In a different version of the 2022 season, former Orioles first round pick Hunter Harvey might have been a key part of the bullpen. That’s not how things worked out, and Harvey instead ended up on the Nationals, where he was summoned into the game in relief in the fourth inning to protect a 3-1 lead on Tuesday night. From there, a succession of later Orioles draft picks pelted Harvey, with the score flipping to a 4-3 O’s lead that stayed to become a 4-3 O’s win.
This was not the kind of breakout that you might have hoped the O’s could get against the worst-in-MLB Nationals. Though they had 11 hits across the game, they were only 3-15 with runners in scoring position, continuing with September struggles in those situations. It was, however, good enough for the O’s to pick up their 74th win of the season and good enough to send the Nats to their 93rd loss of the season.
As has happened many times this season since his arrival, the party started in this game with Adley Rutschman. The Orioles Rookie of the Year contender opened up the offense with a one-out first inning single against Nationals starter Cory Abbott. A passed ball got him to second base and a deep fly ball got him to third with two outs. Abbott handed out a rare free pass to Ryan Mountcastle to prolong the inning.
This brought up MLB’s youngest player, Gunnar Henderson, who promptly ripped a 107.4mph single up the middle to score Rutschman and put the Orioles on the board. Henderson has done well at hitting the ball hard so far. It’s fun.
The early Orioles lead did not survive the bottom of the first inning. O’s starter Dean Kremer allowed a one-out single of his own to Nats pleasant surprise Joey Meneses, who still stood on first base by the time there were two outs.
However, an unluckily-placed (for the Orioles) opposite field pop fly hit by Luis Garcia floated down the left field line. O’s left fielder Kyle Stowers made an ill-advised diving try, allowing the ball to get past him. Garcia got a double for his trouble, plus a non-rhyming RBI since, with two outs, Meneses could score easily with no fear about what if Stowers caught the ball. This run probably should not have scored. It counts the same as any other against Kremer’s ledger.
Kremer had some issues that were more of his own making a couple of innings later. The bottom of the third inning began with Nats #9 hitter Ildemaro Vargas reaching with a single. One of the weird trends of the 2022 Orioles otherwise-decent pitching is that they stink relative to the league against #9 batters. All #9 batters have a .636 OPS. Against the Orioles, it’s a .689 OPS. Vargas had two hits and drew a walk tonight. Weird stuff, you know?
Things got worse for Kremer as the lineup turned over to center fielder Lane Thomas, who hit a double to get two men in scoring position with one out. Kremer was able to get one grounder into the drawn-in infield, but couldn’t pull off the magic trick a second time. Luke Voit singled in the hole between shortstop and third base to put another Nationals run on the board. Thomas reached third base on the play, scoring as Garcia hit a too-slow-for-a-GIDP grounder.
The 2022 version of Kremer has done a good job of avoiding the disasters that have plagued O’s starters, including himself, in the recent past. He recovered from this to eventually get through five innings that weren’t great but could have been worse. Kremer ultimately allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk. This turned out to be good enough to give the O’s a chance to win, even with how their offense has done lately.
The game turned on Harvey being summoned into a fourth inning jam, where Abbott had already allowed back-to-back singles to Austin Hays and Jorge Mateo. As the fireman for that inning, Harvey could have hardly done better. The first pitch he threw turned into a ground ball double play hit by Cedric Mullins. This scored a run but emptied the bases. Rutschman doubled off Harvey with two outs but was stuck there. Abbott’s line closed out with two runs allowed on five hits and three walks in three-plus innings. Abbott was probably lifted despite “only” throwing 72 pitches to get that far because he’d also pitched an inning of relief on Saturday before being called upon as the starter here.
The problem for the Nationals is that they stayed with Harvey. As fate would have it, due to lead off the fifth inning for the Orioles was Mountcastle. The MASN broadcast had long enough to note that Mountcastle and Harvey were former roommates when they were teammates in the Orioles minors and that they remain good friends.
Perhaps the familiarity helped: Mountcastle destroyed an 0-1 Harvey pitch, sending it into the right-center field seats and tying the game in the process. As he rounded the bases, Mountcastle could not contain his glee about getting the best of his friend. Harvey could only ruefully grin. “You got me,” his face said. After Mountcastle’s 22nd home run of the season, the score was knotted 3-3.
Henderson joined the party, even though he had no ready-made narrative connecting him to Harvey other than that they were both once drafted by the Orioles. Henderson’s double put him in scoring position with no one out; he advanced to third, still with no one out, as Ramón Urías reached on an infield single. I noted earlier the O’s were 3-15 with RISP, and their September luck is such that of course one of the hits didn’t even score a run.
This is not to say the Orioles had no luck in the game. After Stowers struck out, Hays hit a blooper that lofted towards right field that managed to find the grass even as right fielder Meneses was diving for it and looked like he might have a play. Henderson scored what proved to be the game’s decisive run once it was clear the ball was not caught. Urías had to stop at third on what ended up as a double for Hays.
The Orioles did not get any more runs despite two in scoring position with one out. Jorge Mateo struck out, then Mullins was robbed by Nats left fielder Alex Call, who made a diving catch to keep Mullins from slicing a ball into the left field corner. It was a nice play, but it came too late to stop the O’s from taking the lead. O’s draftees from 2015, 2017, and 2019 got the better of their 2013 first rounder. That was the big story of the game.
As far as the scoreboard was concerned, that was the end of the excitement. If you were watching, you know it wasn’t a smooth cruise to the end. Kremer actually pitched to the first batter in the bottom of the sixth - that was Nats shortstop CJ Abrams, who reached with a double. This ended Kremer’s night. Again luckily for the Orioles, when reliever Dillon Tate got Vargas to hit a ground ball to Mateo, Abrams was breaking for third despite the play in front of him and was thrown out easily.
That was the first out of what turned out to be four scoreless innings pitched by the O’s bullpen. Tate got four outs, Cionel Pérez tacked on five, and Félix Bautista shook off some rust after a week since his last outing, battling some early wildness to pick up his 13th save of the year. Washington did not get another hit after Kremer left the game.
This brief two-game set concludes on Wednesday night. Once again, the Orioles offense has a game where they really need to break out, as they will be squaring up against Patrick Corbin, who leads all MLB pitchers in hits (195) and earned runs allowed (99) this season after also leading MLB in earned runs allowed in 2021. Wreck this guy already. Tyler Wells is set to pitch for the O’s, potentially with Austin Voth available as a piggyback reliever.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for September 13, 2022?
This poll is closed
Ryan Mountcastle (two hits, two walks game-tying HR of former roomie)
Adley Rutschman (basically amazing at everything)
Gunnar Henderson (two hits, RBI, run scored)
Austin Hays (two hits, hopes for breaking out of slump)