For seven innings tonight, it felt like the return of the Orioles’ offensive mojo was just a mirage. They looked a lot more like the team that scored one run in three games against the Marlins than they did the team that scored 18 runs in their previous two games. But then, the eighth inning happened and all hope was restored.
It started with two pinch-hit homers and ended with an Earl Weaver Special. When the dust cleared, the Orioles were up 5-3, a score that would hold up to give the Orioles their second straight win against the Nationals.
Nationals’ starter Austin Voth held the Orioles to just two hits and one walk over five innings. The first two relievers that followed him were even better, as Javy Guerra and Tanner Rainey each pitched 1-2-3 innings.
The Nationals had scored two runs off of spot starter Thomas Eshelman and a third in the sixth thanks in part to to some throwing error and wild pitch shenanigans from Tanner Scott and Shawn Armstrong. By the end of the seventh, that three-run lead looked insurmountable.
But then came the eighth inning. And in the eighth inning, things unraveled for the Nationals in a hurry. Armed with a 3-0 lead, lefty relief pitcher and all around good human Sean Doolittle came in to try and continue the dominance the Nats had shown against the Orioles tonight. It was not meant to be.
Manager Brandon Hyde sent up pinch hitter Pat Valaika in place of the lefty Chance Sisco, and Valaika homered into the left field stands to break up the shutout. It was a solid home run, into the first few rows. Before Orioles fans at home were even finished celebrating, they were treated to a much more prodigious dinger. Pedro Severino, pinch hitting for Dwight Smith, Jr., launched the first pitch he saw 412 feet to left field. It was gorgeous. It was a beaut. It cut the lead to 3-2.
The third batter that Doolittle faced was Chris Davis, which meant he got a breather. Davis did hit one long-ish fly ball foul, but ultimately he did what we all expected and struck out. Doolittle was replaced by Daniel Hudson and I thought to myself, “Well, it’s nice that they made some noise but that will be it.”
But friends, I was wrong! Hudson also was in trouble immediately. He walked Austin Hays and then Singlin’ Hanser Alberto...singled. That’s why we call him that. That put on two runners for Anthony Santander, who hit the third homer of the inning to give the Orioles the lead. That’s right! They fought all the way back to take a two-run lead. What a turnaround! Surely it would be smooth sailing from here.
Well, then came the bottom half of the inning. I am happy to report to you up front that the Nationals didn’t score any runs, but they sure looked like they were going to cause trouble. It got to the point that I was ready to be mad at the Orioles for not just losing 3-0 in the first place.
Cole Sulser came in to start the bottom of the eighth and, after striking out Adam Eaton, walked Starlin Castro. No, don’t walk the guy in front of Juan Soto! Especially with only a two-run lead! But we didn’t need to worry about Soto, because Sulser walked him too. No, don’t walk two batters to bring up the go-ahead run!
Howie Kendrick grounded out for the second out, which moved up both runners. Sulser only had to get one more out. Eric Thames and his gigantic muscles walked to the plate and I won’t lie, I was a little worried. But if Sulser was, he didn’t show it. He struck out Thames swinging to end the inning. Never a doubt!
After the excitement of the eighth inning, the ninth was relatively quiet. The Orioles got a runner to second base with two outs, but Davis couldn’t bring him in. Hyde opted to bring in Miguel Castro to go for the save. Castro, who came in sporting a 0.00 ERA on the season, got the job done. He lost the strike zone just long enough to issue a one-out walk, but finished the night with a devastating slider that Trea Turner flailed at for strike three.
What a game! The Orioles have now evened their record at 7-7 and secured a series win. Tomorrow they’ll go for their second sweep of the season with Asher Wojciechowski starting on short rest against Stephen Strasburg, who will be making his 2020 debut. Game time is 12:35.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, August 8th?
This poll is closed
Pat Valaika (pinch hit home run!)
Pedro Severino (pinch hit home run that went even further!)
Anthony Santander (Earl Weaver Special, which was the go-ahead dinger)
Miguel Castro (first save of the season, 0.00 ERA)