On a night when Orioles minor leaguers shone bright and when, with the big-league club out West, many hard-working East Coasters were safely in their beds before the first pitch was even thrown, would there much to write home about from the Orioles-Mariners game on Tuesday night?
Nah. This was definitely one to sit out. Better, instead, to catch these highlights from DL Hall’s sizzling start at Bowie and look ahead to John Means’s start. But if you insist …
On Monday, the Orioles went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, then busted out in the eighth for five runs to win 5-3. Tonight, it was déjà vu all over again, except that this time, it was the Orioles’ bullpen that collapsed and the Mariners who had the big eighth inning.
For the first seven innings, these two teams were pretty evenly matched. Both starters allowed just one run on a solo home run apiece. The Mariners’ Justin Dunn, owner of a nice fastball and an even better curveball, lasted slightly longer than the Orioles’ Jorge López, but that’s all that can be said.
Dunn was wild the first few innings. He threw eight balls in his first 11 pitches. It would have been a nice thing to take advantage of, but nothing doing. In the first, a Cedric Mullins walk and stolen base (he really does do it all) was wasted when Hays and Mancini struck out on Dunn’s capable curveball, and Maikel Franco flew out harmlessly.
The Orioles put Dunn on the ropes again in the second, but again, the result: bupkis. The sharp-eyed DJ Stewart drew his first of two walks on the night. Dunn struck out an aggressive Ryan Mountcastle with a curveball (Ryan Mountcastle just could not tonight with all the breaking balls) before a hot Freddy Galvis squared up a fastball to put two on. Chance Sisco drew a timely walk. The bases were loaded with one out for Rio Ruiz, who received four straight curveballs. Two of them missed. With Ruiz fairly on the defensive, Dunn went to the fastball, and the lefty whiffed. Badly. Sigh. Mullins grounded out to kill the rally.
In the third, Mancini was denied on a ball on the warning track that right fielder Dylan Moore made a leaping grab on. It would have been a home run in Camden Yards, but them’s the breaks.
In the meantime, Jorge López was doing very similar things to the Mariners. López was fresh, fresh, fresh in the first inning, drawing two quick ground balls and a three-pitch strikeout. In the second, he allowed just a single sandwiched around a pair of groundballs and a flyball out. In one particularly impressive sequence, López went knuckle curve, changeup, and then drew weak contact on his 95-mph sinking fastball. He sat everybody down in the third quickly, with one especially pretty strikeout on 96 at the knees.
López ploughed into the fourth unscathed, but he wouldn’t come out that way. After a gorgeous strikeout of Ty France on a perfect knuckle curve dotted on the lower corner, he fell behind 3-2 to the lefty Kyle Seager. We know bad things happen when you get behind in the count, and López tried to sneak by a low-and-inside fastball to Seager who, as announcer Ben McDonald knows, loves it low-and-inside. Seager drove the pitch into the stands to put the Mariners on the board.
When Rio Ruiz came up to the plate in the fifth, I was still silently cursing him for his one-out, bases-loaded strikeout from before. But what do I know. Someone had told Rio to sit fastball against Dunn, and sit fastball he did, cracking a no-doubter into the stands to tie up the game. All is forgiven, Rio!
Onto the fifth López bravely went. Would it be an epic disaster as usual? Well, that depends. Do you consider two walks, a single, and failing to make it out of the inning a disaster? After a quick out, López walked the next batter. The runner took off for second. The Sisco Kid came up throwing, and he easily nabbed his fifth runner in six tries. Perhaps the ensuing silence on the basepaths unnerved López, because he walked the next guy and gave up a single to the next. That would do it for him. Brandon Hyde has seen the data and he is giving López no extra rope. The fifth-inning curse lives!
With two men aboard, two outs, and Mitch Haniger, the Mariners’ best hitter, at the plate, the indefatigable Adam Plutko rode to the rescue. He drew a weak tapper that he fielded on the run before making a scrambling toss to Mancini to end the fifth. For all that he lives around 88-91 mph, Adam Plutko, who’s rocking a 1.00 ERA over 18 innings, has been unstoppable. After rescuing López in the fifth, he pitched a three-up, three-down sixth.
Meanwhile, the Orioles would knock Justin Dunn from the game in the sixth on a single and a walk, but it proved a mixed blessing, because his replacement was the filthy sinker specialist Kendall Graveman. With two out, Freddy Galvis worked an impressive walk to load the bases again, but the hapless Sisco bounced into an easy third out, and another scoring chance was wasted. Graveman came out and devastated in the seventh, especially when he embarrassed Austin Hays with three straight tunneling fastballs.
Adam Plutko’s scoreless 1.2 innings were followed by a perfect two-thirds of an inning from Paul Fry, who whiffed the two batters he faced. Unfortunately, Travis Lakins Sr. couldn’t carry the baton through the eighth. Lakins faced three batters and allowed all three to reach. Hyde yanked him for Tanner Scott. The lefty gave up a hard flyball to center which allowed a crucial second run to score.
Actually, it wasn’t that critical a run, because the next batter, Kyle Lewis, took Scott deep for a nail-in-the-coffin three-run homer. Scott retired the next two, but that was it for him, and it for the team tonight.
In the last half-inning, a Rio Ruiz walk combined with a single from Mancini, who had three hits on the night, and one from Ole “Bag of Milk” Valaika, provided the Orioles with a late second run. It was nice to see this team grit it out down four runs in the bottom of the ninth. That being said, a few RBIs a little earlier would have been nice, too.