In a post-Trey Mancini world (by the way, this happened in Mancini’s second game as an Astro), the Orioles will have days like today where they’re hard-pressed to score runs. Especially when you’re facing Martín Pérez, an AL Cy Young contender who’s 9-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 21 starts.
“How do you beat a guy who’s won nine in a row?” asked Jim Palmer rhetorically at one point.
Answer: You don’t. You just hang in there until he leaves.
After six dominant innings from Pérez, and with the score tied at one, Texas brought in live-armed lefty reliever Matt Moore to face Robinson Chirinos, hitting every bit of .162 this season. Making his hometown return to the stadium he played in for six-and-a-half seasons, Chirinos got a middle-of-the-plate fastball and did this with it:
One of the most unlikely Orioles home runs of the season, Chirinos’ second-deck bomb broke the 1-1 tie and helped push the O’s across the line for a 6-0 season record against Texas in 2022, plus a series sweep here for the first time since 2013.
Don’t be fooled by the 6-3 final score. This was a 1-1 pitchers’ duel through six innings, a tight 2-2 tie after the seventh, and it was only through sheer peskiness that the Orioles managed to outlast an ace and squeeze out a win against a rickety Texas ‘pen.
Huge credit has to be given to O’s starter Kyle Bradish, who showed up to work today with little control, but plenty of determination. Perhaps the exact opposite of the soft-tossing Martín Pérez, Bradish has plenty of fastball velocity but a lot less finesse, and he’s had major struggles with pitch economy. Today was no different: he threw 28 pitches in the first inning, 26 in the second, 12 in the third, 14 in the fourth, and 13 in the fifth.
But boy, did he battle. For Bradish to be come out with subpar stuff and still throw five one-run innings was a huge achievement. Today’s outing showed, if not much control, great concentration and the mental toughness that sometimes eluded the rookie earlier in the season.
Texas scored its one and only run against Bradish in the first inning after he plunked a Ranger in the leg and allowed two straight singles, the last one after a nine-pitch battle. It was the Rangers’ first lead of the series. It was also extremely short-lived.
Martín Pérez flummoxed the first five O’s hitters, whiffing Ryan Mountcastle and Ramón Urías in order to start the second. So of course, the first batter to square up anything against Pérez was… Ryan McKenna, who belted a beautiful home run into the bullpen to tie the game. MASN’s Jim Palmer and Melanie Newman couldn’t believe it, either. Respect Ryan McKenna!
McKenna McCannon bomb, the Orioles kept attacking Pérez, but their luck kept fizzling, as fifth- and six-inning rallies died on the bases. Run support for the struggling Bradish? Sorry, kid, you’re on your own.
But Bradish dug deep to protect the tie, wriggling out of two big jams. He loaded the bases on walks in the second (maddeningly, two of ‘em to the Rangers’ No. 8 and No. 9 hitters). But with one out and an RBI chance, the Rangers’ $175 million man Marcus Semien hit a ball right at Cedric Mullins, and Jonah Heim hit a comeback chopper to the mound. Bradish leapt, got some major air, snared it, and fired to first to nab Heim and strand three runners. It was nice pitcher defense, and a huge break for the O’s.
Bradish navigated yet another jam in the fourth: a shifted infield couldn’t corral a ground ball by Josh Smith, who took second on a very wild pitch skying over Chirinos’ head and third on a sac bunt. With one out and Semien, the Rangers’ best hitter, again at the plate, Bradish dug deep, locating a perfect inside fastball to whiff Semien before Corey Seager grounded out obligingly.
For the briefest of stretches, as his pitch count ticked up, it looked like Bradish was getting better. Enter the fifth, and all of a sudden he could strike people out! The changeup suddenly appeared to fool Jonah Heim. Filth. Then a curveball to set down Nathaniel Lowe!
Too bad, because Bradish was out after five, and Bryan Baker was in. Baker couldn’t finish the sixth, facing three batters and allowing two of them to reach on a walk and a tricky bunt single. The talented-but-risky Dillon Tate immediately allowed a 91-mph grounder to short. Proving again why he needs to be out there even on days he’s not hitting, Jorge Mateo snared the ball on a sliding, backhanded grab to kick off a brilliant double play that kept the score fixed at 1-1.
That’s where things stood until the seventh, when the Birds caught a break as Texas lifted Pérez and Matt Moore surrendered the go-ahead run on that unlikely Robinson Chirinos blast. When Chirinos came around to get decorated with his home run chain, it was one of the most joyful Orioles dugouts I’ve seen this season.
With a bare 2-1 lead, getting nine more outs out of a now Jorge López-less bullpen seemed like a big ask. And it was, a little too big. Facing Tate, one-time Oriole Jonah Heim squeaked a home run over the right-field wall to tie the game up at two.
Forced to start again from scratch, Brandon Hyde took to fiddling with his roster. “Mr. Happy” Brett Phillips was not the answer, getting called out pinch-hitting for McKenna. But after a two-out Jorge Mateo “double”—a walk + the inevitable steal—, Terrin Vavra was the right button to push. The lefty uncorked a nice oppo-field double, his first MLB RBI, scoring Mateo as the go-ahead run. Robinson Chirinos—in there for his defense, right?—promptly singled in Vavra to make it 4-2.
“Kind of an Oriole inning,” concluded Jim Palmer. With Trey Mancini now gone, the Orioles will have to manufacture runs sometimes.
And today, manufacture runs they did: two more scored in the ninth on an Adley walk + Santander double, 110 mph under the glove of Marcus Semien, plus a series of wild pitches to Brett Phillips that allowed Santander to scamper home.
In the process, the Orioles also manufactured a win. With Tampa Bay, Seattle and Cleveland all winners today, the O’s don’t gain any ground in the Wild Card chase. But after an emotional trade deadline, and stuck facing an ace starter, they continued to do what they’ve done all season: prove they can compete.
Who was the Most Birdland Player on August 3?
Kyle Bradish (5 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 5 SO)
Terrin Vavra (1-for-1, pinch-hit 2B, 1st MLB RBI)
Robinson Chirinos (3-for-4, 2 RBI, HR in his hometown return)
Jorge Mateo (BB, SB, tie-saving DP, started rally that scored O’s 3rd run)