Baseball is amazing. It is stupid. It is delightful and terrible. Sometimes you will see just about everything you could ever want to see, and other times nothing you’d ever want to see again. On different nights it is different ones of these things and more. Then there are the nights where it’s all of them at once. That’s the kind of game the Orioles played against the Red Sox on Friday night, a 15-10 humdinger where the teams combined for 37 hits. The game took over four hours.
We all know how things have been going for the Orioles offense over the last week or so. They had no baserunners through the first eight innings on Sunday, and none through the first six innings on Wednesday. In this time were also two games where they scored only two runs, Saturday and Thursday. Let’s hope this is not a one-night-only exorcism.
Where to even begin? The Sound of Music counseled us long ago to start at the very beginning, but in this case the first inning of the game was misleading. Each team hit a leadoff double and managed to strand the runner. It was not that kind of party for long. After that came runs. So many runs.
If you knew nothing else about the game except that the Orioles scored 15 runs, you might hope that, let’s say, the starting pitcher was able to go deep into the game and save the bullpen. It’s a good thing to hope. Jordan Lyles, often talked about (I suspect in an acting-ironic-but-really-serious kind of way) as if he’s an innings eater, did not eat innings. What he did do was something he’s actually good at, which is give up a lot of hits. Lyles entered the game leading the AL in hits allowed, and added nine more in four innings. Nine!
The nuts and bolts of how this happened are almost irrelevant. The Red Sox were hitting Lyles are well and the Orioles are lucky they didn’t hit him harder. Boston scored two runs in the top of the second, then after Jorge Mateo hit a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the inning, Lyles looked for a shutout inning and failed, giving up two more runs to put the Orioles behind 4-3 after the top of the third.
Fortunately, the offense was up for another rally. In the bottom half of the third inning, they ambushed Sox starter Kutter Crawford. Almost in the blink of an eye, Adley Rutschman was on base and Anthony Santander ripped a home run just on the fair side of the pole in the flag court area above right field. Just like that, the Orioles had a 5-4 lead.
Later in the inning, Kyle Stowers and Austin Hays added hits, and Stowers scored when Rougned Odor hit a sacrifice fly. This actually ended the inning, though, when Hays got himself thrown out trying to advance to third base after the run scored. This was a dumb double play, but at least it didn’t hurt in the end that the rally was snuffed out there.
The Red Sox top of the fourth inning is only worth mentioning to note that whining loser Xander Bogaerts was ejected after being called out on strikes, doing a little dance, throwing his bat, then exchanging words with the home plate umpire. Manager of cheaters Alex Cora was also ejected after doing some whining. The ump may have had a bit of a large zone tonight, which makes the 15-10 outcome even more ridiculous.
The bottom of the fourth saw the Orioles rack up a four-run rally that started after they had two outs and two strikes on the batter, Cedric Mullins. A double got Mullins on base for Adley Rutschman’s beast of a home run to deep center field. Santander singled, then after Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura replaced the starter Crawford, Ryan Mountcastle blasted a homer into the Orioles bullpen. In better circumstances, a 10-4 lead would have been enough to essentially put the game to bed.
We did not get better circumstances. The Orioles chose not to push Lyles beyond four innings, as he’d thrown 89 pitches and wasn’t all that good anyway. They summoned Keegan Akin, almost certainly hoping for multiple innings from their innings leader for relievers. They did not even get one. After the top of the fifth inning ended, MASN’s Kevin Brown said, “Let us never speak of this inning again,” but I’m writing, not speaking, so I’m in the clear.
Akin’s first batter reached when a relatively routine grounder hit to Odor turned into an error. Two singles followed before Akin got any outs. After he finally got a strikeout, the next batter reached on a catcher’s interference error against Rutschman. Oops. Akin got another strikeout for the second out, then, well... it got stupid. Tommy Pham cleared the bases with a double and scored when the next batter, Alex Verdugo, singled. Akin walked a guy and then was yanked for fresh callup Nick Vespi.
Vespi got out the lefty he was supposed to get. The inning was finally over, but the Red Sox had pulled the blowout back to 10-9. All five runs were unearned against Akin, since they scored with two outs and Odor’s error was involved. (Mountcastle should have made the pick at first base.) The four hits and walk still count.
Had the Orioles offense folded up its tents and gone home, this would have been a nail-biter the rest of the way. We have seen this happen before. They did not. They rallied for five runs again in the bottom of the fifth, as Ramón Urías led off with his 13th home run of the season and there were another four hits after this to set up a 15-9 lead. Boston did get into double digits in the runs column but never got any closer.
It’s really not great that the Orioles scored 15 runs and still had Dillon Tate, Cionel Pérez, and Félix Bautista all pitch in the game. Tate and Bautista hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, though, and Pérez had not retired a batter since Monday. These were keep them sharp appearances as much as they were “desperation that we can’t lose this game” appearances. It IS good that the Orioles didn’t blow it. You could have ended the season right there if they had.
When the dust settled, every Orioles batter in the lineup except Odor had recorded a hit. Rutschman, Santander, and Hays had three. Kyle Stowers, freshly called up to help inject some new energy into the lineup, had two hits. The Baltimore Sun’s Nathan Ruiz noted an odd, fascinating coincidence that for six innings of the game, every inning where Stowers batted saw the Orioles score at least three runs. Now let’s carry that over into tomorrow.
While all of this mystifying stuff was going on, the Orioles got a little help in their wild card pursuit from results elsewhere, and no help from some others. The Royals beat the Rays in ten innings despite having only four hits. That brings the Orioles back within 1.5 games of a wild card spot. The White Sox fell to the Guardians, putting the O’s 1.5 games ahead of Chicago.
However, the useless Yankees folded up once again, losing to the Blue Jays. ESPN Stats tweeted that the Yankees have combined for 14 runs in their last seven games, fewer than the Orioles scored in Friday’s first five innings alone. The Twins topped the Rangers to stay a half-game ahead of the Orioles in the chase. The Orioles, now 62-57, just have to keep winning. Their record puts them on pace for 84 wins. It will take more than that to make the playoffs.
The Orioles will get their next chance at 4:05 on Saturday afternoon. It’s a Boog Powell bobblehead giveaway at Camden Yards. Kyle Bradish is set to start for the Orioles, hopefully with the ability to spare the bullpen after the Friday wackiness. Michael Wacha is the Red Sox starter.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 19, 2022?
This poll is closed
Jorge Mateo (second inning, go-ahead 3-run HR)
Anthony Santander (three hits including fifth inning go-ahead HR)
Adley Rutschman (three hits including homer, general amazingness)
Kyle Stowers (two hits in his first home game, made nice play off the wall)