Sometimes, when you’re on the road, in the middle of the Wild Card chase, you need to win ugly. That’s just what the Orioles were able to do Friday night, coming from behind once again to beat the Reds 6-2.
Let’s be clear here: the 6-2 scoreline does not do the game justice in terms of how tight things really were. Through eight innings, the Orioles had left seven runners on base and were 0-8 with RISP. The 2-2 tie felt like it could go on all the way into August. Then, in the ninth, the dam finally broke.
Ramon Urias led off the inning with a walk, and Rougned Odor followed with a double that left the O’s with a second and third, nobody-out situation. Jorge Mateo then lifted a fly ball into center field, but not deep enough to score pinch runner Ryan McKenna from third.
Luckily for the Birds, Cedric Mullins was up to the occasion. After starting the game 0-4, Mullins laced the first pitch he saw up the middle, scoring McKenna and Odor.
YOU CAN'T ESCAPE HIM!! pic.twitter.com/S6M5fmLfcA— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 30, 2022
After Cedric stole second, Thursday’s hero Trey Mancini drove him home with another hit that had plenty of luck involved. Instead of plunking one off an outfielder’s face, Mancini instead poked it right up the middle—the ball deflecting off second base and into right field. Right after the hit, MASN broadcaster noted how it felt like “someone took the pins out of the voodoo doll” when it came to Mancini and his recent slump. That was a feeling the entire offense—and all of Birdland—shared throughout the ninth.
Before the rally finished with a Ryan Mountcastle sac fly, things got heated between the two teams. With runners at second and third, Anthony Santander called for a late timeout facing Dauri Moreta from the Reds. Moreta responded by plunking Santander in the leg, something the Orioles right fielder took plenty of offense to.
All throughout the game, Santander was the catalyst for an Orioles team that started out sluggish. Early on, when it felt like the Orioles could get nothing going, he collected two bloop singles in the second and fourth. Then, in the sixth, Tony Taters got the Orioles on the board with authority. Reds starter Mike Minor floated a chest-high change up to Santander, and he kindly deposited it in the left field bleachers. In his post-game interview, Santander mentioned how he was looking for a pitch up as Minor had been so tough to hit when locating low in the zone. Well, Minor certainly gave him what he was looking for.
Tony Tater ties it!! pic.twitter.com/FfJy3dKL38— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 30, 2022
Up until that point, Minor had kept the Orioles’ offense largely off balance. Spotted a 2-0 lead after a first-inning Joey Votto HR, the veteran lefty leaned on his change-up early and often. Minor was consistently locating it just outside the zone—forcing swings and misses or weak contact. Minor went to that well one too many times though, and after the home run from Santander, it felt like the O’s were in the driver’s seat and it was only a matter of time before they took the lead. Sure, it took a little longer than most of Birdland would’ve liked, but in the end, the Orioles finally delivered on that feeling.
Brandon Hyde gave the start Friday to Kyle Bradish, who Baltimore called up Friday morning to take over the injured Tyler Wells’ spot in the rotation. Bradish—making his first start since June 18—was perhaps slightly better than expected in his return from the IL. Early on he showed off the plus stuff and feel for all four pitches that keep this organization intrigued with his potential as a starter. However, he also showed the occasional lapse in command which continues to be his biggest weakness. For every slider that was buried low and away, there was a fastball that caught too much of the plate.
While he finished with seven strikeouts, there were plenty of at-bats where Bradish just struggled to put players away. Through three innings, he had thrown 60 pitches and the rookie righty constantly found himself in three-ball counts. He closed with a strong fifth inning, as he worked around two singles to get three outs on seven total pitches. The final line—5.0 IP, 5 Hs, 2 ER and 7 Ks—speaks to the fickle nature of Bradish; dominant sometimes, very hittable other times.
The bullpen was its normally dominant self in keeping the game under control and allowing the offense the time they needed to make the comeback. This game also held extra meaning for relievers Cionel Perez and Jorge Lopez. Perez was making his first appearance in Cincinnati after being waived by the Reds at the end of last season. He responded by striking out Donovan Solano to end the sixth and collecting two outs—including another K—in the seventh.
For Lopez, it was also a homecoming of sorts. The Orioles’ All-Star closer makes his off-season home in Cincinnati and had plenty of family in attendance to watch him close out the win. While it wasn’t a save situation, Lopez still worked a flawless ninth, striking out two and forcing a soft pop-up to first. With the trade deadline looming, every appearance from Lopez also seems like a potential inflection point for his Orioles career. Every good appearance, like tonight’s, makes the Orioles think harder about whether to cash in on the best season of Lopez’s career or keep him around for the Wild Card chase.
A win like Friday’s gives hope not only to that playoff chase but also to the idea that Mike Elias & Co. might actually keep this roster fully intact past the trade deadline. A Rays loss versus Cleveland means that the O’s are now only two games back from the last Wild Card spot in the AL. Saturday will provide another opportunity to inch ever closer to that spot, but for now, Birdland can hold onto the hope emanating from this team. Hope that they can win any game they play, and hope that it’ll always be fun as hell watching them try—even in the ugly ones. Never say die, Birdland.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Friday, July 29?
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Anthony Santander (3-4, HR, 2 RBI)
Cedric Mullins (2-RBI single in the 9th)
The Bullpen (4 scoreless innings, 4 Ks)