Flashback to May 31st, Oriole Park at Camden Yards: George Kirby and the Mariners were in town, and they couldn’t have treated their hosts any ruder. The rookie Kirby embarrassed O’s hitters with a six-inning, four-hit shutout as Mariners hitters teed off for ten runs against a bullpen outfit of Bryan Baker, Zac Lowther (no longer on the 40-man), Marcos Diplán and … position player Chris Owings, now DFA’d. Ouch.
Those days, and that Baltimore team, seem far away now. Monday night’s contest felt more reminiscent of another recent O’s-M’s matchup: the John Means no-hitter from May 5, 2021, perhaps coincidentally the last time the Birds were in T-Mobile Park.
Tyler Wells had a perfect game going for 4 2/3 innings on just 44 pitches—a “ludicrously efficient” outing, as MASN’s Kevin Brown said. The Orioles blasted five home runs, four off of Mariners starter George Kirby, who had a 3.12 ERA in nine starts and no more than two home runs allowed in any of them. Entering Monday, Mariners pitchers had a massively impressive streak of 24 consecutive games in which they allowed three runs or fewer. The Orioles took that record and stomped it to smithereens. And, most importantly, Baltimore recorded its 14th win in June, guaranteeing this team its first winning month since August 2017.
So many nice things happened it’s hard to know what to focus on. Let’s start with Wells’ ace-worthy performance. The big righty entered Monday on a roll, having led his team to a win in each of his last five starts. Tonight was just more dominance: Wells rolled through the first 14 Mariners he saw. He needed just seven pitches to get through the second inning, aided by a pair of nice catches from Jonathan Araúz on pop-ups. He was through three innings on 30 pitches. Through four after eight more. It felt like a historic outing in the making before perfection—and the shutout—ended for Wells with two outs in the fifth inning, as Seattle catcher Cal Raleigh took a fastball deep. But there’s no erasing what Wells did to that point: sheer dominance, the best we’ve seen Wells look in uniform, period. It was a massive outing for him.
Another nice thing to come out of Monday: a homecoming of sorts for Adley Rutschman, raised in the Pacific Northwest, who had as many as 1,000 supporters in attendance, including his Grandpa Ad, the first time the senior Rutschman was seeing his grandson play live as a major leaguer (aww). Lately, the “R” in Rutschman has stood for Rooster (the Top Gun character he’s modeled his scratchy little ‘stache on), but tonight, it stood for “RBI”: Adley drilled a single in the first inning to score Trey Mancini, and with two outs in the fourth, he hit a line drive that went, and went, and went—a home run! Wonder what Adley was thinking as he circled the bases. Whatever it was, there was a crazy lot of Rutschman supporters, based on the cheers you could hear.
And we haven’t even talked about the offense as a whole yet. Tonight, the Birds flipped the script on the luckless George Kirby, tagging him for seven runs in just four innings. It wasn’t dumb luck, or Kirby necessarily pitching like crap: O’s hitters put together some impressively professional at-bats.
There was Trey Mancini’s nine-pitch at-bat in the first, leading to a double and the O’s first run, for one.
Then the Adley dinger in the third inning, of course—immediately followed by a Ryan Mountcastle blast of his own to put the Orioles up 4-0. (Mountcastle’s homer gives him 17 extra-base hits in June, best in baseball.)
Adley and Mounty.— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 28, 2022
The best at-bat of the night, though, was Anthony Santander’s brilliant 12-pitch at-bat in the fourth, with Cedric Mullins aboard. Santander fouled off eight straight pitches before getting a fastball with his name all over it: Tony Taters made a reappearance to blast a 397-foot no-doubter to right. The next man up, Austin Hays, pummeled his first pitch over the left-field fence. Back to back home runs—for a second time in the game!
By the time the sixth inning rolled around, there was only one Oriole still left without a hit. Everybody knows Jorge Mateo is in there for his glove … oh, wait. Mateo’s home run was a monster, 401 feet to deep center, the O’s fifth and the longest of the day. It put them back on top by seven runs, 8-1.
No lead feels totally safe in the Majors, so it’s wise to hoard all the runs you can. After Wells left after five, O’s pitching wasn’t quite as brilliant—Joey Krehbiel got two quick K’s on some beautiful pinpoint fastballs, but he gave up a single and a stony-faced Brandon Hyde pulled him. Keegan Akin has been brilliant a lot of this year, but his sixth inning was not brilliant: he allowed a walk, a double that almost left the field of play, and he got majorly lucky when Cedric Mullins made his first of two gorgeous catches on the night, a sliding basket catch of a pop-up threatening to drop in the Bermuda Triangle.
After that, the longer Akin was in, the better he looked. By the seventh inning, he was pretty much unhittable, racking up two easy swinging strikeouts and a weak pop-out to end the inning. The eighth and ninth were both three-up, three-down affairs. The length and quality pitching Akin has been able to provide this season must help Brandon Hyde sleep at night. Then again, it never hurts for a pitcher when your centerfielder can do this:
This game was, all around, an embarrassment of riches—it definitely felt like it when Cedric Mullins led off top of the ninth with a double, moved to third on a Mancini groundout, and tagged for the Orioles’ ninth and final run.
Over the last few seasons, there have been times where it was genuinely impossible to find something nice to write about this team. Tonight, almost too many nice things happened at once: Wells’ sheer brilliance over 4 2/3 innings, Adley Rutschman’s emotional homecoming, Mullins’ two doubles and brilliant defense, the Orioles putting on a Home Run Derby at T-Mobile Park. And, something the Orioles haven’t done since 2017: a winning month of baseball.
Put the word out: the Orioles are back up.
Who was the Most Birdland Player on Monday?
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Cedric Mullins (2-for-4, 2 2B, a pair of ridiculous catches in CF)
Tyler Wells (4 2/3 innings of perfection, 1 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 K)
Adley Rutschman (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBIs in front of Grandpa Ad)
Anthony Santander (1-for-4, 3 RBI, titanic HR)