It’s unclear how or why it happened, but the Orioles pitching staff is seemingly elite all of the sudden. They led the Birds to a 1-0 win over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night for their third shutout of a season that is only two weeks old.
The 2021 Orioles did not record their third shutout until July 18, and they only had five the entire season. A seismic shift has taken place on the mounds in Baltimore, and it might be better if we don’t question why it has happened, but rather just enjoy it while it is happening.
Jordan Lyles started, looking to build upon his previous outing in which he allowed just one run over 5.1 innings against the Yankees. He did just a tad better here, delivering five scoreless frames while striking out six. The veteran right-hander did get himself into a couple of jams, but always worked his way out.
The first sign of trouble came in the second inning. Billy McKinney led off with a single, and he tried to come home on the Seth Brown double that followed. Ryan McKenna took a while to corral the ball in right field, but did manage to hit the cutoff man Rougned Odor, who in turn threw a strike to Anthony Bemboom covering the plate.
Initially, McKinney was called safe as his swim move was deemed to have gone around Bemboom’s glove. Replays looked inconclusive as the ball clearly beat McKinney but Bemboom’s tag was less than stellar. Whatever the case, MLB decided that the runner was out, and the score stayed at 0-0.
In the meantime, the Orioles offense was doing the exact same thing it has done nearly every game this year...not much.
They got the first two batters of the game on base, but Cedric Mullins was thrown out trying to steal second base, and then Anthony Santander was stranded at second base.
One of their few opportunities was the one they actually cashed in on during the fifth inning. McKenna doubled to begin the frame, and then came around to score on a Kelvin Gutiérrez grounder up the middle that shortstop Elvis Andrus fumbled away.
Gutiérrez up the middle! pic.twitter.com/PSfinGZBoB— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 20, 2022
That was really it. No other runners made it beyond second base for the O’s. Since the one run scored on an error, the team was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They left six runners on base, struck out seven times, and walked once.
Lyles finished up his five innings of work with a bit of drama. Tony Kemp reached with two outs as Trey Mancini couldn’t handle a slightly wide throw from Odor. A single from Sheldon Neuse gave the A’s runners on the corners with Sean Murphy headed to the plate. But Lyles was able to strikeout the DH on just four pitches.
Once again, Lyles was quite good. This version of Lyles is far better than anything that could have been expected when the Orioles agreed to a deal with him back in December. From there, it was up to the Birds bullpen to close up shop.
Paul Fry sat the hitters down in order in the sixth. Dillon Tate did the same in the seventh. Bryan Baker was unable to do so in the eighth.
Kemp and Neuse used back-to-back singles to get Oakland runners on first and third with no outs. Just like in the fifth, that brought up Murphy, and just like in the fifth, he struck out. Brandon Hyde opted to bring in his closer, Jorge López, at that point.
López continues to adapt well to his role in the bullpen. He struck out Christian Lopes and then induced a weak grounder from Brown to throw up another zero on the board. The former starter returned for the ninth inning, and this time the drama dial was turned way down. He tossed a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the one-run win.
We keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in regards to the Orioles pitching performances. But for now, it remains extremely impressive how solid the unit has been. It doesn’t even matter which pitcher is on the mound. They are all dominating. What a weird sensation.
On top of that, the game wrapped in just three hours, about 30 minutes prior to the originally schedule time of first pitch. So not only is there a win to be happy about, but we can all get a full night of sleep.
One thing to note, however, is that there was an injury. Robinson Chirinos was hit by a pitch that seemed to catch both his left shoulder and his face. It is being called a “facial contusion” and x-rays were negative. It is unclear if there are any concerns about a concussion, but clearly they felt the need to take precautions and remove him from the game.
If the Orioles did need to add a catcher, a 40-man roster move would need to be made. Chirinos and Bemboom are the only backstops on the roster currently, and it is full.
These two teams are back at it on Thursday to complete the four-game set. First pitch is 3:37 p.m. ET. Tyler Wells (0-1, 6.35 ERA) toes the rubber for the O’s.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 20, 2022?
This poll is closed
Jordan Lyles (W, 5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 SO)
Jorge López (S, 1.2 IP, 0 R, 3 SO)
Ryan McKenna (1-for-3, 2B, run scored, outfield assist)