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Orioles leapfrog Rays for wild card spot with 10-3 blowout victory

After blitzing the Rays for a season-high 19 hits, the Orioles have claimed the third AL wild card spot, for now.

Cedric Mullins rounds the bases after homering off the catwalk in the Trop.
Cedric Mullins rounds the bases after homering off the catwalk in the Trop.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hey, have you heard the news? THE ORIOLES ARE NOW IN A WILD CARD SPOT! They came into Friday night’s game with very simple stakes: Beat the Rays and climb past them for the third wild card position in the American League. The Orioles made an emphatic statement that they belong, dropping 19 hits on Tampa on the way to a 10-3 victory in the first game of the series. With 50 games left to play, the O’s are in there. Now they have to stay there.

This game had a little bit of everything. It had two different Orioles hitting home runs off the C-ring catwalk at the Trop. Austin Voth kept the Rays hitless for the first five innings of the game. Jorge Mateo had multiple incredibly slick defensive plays, plus five hits, including a double where his helmet flew off, he caught it while he was running, and put it back on all before he got to second base.

But wait, there’s more! Shawn Armstrong and Jimmy Yacabonis both pitched and each gave up a run. That’s familiar territory for Orioles fans, except the 2022 twist is that those guys are on the other team and O’s hitters touched them up. The Rays pitching staff was so battered all around that they ended up turning to a position player, Yu Chang, to pitch the ninth inning.

The game was awesome almost from the get-go. The second Orioles batter of the game, Adley Rutschman, absolutely demolished a Corey Kluber pitch. Were it not for the catwalk, the ball may never have landed. Statcast, doing the best that it can, offered an estimated distance of 439 feet. Everyone in the stadium knew it was gone off the bat. The Orioles had themselves a lead.

They did not waste much time adding to it. In the second inning, the bottom of the order ambushed Kluber after he got two outs. Rougned Odor and Ramón Urías picked up back-to-back singles. This brought up Mateo at the bottom of the order. He sliced the first pitch he saw the opposite way, where no Ray was playing him to hit it, nor Egon, Peter, or Winston either. This golf shot fell in for a base hit, and since there were two outs and no one had to wait to see if it was caught, Odor scored the second O’s run.

While this was going on, Voth dominated the Rays the first time through the order. That was a strange sentence to write, but it’s true. He retired the first ten batters he faced before issuing a free pass. The no-hitter rolled on a little longer, in part thanks to some nearly-unbelievable defense from Mateo.

On a chopper towards what would normally be the hole between the first and second baseman, Mateo, in the shift, sprinted over, fielded the grounder in his glove, and flipped to first base in one smooth move. The first base umpire initially ruled the runner, Brandon Lowe, safe on this bang-bang play, but on replay that outcome was overturned. Through four innings, they had no hits.

As is always the way, or at least something like one-ninth of the time, Mateo led off the next inning. He ripped a double into right field, and as he rounded first base, his helmet flew off. This happens to Mateo often when he goes full speed. On this occasion, Mateo reached out, bobbled the helmet briefly in his hands, then caught hold of it. With left fielder David Peralta not rushing the throw in, Mateo could trot into second base slowly, taking the time to put his helmet back on. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen a baseball player do.

Before the inning was out, Mateo scored the third Orioles run. He moved up to third base when Cedric Mullins dropped a bunt that turned into a single when Kluber couldn’t pounce on it quickly enough, and easily scored as Rutschman hit a sacrifice fly for his second RBI of the night. Voth added another hitless inning.

Next, things got weird. In recent years, things getting weird for the Orioles usually means bad. This year, the story is different, sometimes. The inning started with Anthony Santander hitting a double. That wasn’t weird. What was weird was the next batter, Terrin Vavra, dropping a sacrifice bunt. The throw to first was thrown away by the third baseman; Santander scored and Vavra ended up on second...

...except the home plate umpire, watching a completely different baseball game than the one unfolding in front of him, ruled Vavra out by batter’s interference. When the play was shown back on the broadcast, there was no video that supported the umpire’s judgment, but this play is unreviewable even if you assume the replay center would give the Orioles a call like that. Santander had to go back to second. The run came off the board.

Every one of us knows this could have been the start of a meltdown. And, indeed, it was, except what happened is the Orioles pulled a “Call an ambulance... BUT NOT FOR ME!” on the Rays. Following the poor umpiring, Hays walked, then there were two singles sandwiching Urías hitting a sacrifice fly. This chased Kluber from the game with six runs allowed and responsibility for the runner on base; Armstrong allowed the inherited runner to score thanks to another single. In a four-run sixth, the Orioles ended up challenging every Rays outfielder’s arm for plays at the plate. They scored every time.

It’s good the Orioles scored so many runs, because despite the five no-hit innings and entering the sixth with barely 60 pitches thrown, Voth hit the end of the line in the sixth. Leading off, Jóse Siri hit a chopper over the head of Urías at third base; playing in due to the bunt threat, he couldn’t jump to make the play, and Siri beat the throw from Mateo. Voth then gave up a full count, two-run home run to recent Orioles nemesis Randy Arozarena. After getting an out, Voth was chased.

Keegan Akin closed the door for the sixth, leaving Voth with a still nice line of two runs allowed in 5.1 IP. This could have started getting interesting if Akin had stunk. That wasn’t the way it worked out, though. The Orioles held a 7-2 lead after six. Once they got the big lead, there was never too much danger, and they scored a run each in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings to get into double digits. That was fun.

As the game wound down, MASN’s Kevin Brown summed things up perfectly. In past years, he said, this is the kind of series that the Orioles would lose, with this game in particular being the kind of game where it would be the O’s on the wrong end of the beatdown, the O’s turning to a position player in desperation. In 2022, the script is flipped. It is the Orioles who are doing it to them (you know they had to), and it is amazing.

This hard-earned playoff spot is only temporary. The O’s are a bare half-game over the Rays. A loss tomorrow and it flips right back around. Manager Brandon Hyde confirmed after the game that pitching prospect D.L. Hall will be called up to make his MLB debut as the starting pitcher. Baltimore’s own Shane McClanahan, a Cy Young contender, is set to pitch the 4:10 game for the Rays. Should be a fun one, and hopefully the Orioles can find a way to win again.

Poll

Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 12, 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Jorge Mateo (five hits, sweet defense, slick helmet catch)
    (634 votes)
  • 3%
    Adley Rutschman (homered off the catwalk, off the catwalk, yeah)
    (23 votes)
  • 9%
    Austin Voth (no-hit Rays for first five innings)
    (69 votes)
  • 1%
    Rougned Odor (four hits and two runs driven in)
    (9 votes)
735 votes total Vote Now