Today’s game was about two things: one, whether the Orioles could sustain momentum in their incredible playoff chase, and two, the MLB debut of Dayton Lane Hall.
Sorry to say, the Orioles couldn’t, and in front of the family and friends who made it to Tampa Bay to cheer him on—including one Grayson Rodriguez, another guy we hope to see on an Orioles mound soon—Hall turned in an imperfect outing, albeit one with flashes of brilliance.
I can report that the 6’2 left-hander with the sorta-mullet and right forearm sleeve comes exactly as advertised: Plenty of heat. Plenty of whiffs. Not insignificant command issues.
The Rays scored five runs against Hall, taking advantage of some good batted-ball luck, the lefty’s wildness (he threw 76 pitches, just 47 for strikes, and walked three, two of whom scored), and—especially in the fourth—a little bit of blah outfield defense.
The good news: Hall also whiffed six Rays hitters in 3.2 innings. When Hall locates the heater, the strikeouts just pile up. Man, he makes it look easy.
Sad to say, the amped-up rookie struggled to locate it today. Against his very first big-league hitter, he threw four straight fastballs off the plate. Veteran catcher Robinson Chirinos started calling for changeups, which helped salvage the first inning: Hall could locate those. He retired Yandy Díaz on a lazy flyout, and drew two weak tappers from Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes. Unfortunately, the certified Oriole killer’s roller went “where they weren’t,” while Paredes’ roller appeared to be a foul off his foot, but the umps decided it was a run-scoring groundout. A non-reviewable play, and quite a cheapie.
The Orioles briefly snatched the lead back against Shane McClanahan, one of the AL’s Cy Young frontrunners. After last night’s 10-for-13 performance, the O’s 7-9 hitters continued to make noise, literally: two runs scored but it would have been more if the Rays defense hadn’t gobbled up hard-hit balls with xBA’s of .600, .790 and .550 off the bats of Austin Hays, Ryan McKenna, and, eventually, Ryan Mountcastle to leave the bases loaded.
What did work for the Orioles that second inning was this: Ramón Urías ambushed a high slider for a leadoff double. Jorge Mateo easily legged out a chopper to set the table for Rougned Odor, who hit a delightfully slow shift-beater to score Urías while Mateo again injected a routine play with thrilling energy, racing from first to third. Robinson Chirinos, in yet another pro move, correctly ID’d a first-pitch curveball and cued it to right field to score the Orioles’ second run.
Back out with a lead, DL Hall threw a second inning that is the reason we’re all so justifiably excited about him. Hall got, not just his first MLB strikeout, but his first three, striking out the side on 12 pitches. There’s that heater he’d been struggling with. It’s a beauty. Here’s Hall doing his thing, the best part of the game. Enjoy:
Three batters, first three strikeouts for DL Hall in the second.— Zachary Silver (@zachsilver) August 13, 2022
95.9 mph fastball
82.8 mph changeup
97.2 mph fastball pic.twitter.com/EBg4W60GCp
Alas, after that high the Rays scored three annoying runs on Hall in the third inning. After another leadoff walk, Hall collected two quick outs, but the Rays got three consecutive two-out RBI hits. All were in Anthony Santander’s direction: one was an Arozarena double that Santander gave somewhat weak chase on, letting the ball roll to the wall. Paredes doubled on a fastball into the left corner—no play on that one, but Francisco Mejía’s single dropped right in front of Santander. Stop me if I’m being hard on our outfielder, but I felt like more speed in left saves one, possibly two runs there.
Anyhow, the Rays scored a fifth run on Hall in the fourth, again in annoying fashion. José Siri singled and made trouble on the base paths, stealing second and third. Chirinos almost threw Siri out, but the call was overturned. Hall got his sixth strikeout but he walked the No. 9 hitter, Taylor Walls, hitting .170, and a sac fly allowed the speedy Siri to score.
Bryan Baker came in, ending Hall’s day and also the threat. Baker tossed a fantastically convincing one inning, his fastball living at 97-98 mph, and putting up a highlight-reel strikeout of Randy Arozarena, looking foolish swinging through a cutter.
After Baker, Spenser Watkins came in “out of the bullpen,” even though this was his scheduled spot as a starter. The team needed length from him. Perhaps the delay got to him, but Watkins was… not so great.
He closed out the fifth with ease before allowing a sixth Rays run in the sixth inning. This one, too, was manufactured with the speed of José Siri, who continues to look like a good signing. Siri singled, tagged on a one-out flyout and scored on a single.
All of that is forgivable from Watkins. What’s harder to swallow is when he allowed a two-run shot in the eighth inning to Taylor Walls (again, hitting .170) instead of closing out the game. It was just a bad pitch. Louis Head had to relieve Watkins, an arm Brandon Hyde didn’t want to use tonight.
Meanwhile, we haven’t talked about the Orioles offense because after that second inning, there wasn’t anything nice to say about it. The bottom of the lineup continued to be persistent, getting a pair of runners aboard in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and one apiece in the seventh and eighth. But they were stranded, as the bats got quiet—literally, because there was practically no more hard contact. McClanahan awakened the changeup, stopped living in the middle of the zone, and gave his team a quality start. Against Colin Poche, whom they victimized on July 26, the Birds managed just an Adley double. The bug-eyed Pete Fairbanks threw 100, and the bats couldn’t do much with it.
For his part, Fairbanks said something rude walking off the field to Robinson Chirinos, who’d gotten a very late time-out call while facing him, and both benches cleared. It was clearly the ump’s fault, not Chirinos’, and I wouldn’t have been mad to see Fairbanks thrown out. He wasn’t. Santander and Odor had to be held back defending their guy, and Brett Phillips was actually one of the first Orioles out there, calling out his old teammate Fairbanks for inciting. (OK, the jury verdict is in: Brett Phillips is adorable.)
There is still plenty of reason to gush about DL Hall, but two runs of offense weren’t enough to atone for his mistakes today, and the Orioles’ Wild Card chase suffers a setback. Hopefully, both the bats and a strong Jordan Lyles show up against Drew Rasmussen and the Rays tomorrow.