The Orioles concluded their exciting 2022 season with an apropos split doubleheader against the Blue Jays, winning game 1 and dropping game 2, on Wednesday afternoon at Camden Yards.
Game 1 saw the Orioles trot out their varsity lineup to support Mike Baumann on the bump. But it was actually infield understudy Terrin Vavra that came up with the big hit, an eighth inning Earl Weaver special, to give the O’s a 5-4 win.
Baumann did well in his first two trips through the Blue Jays order. Baserunners were a common nuisance through the first five innings, but his only hiccup to that point came in the second, when a trio of singles put the visitors on top 1-0.
It was in the sixth inning where the outing went awry. Facing the middle of the Blue Jays lineup for the third time, Baumann allowed singles to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio ahead of Gabriel Moreno. The rookie took a slider in the middle of the plate and launched it into the right field bleachers for this first big league home run, and extending the lead to 4-0.
That was the end of Baumann’s day and his season. It’s an unfortunate end, but the ultimate takeaway should be positive for the big righty. Had the Orioles been in the playoff hunt today, it’s hard to believe Brandon Hyde would have pushed his starter into the sixth inning, regardless of pitch count. It was a test, and it did not go well.
On the positive side of things, the O’s bullpen was lights out from there, and the bats did eventually pick things up. Keegan Akin, Logan Gillaspie, DL Hall, and Bryan Baker combined for 3.2 scoreless innings of relief and five strikeouts. Hall found his stride in the ‘pen after some early struggles, and Baker suddenly looked like a lock to start next year in the majors.
The O’s lineup got right to work on cutting down the Blue Jays’ advantage in the bottom of the same inning. Singles from Ryan Mountcastle and Gunnar Henderson set the table for a two-run double off the bat of Austin Hays, his 35th two-bagger of the season.
Then, as previously mentioned, it was Vavra’s turn in the eighth for the game-winner. Anthony Santander walked, and Henderson singled ahead of the diminutive second baseman, who popped his first career round-tripper onto the flag court to give the sparse crowd something to cheer about.
YOU'RE TERRIN UP MY HEART— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) October 5, 2022
Vavra for the lead with his first Major League home run! pic.twitter.com/n3g5fElk2T
Winning games is always better than losing them even if they don’t technically matter at this point. It’s also important to see positive performance from players that will play a role on what is expected to be an even more competitive team next season.
Baumann’s outing could be a building block. Vavra will do his best to force his way into a roster spot next year. Henderson had two more hits and a walk. Mountcastle had three singles. And of course, the bullpen continued its trend of steady performances.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Game 1 on October 5, 2022?
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Mike Baumann (5.1-inning start)
Bryan Baker (save, no hits, two strikeouts)
Terrin Vavra (three-run homer)
Gunnar Henderson (2-for-3, 2 runs, walk)
The lineup choices for Game 2 were decidedly different from the opener. Vavra was leading off,Q Rutschman was nowhere to be found, and neither was Henderson, Mountcastle, Hays, or Cedric Mullins. It was a decidedly B-squad behind starter Spenser Watkins, and the results reflected as much.
Watkins struggled to open things, getting behind in the count frequently. In the first inning he allowed a single and two walks to load the bases before a Danny Jansen fielder’s choice scored Toronto’s first run of the evening session.
From there, the O’s starter settled down, and didn’t allow another run, although his outing lasted just 3.1 total innings before being lifted in favor of 29th man Nick Vespi. It marks the end of an impressive rebound campaign for Watkins, who had an 8.07 ERA over 54.2 innings in 2021. This year he nearly cut his ERA in half to 4.76 while tossing almost double the innings at 102. It’s unclear where he stands in the organization moving forward, but a flex role in which he makes spot starts or tosses bulk innings in relief could make a lot of sense.
Not much noise was coming out from the O’s bats in Game 2. They totaled just four hits and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Jesús Aguilar led the way with two hits and a run scored in what will likely be his final game in an Orioles uniform. Kyle Stowers had the lone RBI, a double that scored Aguilar in the sixth inning to briefly tie the game 1-1.
A SLIDING STOWERS TIES THE GAME! pic.twitter.com/CzNw0uIbUN— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) October 5, 2022
Compounding the poor offensive output was a rough game for the Baltimore bullpen. Vespi emerged unscathed but then three straight relievers coughed up runs. Yennier Cano allowed one run over two innings. Cionel Pérez served up an unearned run but did strike out three in his inning. And then Dillon Tate struggled mightily with three walks and two earned runs. At least Beau Sulser was able to lower his ERA with 1.1 scoreless innings.
There isn’t much to take away here. At least a third of the starting lineup won’t be on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster in 2023, Watkins had a short leash, and while it would have been nice to see Tate end on a better note, a one-game sample (particularly for a reliever) doesn’t mean a whole lot.
This is the part of the blog where we normally note the next game and the pitching matchup to come. Alas, there is no “next game.” The Orioles’ season ends here. Ultimately, they did not shock the world with a playoff run, but they came pretty darn close. This was the organization’s most fun season since 2016, and 2023 promises to be even better.
Start your countdowns now. Pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota in four months, the first exhibition game is February 25 against the Twins, and Opening Day is March 30 in Boston.