What might the 2022 Orioles look like if they start getting a little bit better luck and if they start ending up on the right end of the stupid side of baseball a little bit more often? Monday afternoon’s series finale against the Royals provided part of an answer, with the Orioles taking advantage of some Kansas City bungling to roll to a six-run inning. Add that to Tyler Wells having a phenomenal six-inning start and the result was a 6-1 Orioles victory.
There could have almost as easily been a different story to tell about this game, a more familiar 2022 Orioles story of just enough bad luck and just enough inexplicable offensive ineptitude to send the team to a loss. For the first four and a half innings on Monday, that WAS the story.
The Royals jumped to an early lead with a manufactured first inning run. Their leadoff batter Bobby Witt Jr. opened up the game with a single. I am just a touch grumpy that Witt, the #2 overall pick right behind Adley Rutschman in 2019, is already in MLB while Rutschman remains in the minors. Witt enjoying any success at all against the Orioles makes me grumpier.
Grumpy Mark was summoned in the first as Witt, using his excellent speed, stole second base with two outs. Wells got the batter, Ryan O’Hearn, to hit a line drive into the shift, but it was hit hard enough that the short right fielder couldn’t get to the ball. O’Hearn was hitting .063 on the season before this. That’s 2022 Orioles luck right there. Witt scored and the O’s found themselves in a 1-0 hole.
For four innings, the Orioles did not even manage to get themselves a chance with a runner in scoring position except for one at-bat. The suddenly-hot Austin Hays doubled on a two-out ground ball that bounced off third base and into left field. Even with two outs, this wasn’t enough for Trey Mancini, who was on first, to score. The runners were stranded. All this against Royals starter Carlos Hernández, who came into the game with a 6.00 ERA. Score runs against this dude!
In the fifth, the Orioles finally heard the plea. The Royals, who looked every bit like the team that’s yet to hit double-digit wins that they are, did their share to help out.
The rally started innocently enough. Orioles #7 hitter Tyler Nevin drew a walk with one out. Behind him was no RBI catcher Anthony Bemboom, hardly a threatening hitter. Bemboom pulled a double out of the reach of the right fielder. Maybe a faster runner could have scored. Nevin was not sent. Bemboom is still waiting for that RBI. He’s now more than 30% of the way to a 2016 Caleb Joseph season.
How were they going to blow this one? Turns out, they weren’t. Jorge Mateo pounced on an elevated fastball to rock a line drive into left, scoring Nevin easily and getting Bemboom to third. The lineup turned over. Mateo attacked with his speed, trying to steal second base. Royals catcher MJ Melendez airmailed the throw far and wide into the outfield, letting Bemboom score and Mateo take third base.
The Orioles were not done with taking a one-run lead. Although Cedric Mullins struck out, the next several O’s strung together a little Gas House Gorillas-like conga line. Mancini singled to drive in a third run, one of three hits he had in the game. On-base machine Anthony Santander drew a walk and Hays was hit by a pitch to load them up again. Hernández unloaded a wild pitch to score another run, and Ryan Mountcastle singled to drive in two more. When the dust cleared - with Rougned Odor, the ninth batter in the inning, halting the rally, naturally - the O’s had themselves six runs in one inning.
Staked to a big lead, Wells did not disappoint. He finished off his afternoon by working around a Salvador Pérez double to have a scoreless sixth. This is Wells’s first time getting beyond five innings pitched in six starts this year. On the day, he gave up just that one relatively cheap first inning run, otherwise scattering five hits and impressively issuing zero walks. Wells has allowed just four earned runs in 16 innings in his last three starts. This experiment of him in the rotation is getting interesting, though he’ll have tougher tests coming than a Royals team that’s averaging fewer runs per game than even the Orioles.
Bringing a five-run lead into the eighth inning, the Orioles chose the “Let’s bring in our crappiest-performing reliever and see if he can get it going” strategy. As the roster is currently constituted, that means Paul Fry.
Did he get it going? No, although he did not allow any runs either. Fry greeted the first batter he faced with an accidental slider to the elbow pad. Once they had gotten two outs, the Orioles then weirdly decided to deploy a four-man outfield against Pérez, who promptly hit a ground ball to where a second baseman would have been standing if they didn’t do a four-man outfield. Fry loaded the bases by walking pinch hitter Emmanuel Rivera, a player who Baseball Reference assures me is a real player who actually exists.
We are all too familiar over recent seasons with times where this kind of situation turns into a disaster. It’s not fun to be cognizant of what the score would be after a grand slam. Joey Krehbiel got out of it with a grounder to shortstop, Mateo to Mancini for the easy out.
My dad called me about 30 seconds later. He was out on some errands, listening on the radio, and the Orioles escaping that jam rather than melting down excited him. “I’m not saying they should start printing playoff tickets, but...” were the first words out of his mouth.
Dad! Even after this win, the Orioles are only 12-17, a 67-win pace over a full season. Way too early to talk about playoff tickets, indeed. He’s not wrong about one thing, though. The Orioles have blown games like this before. They blew one just yesterday in the first game of the doubleheader, albeit with a smaller lead. There was bad luck, stupid things happened, and the Orioles lost.
Today, it was a different story. They didn’t even need the power of the HOME RUN CHAIN. After this win, the Orioles have a better record than seven MLB teams. They are two games ahead of the last place Boston Red Sox. They’re not good yet, but they’re separated from the absolute bottom, for now. Recent seasons, they could not say that much.
Does this series win mean much of anything, or did the Orioles just find themselves fortunate enough to play another team that appears to be worse than they are? A road series against the St. Louis Cardinals will give us a bit of an answer to that question. The O’s start a three-game set at 7:45 Eastern on Tuesday. Kyle Bradish will make his third MLB start for the Orioles. The Cardinals have not named a starter as of this writing.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for May 9, 2022?
This poll is closed
Austin Hays (2 hits, now batting .327 and OPSing .903)
Trey Mancini (three-hit game)
Tyler Wells (6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO)