The Orioles offense has risen...at least for one inning. The lineup, which has struggled mightily to hit with runners in scoring position so far this year, managed to do just that three times in the same frame on Sunday afternoon, beating the Yankees 5-0 and earning their first series win of the season.
Prior to the outburst, this was similar to every other game in this Yankees series. Neither offense was particularly potent. Through the first seven innings it was nothing but zeroes on the board.
Bruce Zimmermann posted five scoreless innings to maintain his perfect 0.00 season ERA while striking out six Yankee hitters. Nestor Cortes was even better. Normally not a strikeout pitcher, the lefty made an exception when facing his former team. Over his five scoreless innings he sat down 12 Orioles on strikes.
Misjudged that just a little pic.twitter.com/tuzukiwSPi— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 17, 2022
Scoring opportunities weren’t much more abundant against the respective bullpens. The Orioles had two runners on in the sixth inning when Brandon Hyde summoned Cedric Mullins to pinch hit for Ryan McKenna, but he went down on strikes. The next inning they once again got two runners on base ahead of their previously hottest hitter, Austin Hays, but he too was unable to put the ball in play. Thankfully, all of their sins were forgiven in an eighth inning that was a long time coming.
Ryan Mountcastle led off with a single. He moved to second on a Trey Mancini walk. Were the stars aligning? Not before the next two hitters, Anthony Santander and Mullins, were retired. But Robinson Chirinos kept the inning alive with a base on balls to set the stage for Rougned Odor, who took the place of Chris Owings.
It was poetic that Odor was the one to come through against his former club. He singled through the infield to center field, driving in Mountcastle and Mancini. Kelvin Gutiérrez followed with a double to knock home Chirinos and Odor. And finally Jorge Mateo came through with his third hit of the day to send Gutiérrez home. Just like that it was 5-0 and victory was in sight.
What a feeling! An offense that is capable of scoring in bunches. And against a legitimately good bullpen that was throwing its best options against the wall.
Meanwhile the Orioles bullpen continued to impress. Felix Bautista was the first in for relief of Zimmermann, then Dillon Tate, and then Jorge López. The fledgling New York offense had no answers. Bautista and Tate both tossed scoreless, hitless innings with one strikeout a piece. López was given the final two frames, during which he kept the bases clean while striking out a pair.
Is the Orioles offense fixed? Is Zimmermann for real? Is López the closer? Look, it’s probably better if we don’t answer those questions seriously right now. It all worked out today and added up to a series win against the Yankees, an event that is sure to send their reactionary fanbase into a tailspin for the next 24-48 hours. That alone is worth the frustrations of the last week of Orioles baseball.
There remain concerns for the O’s. They struck out 16 times as a group. There are far too many hitters in the lineup with OPS numbers they would prefer weren’t public knowledge. The hope is that the lineup will turn it around. But will the pitching (minus Travis Lakins) remain as effective as it as been during this homestand?
These are things to contemplate on the lengthy plane ride the O’s are about to endure to begin a series in Oakland on Monday night. Spenser Watkins (0-0, 3.00 ERA) will take the mound. He will be opposed by Frankie Montas (1-1, 4.76 ERA). First pitch is 9:40.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 17, 2022?
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Bruce Zimmermann (ND, 5 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 SO)
Jorge López (W, 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 SO)
Rougned Odor (go-ahead, two-run single)
Kelvin Gutiérrez (two-run double to break open the game)