Orioles starter Jorge López has a complicated relationship with the fifth inning. López, whom the Orioles claimed from Kansas City in August of last year, has a tendency to start strong in games but waver as the contest continues.
Think of the first inning as a first date. López is out to make a good first impression without revealing any of his flaws— opposing batters hit just .143 in the first frame. After a strong start, things begin to heat up. López keeps his cool though, limiting hitters to an identical .143 average in the second.
After a while, López feels comfortable enough to reveal his vulnerable side. The average in the third inning spikes to .261, and his ERA climbs all the way to 6.00. López could turn and run, but at 28-years-old he has matured. He’s ready to settle down in the fourth with a .217 opponent average and a 3.00 ERA.
Unfortunately, things always fall apart in the fifth inning. López entered tonight’s date with the Red Sox holding a whopping 42.43 ERA and .517 opponent average in the fifth. López had not recorded an out in the sixth inning this season.
Not until tonight.
López tamed his fifth-inning commitment issues to deliver 5.2 frames of one-run ball. The Orioles bullpen did their part, and the offense provided enough to clinch a victory for the Orioles. Baltimore avoided a four-game sweep and picked up a rare home victory with a 4-1 win over Boston.
López allowed a Hunter Renfroe double to start the fifth which immediately led to cries of “here we go again.” With the score even at one, the leash could not have been tighter on the righty. Tanner Scott began to warm during a brief meeting on the mound.
Renfroe advanced to third on a ground out by Franchy Cordero, but Brandon Hyde allowed López to keep working with the go-ahead run 90-feet away. López took the vote of confidence and ran with it. He struck out Bobby Dalbec for the second out and sent Marwin Gonzalez down swinging to end the threat.
Anyone in a long term relationship will tell you that the work never stops. With a low pitch count, López returned in the sixth. He produced two quick ground balls from Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez for a pair of outs. López came within a strike of finishing the sixth inning before Xander Bogaerts muscled a ball off the end of the bat and into center field.
Cedric Mullins raced in and attempted to rob Bogaerts in center, but the ball landed ahead of a diving Mullins. The ball trickled back into center field and Bogaerts hustled into second base. The knock was enough to summon Hyde from the dugout and close the book on López’s longest outing of the year.
Scott entered and allowed Bogaerts to advance on a wild pitch, but the lefty slammed the door with a 97 MPH fastball.
The Orioles snatched the lead in the bottom of the sixth and never relinquished it. Trey Mancini connected with a pitch in the middle of the zone and sent it 440 feet from home plate. The blast marked the Orioles’ second homer of the day after Ryan Mountcastle powered a fly ball over the left field fence in the second.
Mullins ledoff the eighth inning with Baltimore in need of some insurance. Mullins popped a ball to the left side, but Boston had played him to pull. The ball bounced off the glove of a running Bogaerts and trickled further into left field. Mullins never broke stride on the play and took advantage when nobody was left to cover third base. He raced all the way to third in what could easily represent the best hustle play of the season.
Austin Hays stepped up and worked a walk to put runners on the corners. Mancini, the club’s leader in RBIs, stepped up and delivered another clutch hit. The bouncer up the middle plated Mullins, and Hays eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Freddy Galvis.
Travis Lakins worked a clean seventh. Paul Fry struckout a pair and generated a ground ball in the eighth, and César Valdez worked a scoreless ninth to notch his eighth save of the season. Valdez sent Martinez back to the dugout with a sidearm changeup in the dirt, and struck out Devers to clinch the victory. Scott received the win despite facing only one batter.
The Orioles bullpen did not allow a hit or walk in 3.1 innings. They combined for six strikeouts and refused to produce any drama. This is the recipe for success in 2021 and the ‘pen delivered a doozy of a performance today.
Bad analogy aside, the game represented an accomplishment for López. He may have missed out on the victory, but he delivered his deepest start of the season against the best offense in baseball. With the Orioles still clinging to the same thought that countless girls fall victim to— “maybe I can change him”— the outing marked a crucial first step.
Who was the most Birdland player for Monday, May 10?
This poll is closed
Jorge López (5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 5 K)
Trey Mancini (2-4, HR, 2 RBI)
The Bullpen (3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 6 K)