When the Orioles fell behind the Yankees, 4-0, before they even had a chance to come up to bat, Sunday’s game looked like a much different one than it looked by the time it ended. A couple of struggling O’s broke out in a big way to support long reliever/guy following an opener Bruce Zimmermann, giving the hometown Oriole his first hometown win. By the time all was said and done, the Orioles snapped their losing streak with a 10-6 victory.
Prior to the game, the Orioles were suggesting this might be something of a bullpen game effort. The plan did not survive contact with the enemy. They turned to Adam Plutko as a starting pitcher, probably intending for him to go two innings, maybe into a third inning.
In actuality, Plutko loaded the bases before he ever got an out. That kind of situation always takes a tightrope act to escape major damage on the scoreboard. Plutko almost did it. After a walk and two singles, he got Yankees cleanup hitter Gio Urshela to ground into a 5-3 double play. A run scored, but Plutko was one out away from being out of the jam. He almost did it! Then he gave up back-to-back home runs to Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier and the Orioles found themselves in a 4-0 hole.
As much from desperation as from design, the Orioles turned to Zimmermann, the erstwhile rotation member, for some bulk innings behind Plutko. Zimmermann became the latest Orioles pitcher to give up a home run to Aaron Judge. O’s beat writer Joe Trezza shared the absurd stat that Judge is tied for the lead in home runs hit at Camden Yards in 2021, with five in six games played. Sharing in the tie are Red Sox non-fielder Rafael Devers (seven games) and Trey Mancini (20 games). How ridiculous.
This was the only run allowed by Zimmermann in what turned into a 5.2 inning outing of relief. He kept the Yankees off balance and off base, allowing no more than one runner per inning from when he entered the game in the second until he left it in the seventh. In the process, he struck out six batters. Two hits, one walk, one run, and six strikeouts in 5.2 innings would look good as an outing from a back of the rotation pitcher.
Zimmermann’s effort would have been an afterthought if the offense had not arrived ready to play. They wasted little time chipping into the four-run lead that Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery had been staked before he ever threw a pitch. Mancini started a two-out rally with a walk. The next three O’s batters picked up hits, with Ryan Mountcastle grabbing an RBI double and Pedro Severino scoring another with a single. They were not going to just quietly roll over and let the Yankees have the sweep.
The offense was back for more in the third inning. Now trailing 5-2 after the lone run scored against Zimmermann, the O’s tagged Montgomery for three more runs to tie the game at 5-5. The inning started with Austin Hays hitting a double. A wild pitch during the second of Mancini’s three walks moved him to third base, where he scored on a Mountcastle sacrifice fly. Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis also added run-scoring hits in the inning, with Galvis scoring Franco to tie things up.
That third inning drove Montgomery from the game. He had held Orioles hitters to two runs in 11 innings over two previous starts in the 2021 season. The third time proved to be the charm for O’s hitters.
Franco’s and Mountcastle’s performances in the game stand out all the more because of how badly those players have been slumping. Franco was 4-for-52 dating back to April 27 before he picked up three hits in this game. Mountcastle had a nasty 0-for-13 heading into today, a hitless streak shattered with two hits. The slumps aren’t over. Franco is now 7-for-56. Mountcastle is 2-for-17. Those are both still bad, but in each case, it’s a start.
Mountcastle drove in four runs overall and Franco drove in three. These guys fueled the win almost on their own. Franco’s two-run home run in the seventh inning gave the O’s some insurance. Mountcastle added two more with an eighth inning single.
The insurance runs did prove important for letting the O’s hold on with minimal drama. Tanner Scott started the eighth inning after having gotten the final out of the seventh in relief of Zimmermann. He was the bad version of Scott, with little command to be found, and let the first two runners reach. Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t mess around, yanking Scott and bringing in his other lefty, Paul Fry, who defused the tension with a quick double play and strikeout.
To close out the game, Hyde called on César Valdez, though the O’s offense made sure it was a save situation no longer. Valdez allowed back-to-back singles, just about on the cusp of making you think, “Oh no, it’s getting interesting again.” The dead fish rallied to retire the next two batters and make things feel much less tense. Although the Yankees peeled back one run, that only made it 10-6. The tying run was only in the on deck circle with two outs. Valdez struck out Luke Voit to end the game with an Orioles win.
The Orioles are now 17-23 through their first 40 games. Over a full season, that’s on pace for about 69 wins. Literally half of the O’s games to date have been against the Yankees and Red Sox. The O’s are 4-6 against each of them; they are 9-11 against everyone else. They will not see either of those division rivals again until August. We can get a sense of who this team really is now. Maybe they’ll still be bad, or maybe they’ll be a little better than they’ve been to date.
A Monday off day awaits the O’s before they get back in action against the Rays on Tuesday night. It’s not like escaping from the Yankees brings on cupcake teams. The Rays are 23-19, only two games back of the division lead. They’re 12-7 on the road. It won’t be easy. It’ll be nice to finally see someone different, if nothing else.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for May 16, 2021?
This poll is closed
Maikel Franco (reversed nasty slump, 3 RBI)
Ryan Mountcastle (snapped nasty 0-for, 4 RBI)
Bruce Zimmermann (Baltimore guy got his first win in Baltimore)