Only yesterday, the Orioles traded Miguel Castro to the Mets for pitching prospect Kevin Smith. This marked the Orioles as sellers and the Mets as buyers, though as it ended up the O’s entered this game with a better record than those same Mets. It may take a bit more than Castro to fix what’s wrong with that team. The post-selloff O’s showed the Mets that in a slugfest on Tuesday night, coming out on top, 9-5.
The win combined with a Blue Jays loss brings the O’s back within 2.5 games of the #8 seed in the American League. It’s a longshot, but they’re not dead in the water yet. Their next eleven games are all against either the Mets or the Yankees, so that’ll go a long way to figuring out if they stay.
Unfortunately for the Mets, the Blue Jays were playing the Marlins, who the Mets are chasing for a playoff spot. The Jays loss meant a Marlins win, and the Mets loss only kicks them farther away from a postseason spot. Thanks for Smith, guys. ESPN’s standings somehow still give them a 56.6% chance to qualify for the postseason.
The Orioles jumped out on the motley Mets pitching staff right from the beginning. Cedric Mullins broke up the no-hitter to lead off the bottom of the first, dropping his MLB-leading seventh bunt hit of the season down the third base line. One batter later, Jose Iglesias doubled into the gap for his 12th double of the season. A nice second and third rally with one out, though the O’s have failed to score in plenty of slam-dunk situations this season.
In this game, Renato Núñez had other plans. Núñez connected with a high fastball and drove it over the fence in center field, just out of the reach of the leaping center fielder Brandon Nimmo. In as long as it took Núñez to trot around the bases, the Orioles had themselves a 3-0 lead.
There was no sitting comfortable on this lead. O’s starter Asher Wojciechowski set about giving the runs back almost immediately with a laborious second inning that sent seven Mets batters to the plate. They had men on second and third with none out after a single and a double, as no out situations continue to plague Wojciechowski. Batters entered tonight’s game hitting .357/.400/.738 off of Wojo when there are none out.
The Mets runners crossed home, first from a Pete Alonso sacrifice fly and then from a Luis Guillorme RBI single. The tying run was on first base with only one out. It could have been worse. Although Wojciechowski made us sweat, including walking the #9 Mets batter Ali Sanchez, he escaped the second inning holding on to a 3-2 lead.
Some games this year, the Orioles seem like they’ve scored early and then shut down. This was not one of those games. After touching up Mets starter Ariel Jurado for three in the first, they piled on more in the second. As well they should, because Jurado entered the game with a 5.85 ERA in his MLB career, making his first MLB appearance of the season because he’s nobody’s Plan A or even Plan B.
8-9 hitters Pat Valaika and Andrew Velazquez started off the inning with consecutive singles, advancing as Mullins tried and failed to leg out another bunt. This was one of four hits in the game for Valaika. Given two men in scoring position and one out, the O’s managed to score both. Anthony Santander drove in Valaika with a single and Velazquez scored on a fielder’s choice, with Iglesias picking up the RBI.
Jurado stayed in through four innings, but the damage was done. He gave up nine hits in four innings, all nine of which were classified as “hard hit” on Statcast - that is, with a 95mph exit velocity or greater. He was charged with the full Tommy Hunter, five runs all earned.
Hanging the five spot on Jurado proved crucial for the O’s, since after all they still had seven more innings to get through. The ancient Robinson Cano (OK, he’s 37) smacked a pitch onto the flag court with two outs to bring the Mets back within two. That’s where Wojciechowski left things, getting through five innings with seven hits and one walk allowed. He struck out five Mets. It’s not great, but sometimes it works.
Which is not to say it worked well enough for Wojo to be awarded the win. His lead lasted four batters after he came out of the game. Reliever Thomas Eshelman entered and got two outs quickly, bringing up the bottom of the Mets lineup. Guillorme reached on an infield single, then #8 hitter Andres Gimenez tied the game with a two-run homer.
For that extra special “Oh yeah, it’s 2020” touch, Gimenez entered this game with zero MLB homers in 67 plate appearances. It’s tremendously Orioles to suddenly have a tie game thanks to a pitcher giving up a dinger to that guy.
The Mets, though, were not done Mets-ing. After his team tied up the game, long reliever Franklyn Kilome walked the first batter he saw in the bottom of the sixth, ice cold Rio Ruiz. A wild pitch put Ruiz in scoring position right away. Valaika, on whom sobriquets such as “Nate McStout,” “Bag of Milk,” and “Pat the Bat” have been bestowed in his month-plus Birdland tenure, doubled to drive in Ruiz and put the O’s back on top. Don’t ask me to explain “Bag of Milk.”
Two outs later, Valaika still stood on second base waiting to be driven home. Santander obliged, blasting a ball that bounced into the front rows of the bleachers in front of the Jumbotron, setting up an 8-5 O’s lead. They needed no further runs, though Núñez, not wanting to be left out, added a second homer for the game to seal the 9-5 final. Santander’s homer was his 11th of the season. Entering today’s play, only six players had more home runs than that. Núñez now has nine dingers.
Five Orioles had multi-hit games, led by Valaika’s four. Eight of the nine starters got a hit. Only Ryan Mountcastle missed out on the party. There’s always tomorrow. Paul Fry, Hunter Harvey, and Tanner Scott added a scoreless inning apiece to finish things off. Despite Eshelman giving up two runs in his one inning, the official scorer decided to give him a win. He’s 3-0 in 2020. The second Núñez homer meant there was no save.
The Orioles are now 13-1 when leading after seven innings. The Mets have lost five straight.
This brief two-game set concludes tomorrow afternoon with a scheduled 4:35 start time. Michael Wacha, he of a 7.41 ERA, is set to start for the Mets, but don’t get cocky, because John Means and his 8.59 ERA are starting for the O’s.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 1, 2020?
This poll is closed
Pat "Bag of Milk" Valaika (4-4, go-ahead RBI)
Renato Núñez (2 HR, 4 RBI)
Anthony Santander (2-4, HR, 3 RBI)