The Orioles put up a fight and came ever so close to finishing off a sweep of the White Sox, but fell just short, losing 4-3 in the series finale at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday afternoon in Chicago.
Dylan Cease was the star of this game. The righty is having himself a terrific season. He’s pitching like an all-star as well as someone that would be in contention for the AL Cy Young if the award was handed out midseason. He entered this game with an MLB-best 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings, and managed to outperform even those lofty standards against these Oriole hitters.
From the first inning, it was clear that Cease was “on.” His fastball was sitting in the mid-90s, and it flirted with triple digits at one point. He sat down the first three batters of the game on strikeout, and then proceeded to do the same to three of the next four hitters he faced. Through the first 2.1 innings, Cease already had six strikeouts.
Surprisingly, the newest Oriole, Jonathan Araúz, was the only one that could put up some amount of resistance. In the top of the third inning, the third baseman lifted a Cease slider deep to right-center field, squeaking it beyond the wall and into the bleachers for the first run by the visitors on the day. He was the first person to hit Cease’s slider out of the park all season long.
BRING OUT THE CHAIN FOR ARAÚZ ‼️ pic.twitter.com/7YdGHfGYKE— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 26, 2022
Apart from that, however, Baltimore had no answers. Cease ended up going seven innings with the Araúz home run as the lone blemish. He struck out 13, allowed four hits, and managed to walk just one. Avoiding free passes had been an issue for the Chicago starter. Coming into Sunday, he led baseball with 36 base on balls, a rate of 4.4 walks per nine innings. But he had no such issue in this game.
Jordan Lyles did what he could to keep the Orioles in the game, and to be fair it was a solid effort. Over seven innings, the veteran righty served up four runs on six hits, one walk, and four strikeouts.
The first two runs came on a Gavin Sheets home run in the second inning. José Abreu scored after opening the frame with a single through the middle.
Another run came in the third inning, when Andrew Vaughn brought home Lenyn Sosa. Sosa had begun the inning with a double, moved to third on a Tim Anderson fly out, and was then in prime scoring position for Vaughn.
Lyles’ final charged run came in the fourth inning. Abreu led off with a walk, and then made his way to second on a Josh Harrison single, and came home on a Seby Zavala base knock.
It was the exact sort of performance Mike Elias had in mind when he signed Lyles to be a veteran anchor for the rotation during the offseason. His season ERA now sits at 4.94. All in all, this has been the ideal outcome from the Lyles deal, and that is something to be moderately happy about.
And because he went so deep, O’s manager Brandon Hyde only had to use one reliever. Cionel Pérez came in for the eighth inning and was able to escape without allowing a run despite serving up a pair of base hits.
The Orioles almost forced the White Sox to take their ninth inning turn on offense. They loaded the bases in the top of the inning on a pair of Abreu errors followed by a Jorge Mateo walk. An RBI single to center field from Araúz drew the O’s within a two runs and three outs to work with.
After a Rougned Odor strikeout, Cedric Mullins drove in Adley Rutschman and moved Mateo from second to third with a sacrifice fly. But that is where it would stop. Trey Mancini struck out to end the game.
Despite the loss, this was a heck of a series for the Orioles. Taking three out of four on the road to a desperate team is never an easy task. The O’s played an exciting brand of baseball to take the first three games of the series, relying on some stellar pitching and an opportunistic offense. Those pieces didn’t quite come together in the finale, but it shouldn’t sour the weekend. This Orioles team is fun and actually kind of good!
The emergence of Araúz is at least interesting. Is he the next cornerstone of the Orioles franchise? It feels safe to say no. But the team has innings to cover at second and third base right now, and likely will continue to until Gunnar Henderson and/or Jordan Westburg get the call to Baltimore. Take the coverage where you can get it, and go with the hot hand. For this exact moment, that is Araúz. That very well could change next week.
The lengthy road trip continues on Monday, when the Orioles begin a three-game series against the Mariners in Seattle. Yes, that means late night baseball for us east coasters, unfortunately. Game one begins at 10:10. Tyler Wells (5-4, 3.34 ERA) is on the bump to begin another winning streak. He will be opposed by George Kirby (2-2, 3.12 ERA) at T-Mobile Park.