Do you hear that? That swishing noise is the sound of the Orioles first ever sweep at Minute Maid Park. The Orioles jumped out to an early lead and utilized a strong showing from the bullpen in a 5-2 victory over the Astros.
Baltimore struck first with a patient approach at the plate. Leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins worked the count full before earning a free pass, and Trey Mancini followed with another quality at bat to earn a base on balls.
The pair of walks generated an early mound visit by Astros pitching coach Brent Strom. Strom may have walked out to talk with starter Luis Garcia, but he ended up voicing his displeasure with home-plate umpire CB Bucknor. Bucknor did not appreciate the conversation and tossed Strom relatively quickly.
Strom may have been the first to take issue with Bucknor’s inconsistent strike zone, but he was not the last. Brandon Hyde was shown shaking his head several times, and MASN broadcaster Jim Palmer did not hold back. Palmer’s criticism of umpires has become one of the better recurring segments of the season.
Santander worked the count full before striking out, but Ryan Mountcastle drove in the first two runs of the game. Mountcastle ripped a ball down the line that managed to elude the glove of Robel García. The ball trickled into the corner and both runners scored with ease.
DJ Stewart stepped in and watched the count go full before working the Birds’ third walk of the inning. Maikel Franco lined a sharp ball to center that scored Mountcastle, and Pedro Severino plated Stewart with a sacrifice fly on a line drive to left.
Domingo Leyba went down swinging to end the frame, but the Orioles sent all nine batters to the plate and worked Garcia’s pitch count into the forties. Baltimore figured to need runs with Matt Harvey on the mound, but Harvey came to play.
Harvey did not allow a hit in the first three innings. He struck out Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley in the first, and sat down Garcia in the third. The Astros did manage to make an adjustment the second time through the lineup.
The Dark Knight retired Altuve to start the fourth, but surrendered his first run of the evening on three consecutive singles. Houston trimmed the lead to two when Kyle Tucker hit a ground ball away from the shift, but Harvey managed to escape the inning after that.
Harvey walked consecutive batters with one out in the fifth and that was all Brandon Hyde needed to see. Hyde, hoping to avoid walks, summoned Tanner Scott from the bullpen. No one could blame you for doubting him, but it worked!
Scott struck out Brantley to notch the second out and forced Yuli Gurriel to pop out and end the inning. Scott returned in the sixth inning and looked absolutely filthy. The lefty struck out Yordan Alvarez, Altuve and Tucker to retire the side in order.
Paul Fry replaced Scott in the seventh and walked the first batter he faced. Instead of unraveling, Scott produced two ground balls, one resulting in a double play, and escaped without damage.
Fry returned in the eight and allowed a leadoff single to Altuve. Cole Sulser entered to finish off the eighth inning and did not disappoint. After Fry picked up the first out, Sulser struck out Gurriel and retired Alvarez on a flyball to center.
Sulser returned and sent the Astros down in order to clinch the victory.
Because the Orioles cannot have nice things, Franco appeared to injure his ankle to the very last play of the game. Garcia popped a ball into foul territory down the left field line. Ryan McKenna, another late replacement, snagged the ball to end the game, but Franco also gave chase. Franco slid to avoid running into the wall, but his ankle appeared to snag awkwardly in the dirt. He eventually limped off the field, but clearly was impacted by the slide.
Baltimore’s bats cooled off in a hurry after the big first inning. Cedric Mullins reached second base in the fifth, but Mountcastle could not bring him home. Franco and Severino reached in the sixth, but Leyba and Ramó Urías failed to bat in a run.
Austin Hays entered as a defensive replacement for Stewart but ended up providing some insurance. The outfielder used a compact swing to smoke a line drive over the left field fence in the eighth inning. The solo shot marked Hays’ eighth homer of the season and increased Baltimore’s lead to three.
The Astros entered this series atop many MLB power rankings. Pundits may be less likely to call them the best team in baseball after they were absolutely punked at home by the Orioles. Either way, these are three impressive wins for Baltimore
The Orioles’ patience at the plate represented improvement. Franco led the charge with three hits, but the club played winning baseball as a unit. Baltimore was certainly more fun to watch in this three game sweep.
Who was the most Birdland player for Wednesday, June 30?
This poll is closed
Maikel Franco (3-4, RBI)
Ryan Mountcastle (1-5, Run, 2 RBIs)
Tanner Scott (1.2 innings, 4 K)
Matt Harvey (4.2 innings, 4 H, 2 R, 3 K)