The Orioles are undefeated in August. It’s only been two games, but let’s enjoy it while it lasts after a winning June and July. They convincingly beat the Rangers on Tuesday night, an 8-2 victory giving them a second straight lopsided win. The team has showed no sign that the absence of Trey Mancini or Jorge López will hurt them much. But then, the Rangers aren’t good and many better teams await on the schedule - just not until Monday.
Combined with a Rays loss earlier on Tuesday, the Orioles now sit 1.5 games back of a wild card spot with 58 games remaining to be played. The Guardians, who stand between the O’s and the Rays wild card spot, also lost, so the Orioles gained ground on them as well. The Mancini and López trades were tough to take for that very reason: This team is, right now, in the race.
For a team that wants to hang in the postseason picture, this was the kind of game they should have won. Their opponent, the Rangers, was 46-56 this season, and the Rangers starting pitcher, Spencer Howard, entered the contest with a 5.93 ERA this season and a 6.64 career ERA. That’s the one to win. No recent Reds disappointment, or one like the Tigers series earlier this year.
Two innings into the game, it seemed like the Orioles were maybe going to do the disappointing thing. Howard retired the 1-6 hitters in order. This script flipped abruptly in the third inning when the bottom of the order sparked a crooked number inning that ultimately saw the O’s put five runs on the board.
Ramón Urías was hit by a pitch for the first O’s baserunner, and he was quickly followed by a second when fresh rookie arrival Terrin Vavra drew a walk. This was one of three walks taken by Vavra in the game; he demonstrated this skill frequently in the minors, where he had a .410 OBP across all levels in his career. If you’re like me, you may have asked out loud, or wondered to yourself, “How will they Oriole this one?” To Oriole, in this context, is to figure out a way to score zero runs. You’ve seen this team in recent years. They get creative.
The 2022 Orioles, it must be said, also get creative. Just sometimes they manage to get creative in positive ways. #9 hitter Jorge Mateo fell into an 0-2 hole against Howard by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, then Howard threw a cutter that didn’t cut. Mateo bashed this mistake into the seats in left-center field and put the Orioles up, 3-0, with one swing.
The top of the order came along and kept pouring gasoline onto the fire. Cedric Mullins had the first of three straight hits. Mullins stole second after his single, his 23rd stolen base of the season. The steal mattered when Adley Rutschman followed with an automatic double that bounced over the fence in left. Mullins, on second, was brought home on the play. Rutschman moved along to third as Anthony Santander singled, then scored on a Ryan Mountcastle sacrifice fly. There’s never a bad time to take a Hawaii lead: 5-0.
This proved to be all the run support that the pitching staff, led by Jordan Lyles, would need. Lyles survived some hard contact throughout the game but mostly pitched out of trouble. Two on with one out in the first didn’t hurt him. A one-out double in the second didn’t, either. Texas only got to him in the fifth, when a leadoff single hit by Meibrys Viloria eventually led to the first Rangers run driven in by a Corey Seager single later that inning.
That’s all they could do against Lyles. In his occasional innings-eating fashion, he pitched into the seventh inning and was given the opportunity to face three batters even as his pitch count passed 100. He retired the first before a walk and a single ended his night. Dillon Tate closed the door on the budding rally even after the easy double-play ball he induced did not actually generate a double play when Rougned Odor’s relay throw sailed wide. No problem, Tate just got another grounder - this time to first baseman Mountcastle, keeping Odor out of it.
The final line on Lyles for the game was one run allowed on seven hits in 6.1 innings. He walked one and struck out seven, lowering his season ERA to 4.40. He’s had some cruddy outings, but on the whole, this is what the Orioles signed him to do and he’s delivered. Lyles is 15th in MLB in innings pitched. He’s made all of his starts and he’s averaged almost exactly 5.2 innings per start. Not many pitchers can say as much.
Tate gave way to lefty Nick Vespi, who pitched a scoreless eighth and came out for the ninth as well. He gave up a solo home run to the Viloria, the first batter he saw in the ninth, and by the time he’d gotten to two outs, there were two men on base and he’d thrown 35 pitches.
Though the score was 8-2, with the Orioles having gotten a couple more insurance runs in the top of the ninth thanks to Mateo hitting a second home run in the game, manager Brandon Hyde nonetheless summoned presumptive new closer Félix “The Mountain” Bautista.
The Mountain came in, delivered a three-pitch, “Good morning, good afternoon, and good night!” strikeout of Leody Taveras, and the game was over so fast that Jim Palmer barely even had a chance to break the stride of the story he was telling on the MASN broadcast. You know what’s fun? Having a guy who can throw 101 miles per hour for strikes. Just don’t hang your breaking pitches when batters are late on your fastball, dude.
Yusniel Díaz pinch hit for Santander in the ninth inning, meaning that every player from the Manny Machado trade has now at least appeared in an MLB game. Díaz struck out in the at-bat. Other chances will come soon, unless he’s the one sent down when curious acquisition Brett Phillips arrives with the team.
This was the 53rd win of the season for the Orioles. It’s a notable number because the 2021 Orioles were unable to reach it. The team finished last year at 52-110. They are now 53-51. A playoff position is within their grasp. If they are able to reach it and keep it, they’re going to have earned it, because they’ve still got the toughest remaining schedule of any AL team, with 15 games to come against the Blue Jays. Maybe they will come up short - maybe even way short - but the fact that this is even a possibility on August 2 is a reminder that there’s something very different about this 2022 Orioles team.
These two teams will be back in action on Wednesday afternoon for a 2:05 start time, with the Orioles having a chance to pick up a road sweep and, depending on results elsewhere, pull within a half-game of a wild card spot. Kyle Bradish is set to make the start for the O’s, looking to build on a decent last outing, with O’s hitters set to go up against lefty Martín Pérez and his 2.52 ERA.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 2, 2022?
This poll is closed
Jorge Mateo (two home runs, first O’s 5 RBI game this year)
Adley Rutschman (doubles machine)
Terrin Vavra (three walks plus a hit)
Jordan Lyles (1 ER in 6.1 IP, 7 SO)