The losing streak is finally over! Though at times it seemed during Thursday’s 9-6 marathon win over the Yankees that the Orioles were determined to blow it and go down in flames for the seventh straight game, when push came to shove, Anthony Santander delivered a walkoff home run over the fence in the left field corner to send everybody home happy. They did it.
In a little bit different of a version of today’s game, the team might have never needed the walkoff hit. They had the Yankees down to their last out - their last two strikes, really - with a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth before a cheapo opposite field base hit by DJ LeMahieu fell in, scoring the tying run from second base.
In another different, worse version, the three-run home run might not have been enough to end the game; after the Yankees tied the game at 6-6, the next two batters walked to load the bases, and Giancarlo Stanton hit a laser - right at Cedric Mullins. Disaster was averted.
That set up what turned into the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth, with the O’s winning this thing before we needed to get the Manfred Man involved. New York brought reliever Lucas Luetge into the tie game. Luetge fell victim to some problems in his defense. The inning’s leadoff batter, Austin Hays, hit a hard grounder to third base. Normally, the Yankees have vacuum cleaner Anthony Rizzo over at first, but he was a whiner who got ejected for arguing balls and strikes, so instead it was LeMahieu at first, who could not corral the wild throw.
Luetge struck out the day’s inexplicable #2 hitter, Ramón Urías for the first out. Trey Mancini battled Luetge to a full count before dropping a line drive single into center field. Winning run in scoring position with one out is always promising, but we have seen the Orioles blow plenty of chances like this over the course of this season.
Santander left no doubt. He turned on an inside pitch from Luetge and ripped that sucker into the left field seats, 376 feet from home plate. These days, 376 feet in that direction isn’t always a home run. You really gotta hook it down the line to get into the shorter seats. Santander did it and his reward was a Gatorade bath two steps in front of home plate as the whole team crowded around and waited for him to take the last steps to make the win official.
Santander’s Sanctuary was prominently involved as the game played out, so for it to end this way was fitting. (My new wall name rule: Something alliterative featuring the name of the most recent player affected by it.) Two different game-tying home runs landed in that corner before the new wall reaches its maximum distance from home plate: O’s catcher Robinson Chirinos erased an early 2-0 Yankees lead with a second inning dinger, while strong man Stanton got a game-tying dinger of his own with a titanic fly ball that just refused to hook foul; this fourth inning shot, Stanton’s 11th of the season, made it a 3-3 tie at that time.
Anyone who was hoping that Baltimore’s own Bruce Zimmermann would be able to serve as the stopper had their hopes crushed early in this one, and often. Zimmermann has pitched some great games this season, but in this afternoon affair he simply did not have a putaway pitch. Zimmermann ended up throwing 78 pitches in five-plus innings, only two of which saw the batter swing and miss.
That’s going to burn a pitcher eventually. Yankees batters were squaring up Zimmermann pretty good, which is why he’d given up three runs heading into the sixth. The O’s tried to push Zimmermann farther, but a hard grounder off the bat of Aaron Judge turned into the only hit Judge has gotten at Camden Yards since whining about the new wall on Tuesday night. Rizzo followed with a two-strike opposite field slice job that found grass against the shift. Tough luck.
Reliever Bryan Baker was charged with keeping the door shut on the Yankees. He was not up to the task. First, he walked (somewhat sensibly) Stanton, loading the bases. After rallying for a couple of strikeouts, Baker’s luck ran out. Isiah Kiner-Falefa delivered a two-run single to put the Yankees up, 5-3. The runs were charged to Zimmermann, who gets an unfortunate Tommy Hunter (five runs, all earned) on this day. He did not, however, get a loss.
Even in the midst of these dismal losses, the Orioles have largely kept themselves in games, kept getting themselves chances. They could have been deflated after things fell apart in the top of the sixth. Instead, they got right back down to business. Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery was lifted after five innings and the Orioles went to work around a Yankees bullpen that’s been busy while beating the O’s in this series.
Former Oriole Miguel Castro’s outing began with a walk to Santander, then turned on some bad luck when Jorge Mateo reached base by catcher’s interference. The home plate umpire initially called it a foul ball, but the Orioles alertly challenged: What the umpire thought was the sound of bat hitting ball was the sound of bat hitting glove. In an uncommon development for them, the obvious video evidence was sufficient for an overturned call in the Orioles favor.
Suddenly, the tying run was on base and there was no one out. Nevin made up for not being able to get a glove on the previous inning’s grounder with a run-scoring base hit, which advanced the quick Mateo to third base. Castro was replaced by Chad Green, who eventually let the run score when Cedric Mullins, serving as a pinch hitter for Ryan McKenna, hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Nevin aggressively tagged from first to second, which proved crucial in his scoring a sixth Orioles run later in the inning as another pinch hitter, Rougned Odor, lined through the shift for an RBI single.
Dillon Tate and Joey Krehbiel did their part to hold the line there, and so did Jorge López, for three outs anyway. Unfortunately, López was asked to get a four out save. He fell just short. Santander picked him up in the bottom half, putting an exclamation point on a game where he’d already hit two doubles. For Santander, this was his seventh home run of the season.
Having walked off the Yankees on that team’s way out of town, the Orioles will turn next to a home weekend series against the Rays, a team they rather infamously went 1-18 against last season and were swept by in their lone series so far this season. Tyler Wells and Jalen Beeks are listed as the scheduled starting pitchers for the 7:05 Friday opener.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for May 19, 2022?
This poll is closed
Anthony Santander (three hits including walkoff dinger)
Tony Taters (seventh home run of the year while walking off)
Agua Blanca (Santander’s Baseball Reference page says that’s his nickname)