Let’s be clear: this was not a game the Orioles were supposed to win. The White Sox have struggled to score runs this season, but they have baseball’s strikeout leader and the second-best starter ERA in Dylan Cease, a guy who broke an MLB record with 14 consecutive starts with one or no earned runs between May and June.
Not just that, but Cease was matched up against Austin Voth, a guy the most diehard Orioles fan couldn’t name before July. For that matter, this was not Voth’s strongest night. He gave up a two-run home run in the first. He failed to retire the lead runner in four of six innings he pitched. Sox hitters were sizing up his best pitch, the curveball, and laying off of it.
On top of that, the O’s much-vaunted bullpen faltered tonight. In the seventh inning, Luis Robert came inches away from a home run against Dillon Tate. Robert scored against Cionel Pérez, who couldn’t shut the door in relief of Tate. Then Joey Krehbiel and Félix Bautista had a very scary eighth, allowing a double, a single, and a hit batter (at 102 mph—ouch!) before finally escaping with the bases loaded.
But guess what? None of that matters. What matters is that the Orioles kept their playoff hopes alive with a much-needed win.
Let’s get to the recap. The O’s were down in a 2-0 hole against an AL Cy Young contender, and it was still just the first inning. How do you manufacture runs against a guy who’s holding hitters to a .202 average?
Here’s how: bunt your way on, work a walk, and then blast an Earl Weaver Special! The Orioles stormed right back against Dylan Cease with a choice Cedric Mullins bunt down the third base line ahead of a battling Adley Rutschman, who walked after seeing eight pitches from Cease. (On the replay, it looked like catcher’s interference, but the umps called it a walk, and a walk it shall remain.)
With two runners on and no outs, Anthony Santander missed a home run by inches.
… But Ryan Mountcastle didn’t. The O’s first baseman got a rare hanger from Cease and blasted it to the deepest part of center field, an Earl Weaver Special coming at a most excellent time.
BRINGING OUT THE HOME RUN CHAIN EARLY‼️ pic.twitter.com/0WnE36kI5c— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 23, 2022
As it turned out, that was almost enough to secure the win. Good thing, because around the fourth inning Dylan Cease’s slider really started to kick in and he started pouring in the fastball at 97 on the corners. It was about this time that a MASN booth of Kevin Brown and Dave Johnson figured out that the mustachioed Dylan Cease gives off distinct Freddie Mercury vibes. So when Mountcastle whiffed in the fourth inning, Kevin Brown commented: “Don’t stop him [Cease] now.” Next, Terrin Vavra flew out: “Another one bites the dust.” Then Kyle Stowers went down swinging: “And Cease is the champion… of the fourth.” I see what you did there, Kevin Brown.
At one point, Cease had retired 13 of 14 Orioles he faced, a streak that finally ended in the seventh inning when Mullins led off with a walk. (Kevin Brown, who you probably thought was done with the Queen jokes, observed: “Finally, somebody to love offensively!”) It turned out to be a big walk. Mullins took second on a failed pickoff throw, and scored when Anthony Santander dumped a single into center, the Orioles’ fourth run.
Cease exited with four earned runs to his name. Credit the Orioles hitters: Cease may have been out of sorts in the early innings, but these Orioles didn’t waste a window of opportunity once, making good on pretty much all of his mistakes.
The O’s bullpen deserves plenty of love for what they’ve done this year, but tonight they made this game a little scarier than it needed to be.
The 4-2 lead lasted about half an inning, because a Dillon Tate fastball got creamed 402 feet into left field by Luis Robert. Thank Mt. Walltimore that bomb was just a double. Two infield outs later, and Cionel Pérez was in. But Pérez walked the struggling Yoan Moncada and let in a big pinch-hit RBI single from Andrew Vaughn. The Orioles’ lead was cut to one.
Good thing Jorge Mateo is still being awesome. Following an Austin Hays double, two outs, and a pitching change, Jorge Mateo singled in the O’s fifth run. It was an important insurance run because…
The eighth inning was even scarier in real time than in the box score. Joey Krehbiel allowed a double and a single, forcing Hyde to turn to The Mountain early. That didn’t actually make things any less scary. Well… truthfully, it was scariest for Eloy Jiménez, the guy hit on the arm by a Bautista fastball, at 102 mph. Be that as it may, the bases were loaded with two outs and the O’s clinging to a two-run lead that felt shaky, indeed. Bautista, fighting his own control, finally got the strikeout the Orioles needed. Birdland, exhale!
With just forty games left in the season, every game matters. You could feel that energy tonight, with two teams in the hunt playing like it was playoff baseball. This one was a tight contest to the finish, and in the end, it was the Orioles who came out on top.
Who was the Most Birdland Player on August 23?
This poll is closed
Ryan Mountcastle (1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI on an EWS)
Austin Voth (5.2 IP, 2 R, gutted out another good start with his best stuff missing)
Jorge Mateo (1-for-3, single, RBI, continues to play Gold Glove defense)
Félix Bautista (1.2 IP, 3 SO, first career five-out save)