One month and 20 days after they last won a game on the road, the Orioles finally won another one in Buffalo on Friday night. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but when the dust settled after ten innings, the O’s were in the win column. There will be no more talk of whether the O’s might break the record for consecutive road losses. Unless they lose another 20 straight starting tomorrow.
In some ways, the stars aligned perfectly for the O’s. Matt Harvey pitched into the sixth inning for the first time since May 1. They snapped a streak of RISP futility that had seen them go without a run-scoring hit with a man on second or third base in six games. Tanner Scott, Paul Fry, and Cole Sulser all pitched scoreless innings of relief with minimal excitement from Scott and Fry.
In other ways, it seemed like fate was aligning perfectly for the Orioles to lose a 21st straight road game. The offense was not terribly impressive before the eighth inning, with even a promising first-and-third, none out in the second getting a then-tying run on a ground ball double play. Harvey gave up early home runs to George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. that, with how the offense has played lately, already made the lead seem insurmountable.
The corner outfield defense was what it has often been this year, with Austin Hays playing a Randal Grichuk single into a triple in the fourth inning, leading to Grichuk scoring easily. Later in the game, DJ Stewart had some against-the-fence bumbling on a play where the Jays scored two runs to give themselves a 5-1 lead heading into the eighth. For all of these reasons and more, the Orioles should have probably lost.
Baseball games are remarkably indifferent to anyone’s opinions about who should win or lose them. The winner is the one who does enough when all is said and done. It doesn’t matter if one team’s starting pitcher goes six innings while allowing only an unearned run. That’s what should-be-suspended Alek Manoah did, striking out six batters and mostly leaving the O’s lineup looking helpless. That helps a team win but doesn’t guarantee it.
The Orioles, starting in the eighth, did enough. The Jays brought in wild reliever Tyler Chatwood, who’d walked 16 batters in 27 innings before tonight, to hold their four run lead. Chatwood walked Mullins and Freddy Galvis in ten total pitches. He rebounded by striking out Trey Mancini, one of Mancini’s four strikeouts in the game, then Mountcastle hit a grounder up the middle that bounced its way into center field.
This brought in Mullins for the second Orioles run of the game and with two men still on base it meant that the next batter, Stewart, represented the tying run. Jays manager Charlie Montoyo changed pitchers to bring in a lefty, Taylor Saucedo, to face the lefty Stewart. Not a bad strategy in that Stewart has hit zero extra-base hits against lefties in 2021. Stewart, however, was not the only Orioles option.
O’s manager Brandon Hyde pinch hit switch-hitter Anthony Santander for Stewart, giving the O’s a righty batter. This was still dependent on Santander doing something good, which he often hasn’t while battling various ailments this season. Here, he got the clutch hit the Orioles needed. Santander singled up the middle, getting a friendly bounce of the pitchers mound, to score a third Orioles run, and was followed by Hays hitting a game-tying double to give the Orioles a brand new lease on life.
With Scott’s and Fry’s clean innings, there was no more tension until the tenth, when the Manfred Man arrives on second base for the start of every half-inning. For the top half, the Jays turned to reliever Trent Thornton, whose name would fit perfectly as the inappropriate boyfriend of a rom-com’s female lead at the beginning of the movie.
Thornton has been good about everything except not giving up home runs in 2021, leading to an inflated 3.89 ERA headed into tonight. That was not his problem on Friday. He could not throw strikes. While a couple of O’s hitters bailed him out by swinging at pitches out of the zone, Thornton ended up walking the bases loaded and then, with two outs and Pat Valaika at the plate, Thornton walked him too.
The inning’s fourth walk brought in the decisive sixth Orioles run. Even though Pedro Severino grounded out with the bases loaded to end the threat, it did not cost the Orioles the game. In all, Thornton threw 29 pitches and only 13 were strikes. It is a painful ratio for a pitcher. Even with that, he almost escaped. But as my tenth grade Chemistry teacher said to every student pleading for partial credit for almost getting an answer right, “Almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear missiles!”
On the subject of missiles, one more way the game could have ended in disaster is that Sulser entered for the tenth inning, with the Manfred Man on second base and the go-ahead run already at the plate. Sulser walked Bo Bichette on four pitches, putting that same run on base, and bringing up Guerrero, whose home run earlier in the game was an MLB-leading 25th of the season.
Guerrero hit a Sulser pitch in play with a 106.6mph exit velocity. This is usually bad news, except when the launch angle is minus-ten degrees for a ground ball right at the shortstop, Galvis, playing double play depth. The O’s infield has screwed up some would-be double plays this season, but here there was no incident and it went Galvis to Valaika to Mountcastle to erase a runner and the batter. Just like that, there were two outs.
No one-run lead is ever safe with a man on third and Pedro Severino behind the plate. Severino already had one passed ball and you never know when he might pounce, or rather fail to pounce. Sulser threw a couple of errant pitches to Teoscar Hernandez that could have turned into disasters. They did not. Severino stopped them properly, and Sulser went on to strike out Hernandez and win the game. This prompted a post-game celebration from Jim Palmer:
That is the July 10 giveaway item. Looking good, Jim.
The Orioles will be back in action on Saturday afternoon at 3:07, looking to win a second consecutive road game. They have not done this since April 30 and May 1 in Oakland. Keegan Akin is scheduled to start the game for the O’s, with Hyun Jin Ryu pitching for the Jays.
Who is the Most Birdland Player for June 25, 2021?
This poll is closed
Matt Harvey (finally got into the sixth inning)
Austin Hays (game-tying double)
Cedric Mullins (reached base three times, generally awesome)
Anthony Santander (clutch pinch hit, later scored winning run after walk)