If ever there was a game that might have created some positive momentum for the Orioles, Friday night’s comeback win over the Red Sox was it. It would have been nice to believe in this. Unfortunately for O’s fans, the only thing that needs to be said about momentum comes from Earl Weaver: “Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”
The O’s brought Jordan Lyles into Game 1 of their Saturday doubleheader, surely hoping that after chewing up their bullpen on Friday, Lyles could help provide some stable innings. That’s the kind of pitcher Lyles has been through his Orioles tenure. He simply wasn’t up to the task on Saturday afternoon. He didn’t even fail in a particularly interesting or noteworthy way. He just... wasn’t good, the result of this being that he was lifted from the game after only 4.1 innings, with some bullpen bad luck downstream from that sending the Orioles to a 5-3 loss to start off the doubleheader.
Let’s not exclusively pile on Lyles, or either of the pitchers who followed him, Keegan Akin and Bryan Baker. The Orioles offense needs to be highlighted for its phenomenal failure. Yes, they scored three runs in the game, which isn’t awful, but they did such a poor job of plate discipline that they allowed Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi to throw a complete game in 108 pitches. The loss doesn’t even come with at least feeling like they made Boston burn some good relievers before the nightcap. We’ll know in a few hours if this fact will bite them in any way.
In contrast to Friday night’s game, the Orioles scored first in this one. Cedric Mullins turned the first pitch of the game into an infield single. Trey Mancini soon joined him on base when he hit a hard line drive right at Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. Somehow this hard shot clanged off Devers’s glove and bounced onto the ground. Both runners were safe. A promising scoring opportunity.
Anthony Santander cashed in right away, hitting a chopper the opposite way, where due to the shift and the need to keep Mullins from waltzing to third base unopposed, no one stood. Mullins easily scored, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead, still with two men on and no one out.
They could have really put Eovaldi on the ropes. It didn’t work out that way. Austin Hays popped out, Ryan Mountcastle grounded into a double play, and that was that. Mountcastle was briefly called safe, as a high throw pulled first baseman Franchy Cordeo off the bag; Mancini scored while Cordero looked incredulously at the umpire. Replay overturned this outcome, the correct decision based on the decisive angle shown on MASN. It was close. As my 10th grade Chemistry teacher reminded us often: “Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear missiles.”
Boston struck back, as evil empires are wont to do, only an inning later as Lyles ran into trouble the first time through the bottom of the Red Sox lineup. He got through the first inning with just 12 pitches thrown, then took 39 pitches to labor through the second. A single followed by a double set up a nifty relay play at the plate by the Orioles for the inning’s first out, keeping the Sox off the scoreboard.
This didn’t last for long. After getting the second out, Lyles ran into problems again. He didn’t help his own cause very much by walking crummy-hitting catcher Kevin Plawecki. Lyles got to two strikes against the #9 hitter, Jackie Bradley Jr., before Bradley sliced an opposite field double to score the Boston’s first run. Only then did the lineup turn over. Enrique Hernández hit a 100.0mph grounder to the left of third baseman Ramón Urías that perhaps a better fielder might have gotten. Urías instead deflected the ball into left field. Two runs scored. The Statcast expected batting average on this ball was .140.
Though they rattled Eovaldi earlier, he settled down, retiring ten of the next eleven batters after Santander’s RBI single. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that they got something going again. Urías led off the inning by doubling on the first pitch. Catcher Robinson Chirinos pounced on an Eovaldi mistake pitch on a 1-2 count, cracking a home run that ricocheted off of something high above the Green Monster to fall back down onto the field. The game, as dumb as it had been, was tied at 3-3.
Gifted the tying runs, Lyles had a last chance to try to salvage a decent outing. Devers and J.D. Martinez singled, putting the go-ahead run on third base. After striking out Xander Bogaerts, Lyles was pulled from the game, having allowed three runs on nine hits and a walk in 4.1 innings, with 93 pitches thrown. It ain’t good. The O’s brought Akin into the tie game, counting on the lefty to escape the jam. A soft line drive and a strikeout later and this plan was a success.
From here, the Orioles never got a runner to second base. Their only remaining hits were a one-out single by Ryan Mountcastle in the sixth, and a leadoff single by Austin Hays in the ninth. In both cases, the inning promptly ended with Rougned Odor grounding into a double play. Odor’s hitless afternoon snapped an 11-game hitting streak.
There are not many relievers who are sub-2.00 ERA-level good, even with 2022 offense being what it is. Pitchers under that are “due” to have things even out. Akin’s luck turned Saturday afternoon and that’s the immediate reason why the O’s lost. Boston sent up .488 OPSing Bobby Dalbec as a pinch hitter to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
Dalbec would at least not have the platoon disadvantage against the lefty Akin, unlike Cordero, the other first baseman. Dalbec got his bat on a 3-2 outside upper-third fastball and powered it to the opposite field, all the way out beyond the Red Sox bullpen in right field. Bad luck! Dalbec was probably due to do better and Akin to do worse. So it went.
An inning later, a second run went on Akin’s ledger after he was lifted from the game. Akin came out of the game with men on second and third base and two outs. His relief, Bryan Baker, got a ground ball from Christian Arroyo that was such a crappy little chopper that it got past where Baker could field it then died on the grass down the third base line. There was nothing anyone could do. A fifth Boston run scored. Akin’s ERA is now 1.71. He’s probably still due.
That fifth run did not matter, in any case. The Orioles offense had folded up the tents against Eovaldi. They were outhit by Boston in the game, 13-7. You’re going to lose most games like that. Hopefully it only means they’re saving some runs for the nightcap. Denyi Reyes is set to make the Game 2 start for the O’s, his first ever MLB start. The game figures to also feature the MLB debut of 2016 O’s first rounder Cody Sedlock.