The Orioles could have lost on Thursday night. They probably should have lost. Recent vintage Orioles teams definitely would have lost. Instead, down to their last strike in the ninth inning after already surviving a foul pop that should have been caught for the last out, rookie Kyle Stowers blasted the first home run of his MLB career to tie the game that allowed the O’s to eventually beat the White Sox, 4-3, in 11 innings.
The Orioles should have lost the game! They had just three hits heading into the ninth inning, this happening on a night where they were facing Sox starting pitcher Lance Lynn and his 5+ ERA. (It’s exactly 5.00 after he allowed just one earned run over six innings tonight.) Some dumb stuff happened that led to a game-tying run scoring in the seventh, then a fall-behind run scoring in the eighth. It should have been over. Then Stowers connected and it wasn’t over.
This was one of those games where the first inning might have fooled you into thinking it was going to be something other than it ultimately was. Sox left fielder Andrew Vaughn greeted Orioles starter Jordan Lyles by hitting the first pitch of the game on top of the grounds crew’s shed for a home run. Loud contact followed, though luckily for the Orioles, there was no further damage.
In the bottom of the inning, the Orioles answered almost immediately with some loud contact of their own. Adley Rutschman smoked a ground ball that got past first baseman Jose Abreu; this was scored an error but should have been a hit. Whatever the case, Rutschman was on base for Anthony Santander, who worked a 3-1 count against Lynn and then drove a fastball low into the strike zone into the fence in front of the flag court for a two-run home run, putting the Orioles up, 2-1.
The suggested slugfest did not materialize. No team scored again until the White Sox grabbed a run in the top of the seventh. The Orioles did not even come particularly close to scoring after the first inning. It wasn’t until their eleventh inning walkoff that they got multiple runners safely on base in the same inning. They did not get a runner past first base from Santander’s homer until Stowers’s game-tying homer.
Chicago threatened much more often. Vaughn doubled with one out in the third inning and stood at third base after Baltimore’s own Gavin Sheets, son of Larry, added a single. Sheets ended the night with three hits for the second straight game and had a multi-hit game every game in this series. The Sox did not score here, though, as yet another slick Orioles double play materialized to end the inning. Neither did they score in the fourth after two one-out singles.
Luck ran out for the Orioles, at least temporarily, in the top of the seventh. Chicago’s leadoff man for the inning, Romy Gonzalez, reached on a bloop single to center that Cedric Mullins misread, initially stepping back. Elvis Andrus followed with a hard grounder that ought to have been fielded by Ryan Mountcastle at first base but was instead deflected. This was still scored a hit.
Here, Lyles got the ground ball he’d gotten earlier in the inning, rolling up Josh Harrison with a ground ball to the shortstop, Jorge Mateo. Perhaps Mateo had a play at third base to get the lead runner, but he went for a double play on the slow-roller. They got the force at second base, but Terrin Vavra bounced the relay throw to first and Mountcastle couldn’t collect this either even though he ought to have done so.
A better second baseman might not have made the throw; there didn’t seem to be a chance to get the runner. A better first baseman might have blocked it. What happened instead was that the White Sox scored the tying run in the process. Only after this did they get the actual inning-ending double play. It was a true innings-eating appearance for Lyles, who, though he didn’t leave with a lead, did leave with only one earned run allowed in seven innings, mostly scattering nine hits. He only struck out two but did not walk anyone.
Dillon Tate was summoned to preserve the tie in the eighth inning. Sheets struck again, hitting a one-out double. Sheets stood at third after a grounder for the second out. All Tate had to do was get out the former MVP, Abreu. What he was able to do was get Abreu to hit a ground ball that had a Statcast expected batting average of .170. It was a well-struck seeing-eye single, just out of the range of the valiant effort made by Ramón Urías at third base.
After that disappointing inning, the next five Orioles batters were retired in order, and the sixth, Stowers, was down to his final strike. Not only was he down to his final strike, he shouldn’t have even gotten to two strikes. Sox left fielder Adam Engel overran a foul pop-up that clanged off of his glove. The error gave Stowers new life. Then this happened:
KYLE STOWERS TIES THE BALL GAME!!! pic.twitter.com/iRumHd1PMK— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 26, 2022
Not many better chances to get your first MLB home run than that. Good teammate Keegan Akin raced over from the bullpen and negotiated a trade with the Orioles fan who caught the ball, collecting the souvenir in exchange for some non-home run baseballs that were sitting around in the bullpen. The Orioles had new life.
Friends, what is to be done when you hit extra innings? Home or away, bring in your best reliever! That meant it was time for Félix comin’, y’all, with the whistling and the light show even in the tie game. Bautista made quick work of Chicago’s hitters, retiring three guys in seven pitches in the tenth to set him up for an opportunity to pitch a second inning.
In better circumstances, Bautista would not have needed that second inning. Leading off the bottom of the tenth was Rougned Odor, brought in as a replacement for Vavra in the eighth. Odor squared and bunted a chopper off of home plate. Chicago reliever Joe Kelly got to the ball but didn’t put enough juice on the throw to first. Odor beat it out for a single. Automatic runner Austin Hays got to third base with no one out.
Needing a hit or any productive out to win the game, Urías grounded a ball right at the drawn-in third baseman Harrison. Hays was going on ground ball contact and was thrown out easily. It feels like the Orioles have been burned by this play a lot this year. They did not score in the inning.
Bautista sent Chicago down in order in the eleventh, setting up the game winner. Rutschman hit a single that got into left field so fast that automatic runner Mullins had no chance to score on it. Once again: Man on third, no out, a run wins the game.
Would they blow it this time? No. The White Sox drew in the infield, and they drew in the outfielders too, in hopes of cutting down the run on a shallow fly ball. Santander hit a line drive that sailed over the center fielder’s head. The fielder took two steps and gave up. As a much earlier era of MASN commercial once proclaimed: Orioles magic prevailed.
The Orioles are now 65-59. It is an unfathomable height for this team compared to preseason expectations. Yet in terms of the wild card race, Thursday’s win did not help them one bit. The Blue Jays, Rays, and Mariners were all victorious. The Orioles stay 2.5 games back of the Mariners for the third wild card spot.
No rest for the weary here. The Orioles are off to Houston for a three-game weekend series that will include a reunion with former Oriole Trey Mancini. The Astros are 81-45 this year, 12.5 games ahead of the nearest divisional competition. This will be just the latest tough task for the Orioles to keep themselves in the wild card picture, perhaps the toughest yet. Kyle Bradish is set to start the 8:10 Friday opener for the O’s, with Lance McCullers Jr., making just his third start of the season, pitching for the home team.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 25, 2022?
This poll is closed
Félix Bautista (six up, six down in extra innings)
Anthony Santander (go-ahead homer and walkoff single in same game, 3 RBI)
Jordan Lyles (seven innings with only two runs allowed)