Wins are hard to come by in the American League East. It’s difficult to beat an opponent on any given night, and it’s even tougher to clinch a series victory. The Orioles have known this for a long time, but their foes are learning that there are no longer any off days in this division.
The Orioles jumped out to an early lead and clung to it in a hard-fought, 2-1 victory over the Rays. The game marked the third consecutive contest decided by one-run and provided Baltimore a series victory.
The Orioles won despite a late scratch of starter Jordan Lyles. Lyles was ruled out with a stomach virus and the Birds turned to recent waiver claim Austin Voth. Voth, a 29-year-old right hander, had not pitched more than two innings in an outing this year.
Voth answered the call and delivered 2.2 scoreless frames to jumpstart the afternoon. Voth allowed three hits and struck out four Tampa Bay batters. Brandon Hyde pulled Voth after he issued his first walk to Manuel Margot with two outs in the third.
Brian Baker entered and immediately walked Yandy Diaz and Ji-Man Choi to load the bases. Baker had nowhere to put Randy Arozarena so he elected to strike him out with a 96-MPH-fastball to end the threat.
Baker continued to struggle with his command despite a wide and inconsistent strike zone from Stu Scheurwater behind the plate. Baker allowed a leadoff single to Francisco Mejia and an RBI-double that gave Tampa their lone run of the game. Nick Vespi entered and struckout Kevin Kiermaier to end the inning and strand the tying run at third base.
The Orioles gained their early lead with a rocket from Anthony Santander. Santander launched a high flyball that nearly reached Eutaw Street. Santander finished an impressive 2-for-2 and also worked a walk. He provided Baltimore an early cushion with the bullpen tasked with all nine frames.
The Orioles scored again after a leadoff single by Ryan McKenna in the third. Cedric Mullins punched a ball the other way to the left field gap that easily scored McKenna. Mullins eventually worked his way to third but failed to score after Austin Hays popped out.
That was it from Baltimore’s offense. The Orioles managed only four hits all game and never really threatened after the third. Jorge Mateo reached base after being hit with a pitch and immediately stole second base. The crowd was buzzing after Mateo overcame multiple pickoff attempts at first, but Mateo was erased after making a bad read on a ground out.
The bullpen needed to be perfect down the stretch and they rose to the occasion. Vespi struck out two and did not allow a baserunner in 1.1 innings.
Mike Baumann allowed a pair of two-out singles but escaped after an impressive play by Rougned Odor. Odor charged a weak ground ball and fired a hard, one-bounce throw to first base. Ryan Mountcastle made an impressive pick and the throw just beat the speedy Taylor Walls.
Odor and Mountcastle shined defensively in this one. Mountcastle made a diving stop earlier in the game, and Odor fired a perfect relay through to nab Brett Phillips at the plate in the second inning. It takes those types of plays to win a one-run game and the Orioles made them today.
Félix Bautista worked a clean seventh and Cionel Pérez recorded two outs in the eighth. The Orioles turned to Jorge López for another four-out save. López entered with his son watching from the stands on Father’s Day.
López allowed the tying run to reach second base with a balk in the eighth, but he coerced Mejia into a fly out that ended the threat. Baltimore’s closer generated two flyouts before allowing a single to Kevin Kiermaier, but he earned the save by forcing Margot to ground out and end the game.
It’s genuinely enjoyable to watch this team win in different ways. The Orioles struggled to get things going against Corey Kluber for six innings, and Luke Bard shut them down for two more. The bullpen carried the bats in this one.
As Mark noted in Today’s Bird Droppings, the Orioles will now play nine consecutive games against teams with a losing record. The Birds moved to 9-8 in June with a win today, and a winning month seems within reach.
The Orioles bullpen will get a much needed day off tomorrow before a two-game set against the Nationals. Baltimore moved to 30-38 with the win today. The club was 23-47 on June 19 last season.
Who was the most Birdland player for Sunday, June 19?
Anthony Santander (2-2, HR, BB)
Austin Voth (2.2 scoreless innings in spot start, 4 K)
Jorge López (4-out save)