Folks, the 2022 Orioles may not be the greatest team. Nobody’s expecting a contending club to emerge from Baltimore this season. But when the stars align just right, these O’s are capable of playing some excellent baseball on any given night.
Tonight’s victory — a roller-coaster, come-from-behind, one-run decision — was a full team effort, featuring fantastic performances by the Orioles bullpen and clutch hits from an awakening O’s lineup. In short, it was the kind of game that good teams win. And it clinched the Birds’ first road series win of the year, giving them a chance at a three-game sweep tomorrow afternoon.
The Orioles’ offense, in a rare display of instant gratification, jumped out of the gate with two runs in the opening frame, which was more first-inning runs than they’d scored in their first 14 games combined. Cedric Mullins sparked the rally with a leadoff walk against veteran righty Noah Syndergaard, who then drilled Anthony Santander in the hand with a 1-2 pitch. And that’s when the track meet began.
The combination of the bad-at-holding-runners Syndergaard (whose catchers have thrown out just 11 percent of base stealers in his career) and weak-armed catcher Max Stassi (who has thrown out 20 percent) gave the O’s a rare chance to flash their speed. Mullins stole second during the Santander at-bat and then swiped third for Ryan Mountcastle, who promptly plated him with a single to left. Rougned Odor followed with a deep sac fly to center to bring home Santander, giving the O’s a quick 2-0 lead. Even the not-super-speedy Mountcastle stole second base, but was left stranded.
Staked to that early 2-0 advantage, O’s starter Spenser Watkins very well could have held the lead...if it weren’t for that pesky Mike Trout fellow. While the rejuvenated Watkins held the rest of the Angels lineup in check — including Shohei Ohtani, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout — he became approximately the one millionth major league pitcher to be tormented by Trout.
The future Hall of Famer first tagged Watkins in the first inning, golfing a low pitch for a 408-foot solo home run to right-center. And though Watkins won the second battle, fanning Trout to open the third, the slugger got the last laugh in the fifth with a game-tying, 417-foot homer to left. You can’t even be mad. That’s just what he does.
Kudos to Watkins, though, who otherwise delivered a solid start, working five innings and keeping all non-Trout Angels hitters off the board. He stranded two runners in the first and got out of a second-inning jam on a line-drive double play from Ohtani. Nothing great, but overall, he looks like an improved pitcher over the guy who posted an 8.07 ERA for the Birds last year.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ first-inning success against Syndergaard was not to last. After the right-hander labored for 25 pitches in the first, he needed only 28 to get through the next three innings combined. The Birds’ only baserunner in that span came on a second-inning error that allowed Jorge Mateo to reach base (and of course he swiped second, the Birds’ fourth steal).
Syndergaard, now nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is no longer quite the vintage flamethrower who took MLB by storm back in the day — though his hair game remains on point — but he certainly had his way with the Orioles after that first inning. This was the first time he’d faced the Birds since his rookie year in 2015 (a game I remember attending, by the way, because it ended with a completely unexpected Henry Urrutia walkoff homer).
Syndergaard didn’t face a whiff of trouble until the sixth, when a walk and a single with two outs brought an end to his night, but Ramon Urias hacked at the first pitch from reliever Aaron Loup and flied out harmlessly to end the threat.
Once both starters were out of the game, the scoring picked up, starting with the Angels. Rookie righty Bryan Baker had his worst outing as an Oriole, coughing up a two-run homer to Brandon Marsh that gave Los Angeles its first lead of the series, 4-2.
But just as quickly as the Orioles fell behind, they rallied to regain the lead in a wild top of the seventh that had a little bit of everything. And I do mean everything, starting with a bunt single by the catcher. It’s true! Anthony Bemboom, a former Angel, set down a perfect drag bunt to the right side of the infield that second baseman Tyler Wade couldn’t corral, giving the O’s a leadoff baserunner. Third baseman Anthony Rendon robbed Mateo of a hit with a diving catch to spear a liner, but just two batters later, Rendon went from hero to goat by airmailing a throw to first on a routine grounder. That error, which followed a Mullins hit by pitch, loaded the bases for the Birds.
Angels manager Joe Maddon made the unfortunate decision to call on reliever Ryan Tepera, who simply could not control his slider on this night. His first three pitches were balls to Trey Mancini, who got the green light on 3-0 and rocketed a fly ball to the left fielder Marsh. Bemboom scored on the sac fly, and Mullins and Santander aggressively moved up a base apiece, with Mullins barely sliding in safely on a bang-bang play that was (unsuccessfully) challenged by Maddon.
It was up to Mountcastle to deliver the clutch hit...and that’s exactly what he did, lacing a single to left field that plated both runners. The Orioles were back in front, 5-4. Now that’s a rally! It’s the kind of late-inning life we’ve rarely seen from this O’s offense this year, and I love it. Tepera walked two more batters to load the bases before Urias lined out sharply.
Despite Baker’s stumbles, the rest of the Orioles’ bullpen did a fantastic job to preserve the razor-thin, one-run margin, pulling off one nail-biting escape after another. Dillon Tate worked the seventh — where he had to face the Ohtani-Trout duo — and emerged unscathed, overcoming an Ohtani walk and steal by freezing Trout on a called third strike.
The eighth was particularly dicey for Joey Krehbiel, but he maintained his spotless 0.00 ERA. After a one-out walk, Marsh lifted a fly ball to deep left-center. Left fielder Ryan McKenna, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, cut in front of Mullins to catch the ball on the run...and then just flat-out dropped it. Yikes. The two-base error landed the O’s in real hot water, putting the possible tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with just one out.
Krehbiel, though, pulled off the Houdini act, inducing harmless pop flies from both Stassi and Wade to keep the runners stranded. Krehbiel has now pitched 8.1 innings this year without allowing an earned run. Not bad for a guy I’d never heard of until the O’s got him.
Closer Jorge Lopez handled the ninth, which again promised a matchup against Ohtani and Trout. With one out, Lopez fell behind Ohtani 3-0 but got a somewhat favorable strike call on the fourth pitch, then rallied back to strike him out. Huge out, there. Trout kept the Angels alive with a single before Lopez retired Rendon on a grounder to second for out number three.
Orioles win! And what a win it was. These first two games against the Angels have been a nice bounceback after that rough Oakland series, and who knows? Maybe it’ll springboard the Birds into some well-played baseball for a while.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 23, 2022?
This poll is closed
Joey Krehbiel (huge escape in eighth inning, 0.00 ERA)
Jorge Lopez (scoreless ninth, second save in as many nights)
Ryan Mountcastle (2-for-5, 3 RBIs, go-ahead two-run single in seventh)