigated the Blue Jays’ order the first time around by throwing a lot of sinkers and four-seamers in the low-to-mid 90s while working in his knuckle curve and the occasional changeup to keep hitters off balance.
The game slowed down for the Orioles with the defense on the field in the fourth. Pedro Severino started the inning off with a great play, showing off his athleticism when Cavan Biggio laid down a bunt in an attempt to get the Jays’ first hit of the day. Severino leapt up from behind home plate, pounced on the ball, spun and fired a rocket to first for the out. But then noted Oriole killer Randal Grichuk laced the Blue Jays’ first hit of the game down the left field line for a double. A walk would follow; Lopez’s first allowed in the game.
The Orioles’ starter looked like he might wriggle out of trouble after a sacrifice fly moved Grichuk to third while also serving as the second out of the inning. But a bounding ground ball off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ate up Andrew Velazquez behind the bag at second, scooting past the O’s shortstop into center field and driving home Grichuk to tie the game at 1.
After back-to-back free passes were issued by Lopez to start the fifth, we got confirmation that nothing good happens after a leadoff walk. Catcher Reese McGuire moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, after which consecutive runs scored on a single and a sac fly, both in the direction of Anthony Santander in right. That’s when manager Brandon Hyde pulled Lopez from the game.
Lopez’s uneven performance wasn’t entirely unexpected, considering the pitcher’s varied usage this season in his brief time with the O’s. He allowed six baserunners and struck out three batters over 4.2 innings (63 pitches) while giving up a total of three runs.
Jumping ahead to the Orioles’ half of the sixth, Renato Nunez clanked a double off the top of the center field wall to start the inning and advanced to third on a ball in the dirt with Pedro Severino at the plate. The O’s catcher was able to come through in that same at-bat with an RBI line drive single to left, cutting the Blue Jays’ lead in half.
Ryan Mountcastle then strolled to the plate with a perfect 2-for-2 batting line up to that point. And what do you know, he did it again, launching his second home run of the afternoon. This one was a two-run shot that he pulled 410 feet to left at an exit velocity of 100.1 mph, and just like that the Orioles were back on top, 4-3. It was also the salvo that drove Roark from the game.
The Blue Jays’ starter allowed eight hits, including two home runs, and two walks along with five strikeouts, culminating in four earned runs.
Mason Williams greeted the new Jays’ pitcher, Anthony Kay, with a triple that flopped on the warning track in right and came to a full stop at the base of the wall. With Velazquez at the plate, a base running error ensued as Williams was caught dancing off of third and got run down for the second out of the inning. Velazquez struck out a few pitches later.
There was a tense moment in the field in the bottom of the seventh when Mountcastle and Velazquez collided in shallow left field while chasing down a pop-up. Mountcastle actually went into a late slide as he coasted toward the infield and Velazquez tripped over this legs while securing the ball. Luckily both players were uninjured.
Hunter Harvey made his much anticipated 2020 debut after being held out up to this point due to injury. He recorded the first two outs of the eighth but was pulled after allowing a single and a walk.
With Tanner Scott inheriting Harvey’s runners, the Blue Jays tied the score at four with a single to right. One line drive out later, the game headed to the ninth.
The Orioles were able to manufacture a run after Rio Ruiz started the inning off with a single. The O’s third baseman advanced to second on a sac bunt and then to third on a ground ball. Jose Iglesias was responsible for the go-ahead RBI, beating out a ground ball to shortstop that allowed Ruiz to score.
Harm was inflicted in the ninth after a leadoff walk by Cole Sulser. The Orioles’ closer was able to retire the next two batters on a sacrifice bunt and a pop-up, but then he walked two more guys — Grichuk and Travis Shaw — to load the bases. Then Teoscar Hernandez got to play hero for the Jays by lining a single to left, driving in the tying and go-ahead runs.
Nothing good ever happens after a leadoff walk.