Back in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the Orioles became known as the Birdland Power Company due to the prodigious power they had up and down their lineup. Early on Sunday against the Royals, it looked like the 2022 Orioles were trying for a resurgence of the Power Company.
Anthony Santander opened up the scoring in the first with a bomb to center, Ryan Mountcastle and Rougned Odor followed suit with back-to-back blasts in the second and the Orioles never trailed on Sunday in their 10-7 win in Missouri. All in all, the victory over Kansas City earned the Os the weekend split they were looking for.
In both the loss on Friday and the come-from-behind win on Saturday, the Orioles fell behind the Royals 3-0 in the first inning. Sunday, Brandon Hyde’s Birds seemed to say “enough of these slow starts”, jumping all over Royals starter Brad Keller from the word “go”. The home runs from Santander, Mountcastle and Odor all traveled over 400 feet and had exit velos over 100mph. This time it was Keller and the Royals who found themselves down 3-0 before recording their fourth out.
The rest of the Orioles lineup may not have joined in on the home run parade, but they still clobbered everything Keller threw their way. Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays each had run-producing hits in the second inning, and the Os ultimately chased Keller after 58 pitches, tagging him for five runs and only getting five outs.
The early offense came against a pitcher in Keller who had dominated Baltimore early on in his career. Coming into Sunday, Keller was sporting a 1.29 ERA with a .149 BAA in 14 innings against the Birds. After his outing, those numbers jumped to 4.02 and .237, respectively.
The poor performance from the Royals starter was starkly contrasted by the effort the Orioles received from Dean Kremer. In his first career start against Kansas City, Kremer turned in one of his best outings in the Orange and Black. The third-year pitcher got through five innings without allowing a run—before getting the hook after facing the first two batters of the sixth inning. Just like the offense, Kremer’s success was fueled by relying on his power, as 10 of the righty’s 15 outs came off of his fastball. While Kremer’s command was far from perfect, it showed encouraging signs of improvement and was enough to get him his first win since his major league debut in September of 2020.
After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, the game was set up to finish like a golf tournament where your favorite golfer has a huge lead heading into the back nine—easy, no-stress, Sunday viewing. This is still the Orioles though, so of course, they ran into a few metaphorical bogeys.
The Royals tried to break up that sense of confidence from the first five innings in the bottom of the sixth. A single, a Richie Martin error, and a Hunter Dozier home-run saw the home team put three runs on the board and cut the lead to four.
However, Martin and the offense would restore the calm in the bottom of the seventh. The former Rule 5 draft pick drove in Mountcastle and Tyler Nevin with his second triple of the day—and then immediately score on a Cedric Mullins single, restoring the seven-run lead. Martin, getting his first start at shortstop since game 162 of the 2021 season, finished the day 3-5 with those two triples, 2 RBIs and three runs scored.
The Royals tried to wreak havoc on Orioles fans’ peace of mind once again in the last three innings, scoring two in the seventh, one in the eighth and then bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Nevertheless, Felix Bautista and Cionel Perez worked out of jams in those last two to close things out. Just like I’m sure Hyde and company drew it up.
Perhaps the biggest bright spot for the Royals on the day was the performance of rookie shortstop Bobby Witt—especially when compared to the performance we saw from Adley Rutschman. A major subtext of this series coming into the weekend was the first meeting of the players drafted No.1 and No.2 in the 2019 MLB Draft. Witt had performed slightly better in the first three games of the series—going 5-8 with a double, a triple and three runs scored. A big night from Rutschman in the Saturday win meant his series numbers sat at 4-8 with three doubles and two runs scored before the Sunday matinee. However, Witt expanded the margins between them (at least for this series)in a big way Sunday—going 3-5 with a home run and two runs scored. Adley, on the other hand, went 0-4 with three strikeouts while also drawing a walk. The series may have been split, but round one of Rutschman vs. Witt definitely went to the Royals’ budding star.
Sunday was also the third time this season that the Orioles came into the fourth game of a four-game series needing a win to earn the split. After failing to earn the split in Oakland in April, and then grabbing a split at Camden Yards with Minnesota in May, the Orioles now move to 2-1 in these opportunities. With a four-game series coming up this week in Toronto, hopefully, come Thursday the Orioles are playing for a series win instead of the split.
Yet, today a split still seems like a victory and progress. Would the Orioles of old have fought back to earn the split after losing the first two games decisively? Probably not, and that’s why there’s so much to love about the 2022 Os.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for 6/12/22?