The New York Yankees currently hold the first wild card spot in the American League, but are 7.5 games behind the division leading Rays. One of factors in the Yankees being a second-place team is how they have played the Orioles vs how the Rays have played the Orioles. After today’s win, the Orioles have a 7-9 record against the Yankees (with three games to go) while the Orioles finished 2021 with just one win against the Rays.
I don’t say this to praise the Rays; screw those guys. I say it to shame the Yankees. If the Yankees had just beaten the Orioles the way people expected them to, they’d be much closer to first place. They’d have a much more commanding lead over the Red Sox for the first wild card (currently just half a game). Just a handful more wins against the worst team in baseball and the Yankees would be feeling much more comfortable with their position.
Instead, they lost just a series to them. With one series left to play against them, it is conceivable (although unlikely) that the Yankees could finish the season with a losing record against the Orioles.
Today’s win didn’t feel like it would be a win. But the Orioles kept fighting back and kept chipping away, and finally had a big inning to prevail in an 8-7 victory. The win saw contributions from Cedric Mullins, of course, but also Jahmai Jones, Jorge Mateo, Ramón Urías, and Kelvin Gutiérrez. They’re still a very bad baseball team. But today, if you squinted, maybe you could imagine something better.
The Orioles took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning courtesy of Austin Hays. His 15th home run of the year landed just above the outstretched glove of Joey Gallo and instead right into the glove of an excited kid in the first row. Not the most awe inspiring dinger, but they all count the same on the scoreboard.
Armed with the early lead, Keegan Akin was not able to replicate the success he found over his last couple starts. He really only had one bad inning, but it was a doozy.
A walk, and single and a HBP loaded the bases for Gary Sánchez. With a 2-1 count, Sánchez just started fouling off pitches. Four straight fouls, then a ball, then Akin’s pitch went down the middle of the plate and Sánchez demolished it. It landed in the second deck in left field and was, to me at least, very demoralizing.
After that, though, Akin got kinda good. He retired eight of the next nine batters but thanks in part to his super long second inning, he was pulled after just four innings. His final pitching line was 4 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR. His ERA is now an even 7.00.
Down 4-1 after two innings isn’t ideal, and it would get worse before it got better. The Orioles added a run in the fourth inning when Urías scored on a sacrifice fly from Mateo. Urías had singled and moved to third on a double from Pedro Severino. After the sac fly, Gutiérrez was hit by a pitch, but Mullins struck out to end the inning.
After Akin came out of the game after four innings, the bullpen let things get a bit out of hand. First out of the gate was Conner Greene. Greene walked the first two batters he saw but then impressively struck out both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. His relief, Fernando Abad, couldn’t pick up his teammate. He gave up a single to Anthony Rizzo that knocked in a run, charged to Greene.
Down by three, the Orioles started to chip away at the Yankees’ lead. They started the sixth inning with two quick outs but then Gutiérrez hit a ground ball to shortstop. It looked like the third out for sure, but Gleyber Torres took his sweet time getting the ball to first base and the hustling beat the throw by a step. Thanks, Gleyber!
Instead of the inning being over, Mullins stepped to the plate with a runner on base. He couldn’t tie the game with one swing, but he could bring the Orioles to within one run. That’s exactly what he did. His 25th home run of the year landed in the right field seats. Welcome to the 25/25 club, Cedric!
The excitement over Mullins’s 25th home run was short lived. In bottom half of the inning, Gary Sánchez hit his second home run of the game. With Torres on first base and one out, Marcos Diplán came in to relieve Abad. He threw a wild pitch that allowed Torres to get to second, but that didn’t matter as Sánchez destroyed yet another baseball, sending it out of the park in left field. The home run gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead. I was once again demoralized.
But, it seems, the Orioles were not. Because in the top of the seventh inning, with a little help from Giancarlo Stanton, the Orioles finally took the lead.
Andrew Heaney took the mound for the Yankees and the few Yankees fans I follow on Twitter were not amused by that choice. It became clear why by the time the inning was over. Heaney started by hitting Trey Mancini with a pitch, then both DJ Stewart and Austin Hays singled to load the bases. That brought the plate Jones, who entered the game for Urías earlier. After the game, Brandon Hyde told reporters that Urías had upper leg soreness.
Jones hit a ball the opposite way and it looked like right fielder Stanton would have a play. But he didn’t time things right and the ball fell just beyond outstretched glove. Mancini and Stewart both scored on the play and Jones ended up with a double. Condolences, Yankees. We know what it’s like to watch some garbage outfield play.
The Yankee lead was now just one, with the tying run at third. Severino popped up for the first out, then Mateo came to the plate. He had a hell of an bat, with assist from Stanton. One of the 12(!) pitches that Mateo saw in the at bat was a fly ball to right field that Stanton looked like he had no idea where it was going. It landed in foul territory. Whoops!
On the 12th pitch of the AB, Mateo blooped a ball that fell just beyond the second baseman for a single. Hays scored from third and the game was tied! Next up was Gutiérrez, who weirdly tried to bunt on the first pitch, but missed. But two pitches later he lined a single to left field and the Orioles took an 8-7 lead.
They did it! But now, could they hold it? Diplán returned to the mound for the bottom of the 7th, and after issuing a one-out walk Hyde turned to Tanner Scott. Gulp.
When Scott comes into the game, you never know which version you’re going to get. Will he strike out the side? Will he walk in multiple runs? No way to tell! Things didn’t get off to a good start when he walked Anthony Rizzo on four pitches to put a second runner on base. But after that he settled in, getting the final two outs of the seventh and also pitching a scoreless 8th with little drama.
All that was left was the ninth inning. Tyler Wells came in to try and get his first ever save. He had his work cut out for him, facing Judge, Stanton, and Rizzo. But if he was nervous it didn’t show. He had a quick 1-2-3 inning and the Orioles won the game and the series! Well done, Orioles. I approve.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Sunday, September 5th?
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Jahmai Jones (game tying double)
Kelvin Gutiérrez (go ahead single)
Cedric Mullins (2-for-4, home run, joined the 25/25 club)