Dontcha love doubleheaders? In Game 1 of a Friday night’s two-game contest, the Orioles were done in by their inability to drive in runners on base, leaving 11 men stranded. In Game 2, down a run, they socked four two-out hits in a row to put the Yankees in a 6-3 hole they wouldn’t climb out of.
It’s understandable if, when this season started, you weren’t exactly fantasizing about an Orioles lineup featuring Dilson Herrera at first, Pat Valaika at second, Andrew Velazquez at short, and DJ Stewart in right. Unfortunately, with José Iglesias and Hanser Alberto both day-to-day, Anthony Santander nursing a possible oblique injury (gosh, let’s hope tests come back negative), and Chris Davis, well, who knows, you make do with what you’ve got.
It was this murderers’ row that the Orioles sent out to do battle with the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect (per MLB), Deivi Garcia, making just his second major-league start. A strikeout machine over five seasons in the minors, Garcia is a high-spin guy, and with a plus-curveball, fading changeup, and fastball with spin, he racked up six K’s in six innings against the Mets last week.
Scouts consider Garcia’s best pitch the curveball, and tonight, you could see why his fastball is stuck in the supporting actor role. Clocked at 91-96 mph, it remained in the 91-92 mph range for most of tonight, and in the second inning, it proved a distinct liability. Pedro Severino singled on one down in the zone, then Ryan Mountcastle got a similar fastball tailing inside. Whipping his hands around, Mountcastle dumped the ball into the left-field bleachers to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, making just his second start of the season with a new team was the dark horse of the Orioles rotation, Jorge López. Coming into this game, all I knew about the Orioles’ new righty was that he pitches right-handed and had a bad ERA (6.59, to be exact) in not very many innings. Tonight, I also learned that Brandon Hyde loves López’s stuff. Well, trust in your manager: right out of the gate, López flashed 96 mph on his four-seam fastball, 95 on his sinker, and mixed in around those an 87-mph changeup and an 82-mph knuckle curve. Orioles fans could definitely get used to this…
Through two innings, López had allowed just a soft single, but in the third, defensive shenanigans culminated in an unearned run. After a leadoff single by Yankees shortstop Tyler Wade, López uncorked a wild pitch. As the runner broke for second, Severino scrambled for the ball, made a not-quite-360° turn, then split the infielders with a no-look throw. It was a gross overreaction by the normally solid catcher, and it proved costly. Wade took third on the error, then scored on a weak groundout to cut the Orioles’ lead in half.
More bad fielding in the fourth. López walked the still-speedy and ever-pesky Brett Gardner, but two nice running grabs by the surging Cedric Mullins made it seem like López would wriggle out of trouble. The fourth hitter of the inning grounded weakly to third, but Rio Ruiz’s throw sailed wide of Herrera to put runners at second and third. Catcher Erik Kratz did what the Orioles had seemingly lost the ability to do—club a two-out RBI—and across the plate came two runs to make it 3-2, Yankees.
Meanwhile, Deivi Garcia had kept the Orioles quiet over the middle innings, scattering just a Mullins soft single and stolen base, a well-worked walk by DJ Stewart, and a hustling infield single by Mountcastle in the fourth.
Then, with one out in the fifth, the whole game changed. DJ Stewart worked his second walk of the game. (He’d later reach base for a third time with a HBP, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he is trying to see how high he can get his OBP without recording a single hit.) Núñez, who can’t seem to lay off changeups that break out of the zone, struck out for the third time today. While I mentally prepared myself to write, “The Orioles’ struggles with RISP continued,” the skies opened, and RBIs poured out.
With two outs, Pedro Severino, who’s become a singles-hitting machine, singled to left. The Yankees lifted Garcia for another rookie, Clarke Schmidt, and this proved a good thing. Ryan Mountcastle sliced a two-out single to center (his third hit of the game) to tie things up. Rio Ruiz, who may be emerging from his offensive deep freeze, singled the other way, and Severino came hustling home to give Baltimore a 4-3 lead. The Yankees left Schmidt in to face Pat the Bat. Bad move, dudes. Valaika thwacked a double to right that scored Mountcastle and a hustling, fired-up Rio Ruiz. When the dust had settled, it was 6-3 Orioles.
Two wild, loopy innings from the confounding soft-tosser César Valdez later, the Orioles had this one all sewed up.
It was a convincing performance all around. None of the Yankees’ three runs were charged to López, which, along with the Orioles’ rare late-inning rally, helped to make his 88-pitch start seem much nicer in retrospect than it felt in the fifth. With his wildness, slow, loopy stuff, and the infuriated reactions he draws from hitters, Valdez in relief reminds me a little of last season’s Stevie “Dr. Poo Poo” Wilkerson. More professional, of course, but still, kinda offbeat and fun. Meanwhile, Ryan Mountcastle is playing his face off, with a .356 average, three homers and eight RBIs in twelve games. He’s making contact, he’s hustling, he’s playing decent defense. Going out on a limb here, I’d say that so far this Mountcastle experiment is working out just fine.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 4th?
This poll is closed
Jorge López (5 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO)
Ryan Mountcastle (3-for-3, 2 R, 3 RBIs)
Pat "The Bat" Valaika (1-for-3, 2-run double)
Pedro Severino (2-for-4, 2 R, started two-out rally in the fifth)