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Zimmermann strong as Orioles finally get clutch hits in 5-3 win over Angels

Baltimore’s own Bruce Zimmermann struck out Shohei Ohtani three times. That was fun.

Baltimore Orioles v Los Angeles Angels
“How do we get back down?”
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Over the first two weeks of the season, it has felt like the only kind of luck the Orioles have is bad luck. As if every hard hit ball finds a fielder’s glove, none of the bloopers seem to fall in, and other teams get enough lucky breaks to have the O’s start off 4-9. “What would it look like if the Orioles start getting lucky?” I asked myself often. In Friday night’s 5-3 win over the Angels, we got one answer: It would look a little something like this.

The Orioles getting lucky could be Baltimore’s own Bruce Zimmermann getting three strikeouts of phenom Shohei Ohtani. It could be getting four double plays over the course of the game. Or it could be finally getting some lucky bounces on hits with runners in scoring position. In this case, it was all three of those things, and more, as the Orioles triumphed in the opener to improve to 5-9.

Zimmermann set the table for the Orioles early on. Thanks to double plays in the second and third innings, he faced the minimum of twelve batters through the first four innings. That included a fourth inning where he struck out, in order, Ohtani, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon. Who IS this guy? Is something interesting happening here? I am scared to have asked the question, but I wasn’t too scared to ask it.

With their starting pitcher rolling, the Orioles did not waste opportunities to grab a lead, and when they had an opportunity to extend a lead, they didn’t waste that either. 2022 walk machine Anthony Santander led off the top of the second with another walk, extending his on-base streak to 14 games to begin the season. One out later, Santander went first-to-third with some aggressive baserunning as Ramón Urías singled. Urías went with some aggressive running himself, taking second on the throw, giving the Orioles two runners in scoring position with only one out.

Problem: The next batter was catcher Robinson Chirinos, who entered the game 20% of the way to Caleb Joseph’s 2016 no RBI season record. Chirinos was about 48 hours removed from being hit in the head by a baseball. Chirinos has not hit well so far this season, which is a big reason why he had zero RBI.

All it takes is a little luck. The right-handed Chirinos was facing an Angels defense that played him to pull, and he hit a little ground ball bouncer that would have gone right to a normally-placed second baseman. Only, instead, there was a huge hole there and the ball bounced into the outfield. Santander scored easily, and somehow, Urías scored behind him.

I say somehow because this play was Friday night’s great example of “stuff gets weird when the MASN booth is in Baltimore and the Orioles are on the road.” Right about when Chirinos’s bouncer was hitting the outfield grass, the sound cut out from the broadcast. No stadium sound, no announcer sound. It stayed this way for about 15 seconds, and the director or whoever did not bother to show Urías rounding third base and heading for home. I wish I could share the video of this with you, because the Orioles did post the highlight to Twitter, except they deleted the tweet after people made fun of them.

Not embarrassing was the Orioles 2-0 lead. You might say that perhaps they ought to have done better than that in five innings against Angels starter Reid Detmers, whose ERA entering the game was 8.59, but let’s not be picky after a game in the win column, okay?

With Detmers out after five innings, the Angels brought in Archie Bradley in the sixth. Nothing went right for Bradley, who gave up four straight singles after he entered the game, including an RBI for Santander, and the only out Bradley recorded ended up being a run-scoring groundout by Urías. Reliever Jimmy Herget followed Bradley, with a fifth run scoring on another groundout. A 5-0 lead! Simply amazing.

The Angels finally did get to Zimmermann in the sixth inning. The inning’s leadoff batter Max Stassi hit a line drive to Santander in left field. Santander bungled the play, turning a single into a double. The extra base cost an unearned run. A bunt and a sacrifice fly later and the Angels were on the board. Zimmermann ended the inning with his third strikeout of Ohtani.

Entering the seventh inning, Zimmermann had not yet even reached 70 pitches. He was already the first Orioles starter to clear six innings this year. Manager Brandon Hyde understandably tried to get a little more out of him. This did not work out. Trout walked to lead off the inning, then Rendon homered on a 2-2 count to bring the Angels within 5-3. With a four run lead, this was the right time to push a starter.

Zimmermann’s line after exiting is still great. He mostly scattered five hits and a walk over six-plus innings, walking just one while striking out six. This gives him a 1.20 ERA through his first three starts. I hope he can keep it up.

Three relievers followed Zimmermann for an inning apiece: Félix Bautista, Cionel Pérez, and Jorge López. Each one of these guys allowed a hit, meaning they all had to work with the tying run at the plate. No runner got past first base against them, however. It wasn’t drama-free, but it was low-drama. Pérez still has a 0.00 ERA for the season. López’s scoreless ninth and third save brought him down to 2.25. If this persists along with the team’s luck turning around, that would be interesting.

Another late night awaits Orioles fans on Saturday night as the series resumes with a 9:07 Eastern start time. Those hardy souls staying up will find Spenser Watkins pitching for the Orioles and Noah Syndergaard on the mound starting for the Angels. On paper, one obvious outcome presents itself. Reality, as we know, usually matches the paper, but not always.

Poll

Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 22, 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 92%
    Bruce Zimmermann (great outing, K’d Ohtani 3 times)
    (343 votes)
  • 5%
    Robinson Chirinos (multi-hit, 3 RBI game)
    (21 votes)
  • 1%
    Jorge López (has pitched a lot better after I talked trash about him)
    (7 votes)
371 votes total Vote Now