Imagine if you were an Angels fan, how annoying it’d be, getting to regularly enjoy watching two of the best athletes in the game, and yet all people wanted to talk about was how disappointing your team is.
Well, allow me to opine that the Angels are pretty disappointing. Tonight, a lineup featuring Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Taylor Ward (.304 BA, .935 OPS) was shut out for six innings by a pitcher who looked, for approximately half of his start, like garbage.
It’s easy to marvel at those dominant outings where aces roll through lineups, but in a way it’s cooler to see someone on your team grit their way through a start when they’re firing blanks. Tonight, that someone was Jordan Lyles.
It was as if pitching coach Chris Holt took Lyles aside before the game and said, “Dude, you’re a pro, you like challenges, right? Tonight we’re going to try it like this: you get to face Mike Trout and Shohei, but without any command of your fastball, okay? Try it, try it, see how it goes.”
Out of the gate, Jordan Lyles looked as bad as a pitcher can with allowing a run. He threw 21 pitches in the first inning, just nine for strikes, and he left, by my count, six balls right over the middle. The only Angel who did any damage on one was old friend Jonathan Villar, who singled. The best position player of our generation popped up 92 and down-the-middle. Taylor Ward drove another such pitch straight at Austin Hays in left. Two other Angels walked that inning, meanwhile, but the result? A goose egg.
Like frostbitten fingers warming up, Lyles gradually found his feel for his pitches, but through the second inning it looked like all he had was the offspeed stuff. (Note: MASN announcer Ben McDonald in the O’s promo floppy hat = the content we need.) Still struggling, Lyles managed to strand Brandon Marsh on third after Marsh had singled, stolen second, and reached third on an errant Adley Rutschman throw. (E2, sad face.)
No harm done, though, Adley. Because Adley led off the Orioles’ second by bashing a fastball from rookie right-hander Chase Silseth onto the flag court, his fourth home run of the season and his first at home. With the ball landing just above the wall, Adley scrambled to second, waited there for the home run sign, then dutifully trotted home. (The cute rookie energy: I just can’t.)
So, where were you when Adley hit his first OPACY home run? pic.twitter.com/ru2K0xySvJ— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 7, 2022
Jordan Lyles’ third inning was another exciting, hard-fought affair—awesome to watch, other than the mounting pitch count. Looking stronger, Lyles came out attacking Trout way up in the zone before drawing a popout with a diving 3-2 slider. More competitive against Ohtani, too, as a 3-2 changeup produced a bounce out. With two outs, Lyles hung Ward a breaking ball, allowing a double. Jared Walsh battled for nine pitches, but Lyles threw him the hook to end the inning.
Back out for the fourth, 67 pitches in, Lyles got his first 1-2-3 inning—with considerable help. Lyles fed Angels shortstop Luis Rengifo another 92-mph frisbee. Rengifo blasted it to left-center but from out of nowhere, Cedric Mullins raced the thing down, covering as much ground as Ben McDonald’s garden-killing kudzu. I remind myself not to get spoiled by these brilliant catches, day-in, day-out:
Nothing drops on Ceddy’s watch ♂️ pic.twitter.com/psuck1JEUH— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 8, 2022
The Orioles are actually a good run-scoring team with two outs, and in the third came another: Anthony Santander hit a duck snort to left ahead of Ryan Mountcastle, who blasted a 3-0 fastball 404 feet and over Mike Trout’s head. It stayed in the park, but it was enough to plate the Orioles’ second run.
It felt like a miracle that Lyles was still out there in the fifth inning. He allowed one hit that inning, another single to Jonathan Villar (who I like to think enjoys being back in Camden Yards, even if he played here for a dumpster fire of a team). But Lyles also had more help. He tried to sneak a 91-mph fastball past Mike Trout: a mistake, although one Lyles did not have to pay for, because Austin Hays hustled back, backpedaled and snagged a rocket just ahead of Mt. Walltimore. Ohtani hit a second ball to Hays at the warning track. Last year, those two flyouts were gone.
Another improbable “0” for Jordan Lyles.
Meanwhile, the Orioles kept pestering Silseth until he exited with no outs in the fifth. Jorge Mateo led off with a Jorge Mateo double (a single + a stolen base, his 21st of the year). Cedric Mullins singled. The Angels went to righty Andrew Wantz (he who threw behind Jesse Winker to start the brawl in Seattle). Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle strung together two tough at-bats, Mancini poking an RBI single to right and Mountcastle plating Orioles Run No. 4 with a sac fly. Austin Hays worked a very impressive walk, and Adley almost scored more, but his fly ball ended up at the warning track. The Wall giveth…
You could almost laugh when Jordan Lyles came out in the sixth inning, 91 pitches in, and threw his best inning, a 9-pitch breeze with two strikeouts.
You had to laugh when Lyles came back out after 100 pitches to throw the seventh. He wasn’t effective anymore, allowing a leadoff double and exiting, but what a bulldog, man. Joey Krehbiel allowed the runner to score though he gave up no hits, leaving Lyles with the following line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO.
All that remained was for Cionel Pérez and Jorge López to close this one out.
Facing Pérez, Mike Trout blasted another ball… but it died at the warning track again, in a long-ranging Mullins’ glove. Far more impressive was what Pérez did to Shohei Ohtani on three brilliant sliders. That’s one to tell the grandkids.
It's easy to strike out Shohei Ohtani*— Casey Drottar (@CDrottar19) July 8, 2022
*provided you can throw a slider like Cionel Pérez pic.twitter.com/hpsS6GcRWd
Meanwhile, Jorge López: still nails? Not untouchable tonight, but good enough!
I read the other day that starting pitchers are a dying breed. To that, I can see Jordan Lyles, played here by Tom Cruise, replying:
Lyles threw 47 fastballs tonight and got exactly one whiff on them. He allowed ten hard-hit balls (95-mph exit velocity or better). He looked terrible at times, but he also allowed zero runs through six. Gutsy, lucky, gritty, or something… also pretty Birdland.
Who was the Most Birdland Player on July 7th?
This poll is closed
Jordan Lyles (looked terrible but also great, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 SO, bulldog)
Adley Rutschman (first Camden Yards dong of many, we hope)
Ryan Mountcastle (1-for-2, 404-foot double, 2 RBI, BB)
Cionel Pérez (1 IP, 2 K, ERA down to 0.96, made Shohei look foolish)
Cedric Mullins (1-for-5, 3 great catches)