Fourteen-game winning streak, here we come!
One night after halting the second-longest slide in O’s history, the Orioles bagged their second straight win over the Twins, 6-3, to earn their first home series win of the year and their first back-to-back victories in more than a month.
A 19-37 record is still an eyesore. But these last two evenings of O’s baseball have brought refreshing competence. Tonight, it was a full team effort, with four pitchers joining forces to stymie the Twins while DJ Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle delivered prodigious home runs.
With last Saturday’s doubleheader throwing the Orioles’ rotation order out of whack, the Birds elected to start Matt Harvey tonight on short rest and with a short leash. The Twins countered with Randy Dobnak. So the pitching matchup was a guy nicknamed after a comic book character against a guy who looks like he probably enjoys comic books.
Both pitchers escaped huge jams in the first. In Harvey’s case, he coughed up a leadoff double and a walk but racked up huge strikeouts of Alex Kiriloff and Nelson Cruz to strand them. In the bottom half, the O’s loaded the bases with nobody out on a single, a walk, and a hit batsman, creating a scoring opportunity so perfect it should be nearly Oriole-proof. Spoiler: it was not Oriole-proof. Freddy Galvis suffered some bad luck, stinging a scorcher up the middle that unfortunately went directly into the glove of shortstop Jorge Polanco, who stepped on second to double off Trey Mancini. A DJ Stewart flyout later, the O’s rally had fizzled with nothing to show for it.
A pessimist would assume the Orioles had just blown their best chance they’d ever get against Dobnak, and he did follow with two scoreless innings while the Twins took the lead on a solo homer by Ryan Jeffers, their fourth catcher of the series. The Birds, though, got on the board in the fourth with help from shaky Twins defense. Back-to-back singles by Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle preceded a Maikel Franco slow grounder to the pitcher. Dobnak fired to second for the force and there was no chance of doubling up Franco, but Nick Gordon threw to first anyway and sailed it into the dugout. The error automatically scored Mountcastle with the tying run, though the O’s did end up wasting a first-and-third, one-out threat later in the inning.
Getting hits with runners in scoring position is not really the Orioles’ bag, so they found an easier way to add two runs in the fifth: just clobber the ball out the dang ballpark. Stewart followed a two-out walk to Galvis by crushing a high drive onto the flag court, his sixth of the year, to put the Orioles on top, 3-1.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ bullpen game was going swimmingly. They squeezed three innings out of Harvey, who delivered a solid outing, retiring nine of the 12 batters he faced with Jeffers’ homer the only real mistake. He was replaced by Rule 5 righty Tyler Wells, facing the organization from which the O’s selected him.
Friends, Wells was absolutely terrific tonight. He worked a career-high three innings and dominated. He gave up a single to the first batter he faced, Nelson Cruz...and then nobody else could touch him. Wells mowed down the next eight hitters he faced, including a double-play grounder that erased Cruz, and faced the minimum over his three frames. Nobody but Cruz even hit a fair ball out of the infield; Wells notched four groundball outs, two strikeouts, a lineout, and a foul pop. His first major league win was extremely well earned.
With the O’s carrying a two-run lead into the seventh, I was one of likely many people not thrilled to see Shawn Armstrong and his 8.20 ERA take the mound in a setup role (though, in fairness, there aren’t a lot of reliable options in that bullpen). Still, Armstrong proved me wrong by setting down the Twins 1-2-3 with a pair of strikeouts.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mountcastle gave the Orioles a lot more breathing room against deposed Twins closer Alex Colome, who showed exactly why he was deposed. With two on and two out, Mountcastle blistered a 400-foot home run to dead center on a fat Colome fastball, instantly doubling the Orioles’ run total. The shot was the sixth of the year for Mountcastle, who is maybe sort of kind of starting to break out of his season-long slump.
The extra runs came in handy when the bad version of Armstrong returned in the eighth, giving up a leadoff single and a Jeffers triple (off the glove of Cedric Mullins, who nearly made another sensational catch on the warning track). Paul Fry came in and allowed the inherited runner to score on a sac fly, then got all off-kilter for a bit and issued two straight walks, bringing up Nelson Cruz as the potential tying run. It’s not ideal! But a well-timed visit from pitching coach Chris Holt straightened out Fry, who induced a harmless popout to end the inning.
Fry finished things off himself, working past a leadoff single and wild pitch in the ninth to retire the final three batters, ringing up Jeffers on a called strike three. And there you have it — two wins in a row! The last time the O’s pulled off that feat was against the Athletics on April 30 and May 1. So yeah, it’s been a minute.
Would it be that hard to string 12 more of these in a row? I’m just saying.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Wednesday, June 2?
This poll is closed
Ryan Mountcastle (2-for-4, three-run HR)
DJ Stewart (2-for-3, go-ahead two-run HR)
Tyler Wells (3 IP, 0 ER, first major league win)