A frustrating season had led to a frustrating night for Ryan Mountcastle, and the Orioles outfielder needed a break.
At a good time for Mountcastle and his team, he got one.
Mountcastle hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the O’s the lead, and the bullpen took it from there to finish off a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians Friday night in the first game of a three-game set.
That’s three straight wins for the Orioles, coming right after 14 straight losses. A famous manager from the very team Baltimore played Friday night had something to say about that sort of circumstance.
Starting pitcher Keegan Akin did his part to get the Orioles there, but it looked like the offense wasn’t going to hold up its end of the deal - until the seventh. That’s when Mountcastle, with a runner on first and one out, came to the plate. He’s dealt with some maddening moments during an up-and-down season, and with two strikeouts in his first two at-bats, Friday wasn’t off to a sterling start, either.
That was until Bryan Shaw, who came in sporting a 1.25 ERA and a heck of a beard, gave him a pitch to hit, and Mountcastle drove it deep to left. Left fielder Eddie Rosario went back, to the wall, sized up his jump, and seemed to have a good chance at the catch - only for his glove to smack a fan in the face, and the ball deflected off the mass of humanity and back into the field.
Home run. Orioles up 2-1. The way this year has gone at times for Mountcastle, it would have made sense for a breeze to pick up, or the Maryland humidity to rob the ball of a few more feet of flight, or Rosario to make a great catch to maintain the lead. This time, though, Mountcastle got the break - or, perhaps more appropriately, he was spared the bad one.
Baltimore stretched the lead in the eighth, when Pedro Severino led off with a single up the middle, Cedric Mullins followed with a single to left, and Mancini kept it going with a single through third and short. With the bases loaded and no outs, the stage was set for a game-breaking inning, but the O’s settled for one when Anthony Santander flew to left, Severino chugged home and Rosario’s throw sailed well over the plate.
Manager Brandon Hyde left it up to Paul Fry to finish the job this time, and though Fry let it get exciting, he succeeded. Rosario (that guy was busy) led off with a single and pinch-hitter Yu Chang had a two-out hit to bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but Bradley Zimmer grounded to short to end it. Never a doubt.
The offense stole the show late, but this was a good day for an Orioles rotation and bullpen that have had to weather some rough games of late. Akin was excellent, allowing only three hits and one walk in five innings while striking out four. He threw 64 of 86 pitches for strikes, and likely could have pitched deeper if needed.
After three straight tough outings that caused his ERA to balloon to 6.10, Akin has turned in back-to-back solid starts and seen his ERA shrink to 3.60. Good stuff from the 26-year-old.
Baltimore’s bullpen, which welcomed back a familiar face, also came through. Hunter Harvey made his return and took over for Akin, and was immediately in trouble after giving up a one-out single to Jose Ramirez and then a triple to Harold Ramirez when his liner into the right-center field gap took an awkward kick away from Mullins.
That gave the Indians their first lead, but Harvey limited the damage when he got Rosario to ground to first and Owen Miller to strike out. Rosario’s grounder went straight to Mancini with the infield pulled in, and Rosario tried to pull the Javier Baez play from last week in the Pirates/Cubs game. Mancini didn’t take the cheese, instead throwing to Stevie Wilkerson covering first for the easy out. Trey doesn’t fall for such games.
The bullpen continued to keep Cleveland where it was. Cole Sulser gave up a two-out single in the seventh but got a strikeout to avoid any damage, Tanner Scott impressed while striking out the side in a 1-2-3 eighth, and Fry took care of the ninth.
Timely hitting and good pitching. We don’t see them together too often, but it’s always nice when we do.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Friday, June 4?
This poll is closed
Ryan Mountcastle (go-ahead HR)
Keegan Akin (5 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 4 Ks)
Tanner Scott (IP, 0 H, 3 Ks)
D.J. Stewart (2-for-3)