If ever there were an indelible image of the upstart, close-knit 2022 Orioles, it happened on the final play of the Birds’ walkoff win in the 10th on Independence Day afternoon.
Jorge Mateo had just taken a 93-mph fastball flush to his left leg, a game-ending hit by pitch that forced home the winning run. As the Orioles and the Camden Yards crowd celebrated, the normally speedy Mateo, for perhaps the first time in his life, needed some help getting moving. A slew of his O’s teammates took him by the arms and led him gently down the first base line before Mateo jogged the final few steps himself, raising his arms in celebration as he stepped on first base.
The never-say-die Orioles overcame the sudden and emphatic end to Dean Kremer’s scoreless innings streak. They overcame a 2-for-12 performance with runners in scoring position. They overcame three would-be home runs that were denied by Mount Walltimore. They overcame another ill-timed gopher ball by scuffling closer Jorge Lopez.
Just another day in the life of an Orioles team that continues to impress.
The wild, back-and-forth affair began with Kremer extending his scoreless-innings streak to 23 innings — a third of the way to Orel Hershiser’s record! — before the Rangers began to tee off on him in the fifth inning. Josh Smith, Marcus Semien, and Corey Seager — the “Killer S’s,” as nobody calls them — smacked three consecutive singles. Adolis Garcia lofted a sac fly to left, scoring Smith as Austin Hays’ throw came into third. Oh well. You’ll just have to start a new scoreless streak next time, Dean.
With two down, Kremer still had a chance to get out of the inning with relatively little damage, but he never found the elusive third out. Nathaniel Lowe roped an RBI single to plate Semien, and Mitch Garver then clobbered a towering three-run homer that cleared Mount Walltimore in left. Oof. Five runs and five hits in the inning, and Kremer was finished without getting through the fifth. Kremer gave up more earned runs in that one inning than he’d allowed in his first five starts combined.
The Orioles’ offense, though, was potent enough to get Kremer off the hook for a loss. Against Dane Dunning, the O’s plated their first run in the second on a Jonathan Arauz RBI single, though Arauz TOOTBLAN’d himself into the final out of the inning. An inning later, Mateo reached on catcher’s interference and scored from first on Cedric Mullins’ double into the right-field corner.
Even after falling behind 5-2, the O’s refused to quit. They got one run back in the fifth on a Mullins solo homer to straightaway center, his seventh of the year and first since June 7. Still, Dunning entered the sixth inning with a two-run advantage, in line for his first victory since April 30, which would have snapped an 11-start winless streak.
I don’t know what Dunning ever did to offend his teammates, but their defensive butchery in the sixth assured his win drought would continue. With Adley Rutschman at first after a walk, longtime Ranger Rougned Odor lofted a fly ball to left. Steven Duggar seemed like he should have been able to make the catch, but he let the ball squirt past him as he dove. Odor ended up with a double, putting two runners in scoring position.
Immediately, they both scored. Arauz tapped a bouncer to first base...and Lowe flat-out whiffed on it, letting the ball roll into shallow right. Rutschman and Odor motored home to tie the game, 5-5. Dunning was yanked from the game, once again frustratingly winless.
In a battle of the bullpens, both teams showed well at first. Nick Vespi, Felix Bautista, and Cionel Perez combined for 3.1 shutout innings for the Birds, while Dennis Santana, Brock Burke, and Brett Martin worked 2.2 scoreless for Texas, with Martin fanning Mullins with two aboard in the eighth. At that point the O’s were an ugly 1-for-11 with men in scoring position.
In fairness to the Orioles, though, they would’ve had at least three more runs if they were playing in last year’s Camden Yards dimensions. At various points, Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, and the freshly activated Ramon Urias each clobbered deep drives to left. None were able to clear The Wall. Hays’ drive resulted in a double off the top of the fence (he was left stranded), while Mountcastle and Urias were simply long flyouts.
Jorge Lopez entered the game in the top of the ninth rolled around and...(heavy sigh)...he is just not having a good time lately. Coming off back-to-back blown saves in Minnesota, I’d love to say that Lopez returned with a vengeance, threw a dominant inning, and kept the game tied. Except that’s not what happened. Instead, he served up a home run to the first batter he faced, Semien, to give the Rangers a 6-5 lead.
You guys, is Jorge Lopez broken? Before Friday, he hadn’t given up a home run all season, spanning 37 innings. Now he’s coughed up roundtrippers in each of his last three games and isn’t pitching with a ton of confidence. For what it’s worth, Lopez got through the rest of the inning unscathed, walking Seager but retiring the next three, two on strikeouts. Nice bounceback, but with the O’s trailing in the ninth, it seemed Lopez would once again be the (unfortunate) story of the day for the Orioles.
That is until Adley Rutschman did his thing, delivering one of the biggest hits of his young major league career. Trey Mancini led off the ninth with a single against Rangers closer Joe Barlow, who retired the next two to put the O’s one out away from defeat. Adley, however, would not be denied. He jumped on an 0-1 fastball and cranked it deep off the right-field scoreboard, easily scoring pinch-runner Ryan McKenna with the tying run. That’s what I’m talking about!
A Hays groundout sent the game to extras. Bryan Baker finagled his way through a scoreless 10th, stranding two runners with a couple of key strikeouts, including a whiff of former O’s prospect Jonah Heim.
That set up a wacky bottom of the 10th, in which Rangers reliever Matt Moore threw only two pitches and lost the game. With the zombie runner at second base, Odor shocked everyone by laying down a bunt (!) and it was a beauty, catching Moore so by surprise that he fumbled the pickup, giving Odor a hit. The Rangers elected to intentionally walk Urias, loading the bases with nobody out.
Moore’s second pitch of the inning came too far inside on Mateo, and that was that. Put another thrilling win in the books for this fun Orioles team.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Monday, July 4?
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Cedric Mullins (2-for-5, HR, RBI double)
Rougned Odor (3-for-5, key bunt hit in 10th)
Adley Rutschman (game-tying RBI double in ninth)