Ladies and gentlemen, they did it again.
The most surprising, most exciting team in baseball, your Baltimore Orioles, pulled off yet another dramatic, come-from-behind rally, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in a game they had no business winning. Trailing by a run in the eighth, they upended the Blue Jays, 6-5, to clinch a series win. In the process, the O’s pulled within half a game of the Seattle Mariners — who are currently in action in Seattle as of this writing — for the third and final Wild Card berth. An M’s loss tonight would push the Orioles into a virtual tie for a playoff spot.
This is really happening, folks.
At the center of all the magic was Rougned Odor, one of the Orioles’ most polarizing figures. To some, he’s an irreplaceable glue guy in the clubhouse, a “vibes god” whose energy and enthusiasm have helped lift the club to previously unimaginable heights. To others, he’s a below-replacement level player whose roster spot would be better used by a hotshot young prospect, notably Gunnar Henderson.
On this night, Rougned Odor was both the goat and the G.O.A.T. He committed two errors in the field. He ran himself into a costly out on the bases. But when the O’s desperately needed a big hit with time running out, Odor delivered a no-doubt-about-it, two-run homer off Yimi Garcia in the eighth to turn the game on its head and bring Camden Yards to its feet.
What a game. What a team.
While the high drama happened late, this game got interesting right off the bat. In the bottom of the first, Cedric Mullins and Adley Rutschman greeted Jays starter Alek Manoah with a walk and a single, respectively. Anthony Santander then looped a sinking fly ball to left-center, where Whit Merrifield attempted a sliding catch. In real time it was hard to see exactly what happened, but Merrifield emerged with the ball in his glove. Mullins and Rutschman, who were convinced the ball had touched the grass before Merrifield snared it, each had already advanced to the next base. Jays infielders wandered around touching bases and tagging runners until the umpires called everyone out. A triple play! Did that just happen??
...actually, no, it didn’t. The Orioles challenged the call, and upon review, Merrifield had trapped the ball after it landed just in front of his glove. The umpires reversed the call, and instead of a backbreaking triple play, Santander was awarded a single, loading the bases with nobody out, as the Jays trudged back onto the field. This is why I don’t understand when people criticize the use of instant replay. Sure, the system isn’t perfect. But it’s right more often than not, and in the best circumstances, it can correctly remedy a potentially game-changing blown call.
Ryan Mountcastle almost ruined the rally anyway, hacking at the first pitch and grounding into a double play. Mullins scored, but Manoah was an out away from escaping the jam with minimal damage. Not so fast, said OBP machine Terrin Vavra, who laced a two-strike pitch into right for an RBI single, extending the Orioles’ lead to 2-0.
With an early lead to work with, Kyle Bradish did his part to try to pick up his first career Camden Yards victory. The Orioles right-hander wasn’t dominant, as the top of the first was his only perfect inning of the night, but he managed to hold fast despite some traffic on the basepaths. In the first five innings, the only run he allowed came on a Bo Bichette solo homer in the second. Bradish stranded a walk later in that frame, then erased singles in both the third and fourth innings on a pair of double plays, the first of which was smoothly picked on a short hop by Odor.
In the third, the O’s lifted their lead back to two on a Vavra sac fly with two in scoring position, making it 3-1. The Orioles, surprisingly, had the normally dominant Manoah on the ropes, but they ran themselves out of another potential rally in the fourth. Odor led off with a single, then took off for second as Ramón Urías blooped a single in front of left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Unfortunately, Odor made the terrible decision to try to advance to third, then made the equally terrible decision to just stop in the middle of the basepaths when Gurriel got the ball in quickly. He was thrown out so quickly that Urías couldn’t even advance to second.
It was a total TOOTBLAN, which normally stands for Thrown Out On The Bases Like A Nincompoop, but in this case also means That Odor Ought To Be Less Aggressive Next-time.
The Orioles carried their 3-1 advantage into the sixth, and Bradish did something he hadn’t accomplished in his last seven starts: he got an out in the sixth inning. Gurriel lined out on his first pitch of the frame. Unfortunately, that’s when things took a sour turn for Bradish and the Orioles. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ripped a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Alejandro Kirk then poked a base hit to right-center. Guerrero got a late break and was barely around third base when the ball got back to the cutoff man, Odor. A good throw to the plate would’ve nailed him, but Odor seemed to get the ball stuck in his glove and uncorked a horrific, off-line chuck that sailed all the way to the Orioles dugout. Guerrero scored, and Kirk advanced to second on the error.
That was the end of Bradish’s night, and he exited still in line for his first Oriole Park win. Those hopes were swiftly dashed. Bryan Baker, an ex-Blue Jay, walked Matt Chapman and then coughed up a three-run, opposite-field home run to Bichette, his second of the night (both of which were oppo). Ouch. With one swing, the Blue Jays had taken a 5-3 lead.
And then the rains came, just to give the Orioles a chance to stew in the disappointment. Before new Jays pitcher (and former O’s prospect) Zach Pop could finish his warmup tosses in the sixth, the grounds crew got the tarp on the field for a passing shower, which delayed the game for an hour and 18 minutes.
When played resumed in the bottom of the sixth, too much time had passed for Pop to return, so technically he was credited with an appearance in the game without ever throwing a pitch. Hard to do. Veteran Anthony Bass handled sixth-inning duties instead, working a perfect inning.
Meanwhile, the lower-leverage O’s relievers got some big outs. Right-hander Louis Head made his Orioles debut and dominated in a 1-2-3 seventh, but his attempt to work another inning was less successful, with a pair of sharp singles chasing him with one out in the eighth. Fortunately, lefty Nick Vespi did great work to escape the jam, striking out both Raimel Tapia and pinch-hitter Teoscar Hernandez to keep the Jays off the board.
That relief work proved huge, as the Orioles began to chip away. Mountcastle, the Blue Jay killer, smacked an RBI double off Adam Cimber in the seventh, cutting the O’s deficit to one. The Jays then turned to Garcia, their setup man, in the eighth. (Random note: five of the relief pitchers in tonight’s game — Pop, Bass, Cimber, Garcia, and Head — have played for the Miami Marlins within the past two seasons. Hey, I didn’t say it was an interesting note.)
The Blue Jays needed six more outs to close out the Birds. They didn’t get them, thanks to Odor’s prodigious blast, which followed an Austin Hays leadoff single. The Orioles’ dugout and what remained of the crowd erupted in triumph, though the Orioles still needed to navigate their way through the ninth inning first.
Don’t worry. The Mountain’s got this. Closer Felix Bautista shut the door on the Blue Jays for the second straight night, despite a Cavan Biggio one-out single that featured another error by — you guessed it — Odor. Bautista struck out Gurriel on three pitches, finishing him off with a nasty splitter, and a Guerrero line drive settled safely into the glove of — you guessed it again — Rougned Odor.
And there it is. Another Orioles win, against all odds.
“We’re having so much fun right now,” said the man of the hour, Odor, on MASN. “And we’re just going to keep doing it.”
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Tuesday, August 9?
This poll is closed
Rougned Odor (go-ahead two-run HR, despite other shenanigans)
Ryan Mountcastle (two doubles, RBI, continues crushing the Jays)
Nick Vespi (two huge strikeouts to escape an eighth-inning jam)