Maybe these Orioles can actually handle that whole “spoiler” role after all. They beat the scorching hot Blue Jays 6-3 at Camden Yards on Friday night, adding even more intrigue to the AL Wild Card race.
And what a beautifully weird win it was. It had everything! Home runs, shouting matches, players getting tackled. It was wild.
It started with the Orioles bombarding Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray in the bottom of the first inning. Cedric Mullins led off with his 28th home run of the year because that’s what he does. He’s the best.
Cedric Mullins:— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 10, 2021
Still that dude. pic.twitter.com/sX6mMq2DQt
Two batters later, Austin Hays tripled and was then brought home by the unlikeliest of happenings; a Ryan McKenna home run. It was McKenna’s second long ball of the season.
The Orioles’ half of the second inning seemed primed for a similar outburst as Kelvin Gutierrez led off with a triple and Austin Wynns followed with a walk. But then the pace slowed with Ray facing Richie Martin at the plate and words were exchanged between the Blue Jays’ pitcher and Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde.
Camden Yards was far from full for this game. So, it was easy enough to pick up what was being said. Hyde was encouraging Ray to pitch, and Ray was inviting Hyde onto the field for further discussion.
Robbie Ray & Brandon Hyde are about to brawl pic.twitter.com/pW6l7kTlO6— TrueRGM (@TrueRGM) September 10, 2021
What is unclear, however, is what initiated the conversation in the first place. Hyde said in his post-game press conference that he felt the Orioles were being “accused” of something, but refused to specify. Also, no other Blue Jays was terribly interested in the shouting beyond Ray, no teammates and no members of the coaching staff. That seemed odd.
Whatever the case may be, Ray was able to settle down and strikeout both Martin and Mullins followed by a Ryan Mountcastle fly out to keep the Orioles off the scoreboard.
Ray was not particularly sharp here, and would only last 4.1 innings. But the Orioles would not score again off of him despite having runners on base in every single inning. The lefty’s eight strikeouts were probably a big help in that regard.
Meanwhile, Chris Ellis was mighty impressive for the O’s. This was the second time he has faced the vaunted Blue Jays lineup in the last couple of weeks. But it looked like they had never seen him before.
Ellis made it through the lineup the first time without allowing a runner beyond first base. Then he showed a lot of grit to work around a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning without allowing a run. He loaded the bases again in the fifth inning but was able to survive while serving up only one run.
Who knows what the future holds for Ellis. He is a 28-year-old rookie, and there are likely some good reasons for that. But what he has done for the Orioles down the stretch should guarantee he is a rotation candidate in the spring.
Fernando Abad was handed the sixth inning with a two-run lead, but it did not go particularly well. He allowed a lead-off double to Lourdes Gurriel. After a failed bunt handed the O’s an out, Randal Grichuk stepped in as a pinch hitter and grounded to Jahmai Jones. Rather than taking the out at first, Jones tried to nab Gurriel moving to third on contact. His throw bounced passed Kelvin Gutierrez and sent Gurriel home, but not before Abad would inadvertently tackle him in the basepaths.
Conner Greene was called on to finagle his way out of this jam. He did well to limit the damage to just one run on a Marcus Semien double to score Grichuk. But it still meant that the two-run lead that the O’s entered the inning with was now gone.
But in a reversal of what the story has been for much of this summer, the bullpen held strong from there, and the bats came up clutch to earn the O’s a win.
Mullins and his wheels led off the seventh by reaching on an error by Blue Jays reliever Julian Merryweather, who could not cleanly field a bouncer between the pitcher’s mound and first base. Later on, a Trey Mancini walk gave the Birds runners on first and second ahead of Anthony Santander, who then hit an absolute missile into the right-center bleachers for an Earl Weaver special to regain the three-run lead the O’s had coughed up.
TONY TATERS COMES UP HUUUUUUUGE! pic.twitter.com/yHc9I0Kr1u— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 11, 2021
That proved to be all that the Orioles would need. If we are honest, the offense could have cashed in on a few more opportunities. Like in the eighth inning, when Mullins stole two bases and the O’s had two runners in scoring position with one out but failed to score. In total, the team went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position. That isn’t often going to be a formula for winning, but it worked in this game.
Greene was technically the one that gave up the first lead the Orioles had after coming in for Abad. But he looked good, striking out three in his 1.2 innings of work.
Then it was up to Cole Sulser, the team’s closer-of-the-moment, to deliver two scoreless innings for his seventh save of the season. The pitching performance means that Hyde will have plenty of bullpen options for Saturday’s doubleheader. That’s a big deal.
The win tonight also means that the month of September will already yield more victories (five) for the Orioles than they were able to muster in August (four). It also means the O’s are 8-8 since they ended the horrific 19-game losing streak near the end of last month. These guys are actually capable of playing some good baseball, and it has been a fun couple of weeks.
These two teams will play a pair of games on Saturday. The pitching match-ups have not been announced, but we do know that Game 1 will start at 4:35 p.m.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Friday, September 10th?
Chris Ellis (5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 SO)
Conner Greene (first MLB win, 1.2 IP, 3 SO)
Cole Sulser (S, two scoreless innings)
Cedric Mullins (HR, 2 R, 2 SB)
Anthony Santander (three-run HR)