It’s been a long while since Camden Yards felt the energy, emotion, and adrenaline of playoff baseball. On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, you could be forgiven for thinking that playoff baseball was back at the Yard. This was an insane four-hour marathon featuring 22 combined hits, 12 different pitchers, an ejected manager, and a benches-clearing brawl. The Birds overcame an early three-run deficit with a five-run explosion in the third inning, pulled their starter in the fourth and held on by the skin of their teeth until the late innings, when the offense scored an incredible four runs with two outs to put the nail in the Blue Jays’ coffin.
But back to the beginning. The Orioles needed swing-and-miss stuff from Kyle Bradish tonight, and Bradish definitely brought that stuff. He fired 64% strikes, got 10 swings-and-misses in three innings, and struck out the side in the second inning.
Yet the results weren’t there. Credit the Blue Jays for being the Terminator 2 of lineups. That same inning Bradish whiffed the side, the Jays still found time to put together a run with a double and a single. Particularly Robert Patrick-like (duh, I mean in results, not looks!) was Bo Bichette, who from a drag on the Jays offense has turned into its hottest hitter. Together with barrel-shaped catcher Alejandro Kirk, the two went a combined 8-for-10, a miserable headache for Orioles pitching. And indeed, Bichette’s first hit of the game was a squeaker that hit the padding over the grounds’ crew shack to put the Jays up 3-0.
With Orioles hitters having gone a dreadful 1-for-19 with RISP combined over the first two games of this series, this felt like an ominously steep hill to climb.
But a glimmer of hope lay on the horizon, and it was Blue Jays starter Mitch White’s ugly 0-3 record and 7.04 ERA as an AL East pitcher. He kept the O’s off balance for two innings by switching speeds. But that ended abruptly with an five-run explosion from Baltimore in the third inning.
The party kicked off with consecutive walks from Rougned Odor and Jorge Mateo (of all people). White, trying to get fine with location, threw an inside fastball—only it was right off Cedric Mullins’ left hand.
Bases loaded, no outs, Adley Rutschman at the plate. Kind of a dangerous situation, huh?
Watch out: CHAOS COMIN’, Y’ALL. Adley got a really random pitch to hit, a curveball diving out of the zone but, being Adley Rutschman, he put bat to ball and cued a double down the third-base line. Two runs scored. (Quick non sequitur: Adley’s 28th double in just 88 games would make him the MLB leader in doubles per plate appearance if this were a real, actual statistic that FanGraphs kept track of. Maybe they should.)
Did the Birds have more in them? You’ve already seen the final score so … you know they did. Anthony Santander’s eight-pitch at-bat ended in an RBI groundout to drive in Mullins and tie the game. Grabbing the baton after him, Ryan Mountcastle smoked a fastball between the infielders, scoring Rutschman. The Orioles had snatched back the lead.
A floundering Mitch White was yanked after walking Urías on four pitches. It was probably a wise call, even though it was just the third inning. Off the righty Julian Merryweather, Gunnar Henderson singled with authority, driving in the Orioles’ fifth run. With just one out, there could have been more, but Austin Hays and Odor, batting around, poured cold water on the rally.
This whole series has felt like playoff baseball, and Brandon Hyde was clearly treating tonight as such. So in the fourth inning, when Kyle Bradish got squeezed by home plate ump Jeff Nelson for a leadoff walk, then gave up a single, Hyde got out the hook. Out came Bradish after just 66 pitches and three innings. In came Dillon Tate, making his earliest appearance in over 400 games—and in one of the toughest situations yet: runners on first and third, no outs, the Jays’ Whit Merrifield, George Springer and Vlad Guerrero Jr. up to bat. Would Hyde’s gamble pay off?
Yessiree, Bob. It was a monster fourth inning for Tate, who got Merrifield to fly out weakly to right, so that the runner on third didn’t test Santander’s arm. Springer was caught looking for Out No. 2. A harmless groundout by Guerrero Jr. concluded one of Dillon Tate’s most brilliant outings of the year.
That brilliance was slightly obscured, unfortunately, by a fifth-inning run for the relentless Toronto that cut the lead to 5-4. The infuriating Bichette fell down 0-2 against Tate, then just chipped a low pitch down the line. Two outs later, Tate was one swing away from ending the inning, but Matt Chapman tapped a high fastball into left field, scoring Bichette.
Have you ever tried to squeeze into an old pair of pants that’s clearly too tight on you and decided, “Alright, I’m going to hold my breath and just pray to the Almighty that the button doesn’t pop off before the night is over”? That’s what it’s like trying to protect a one-run lead for 12 outs against the Toronto Blue Jays. In this high-leverage situation, Hyde was riding with his best relievers. After Tate, Cionel Pérez answered the call with 1.1 scoreless innings. With two outs in the sixth, Vlad Guererro hit a ball that was scary, but 390 feet to deep center won’t cut it in Camden Yards.
Toronto was also emptying the cupboard, so while Yusei Kikuchi had an 8.53 ERA against Baltimore this season, interim manager John Schneider tried to stash the left-hander in a lefty-heavy stretch of the lineup.
No such luck, buddy.
Jorge Mateo proved the wisdom of playing the matchups, squaring up a ball to the gap and flying around the bases for his MLB lead-tying seventh triple. With two outs and the lefty Cedric Mullins at bat, the Orioles were praying for a wild pitch or something. Instead, Mullins delivered and more, cracking a 97-mph Kikuchi fastball into right field, a two-out RBI single to push the O’s lead to 6-4.
Nine more outs. Bryan Baker didn’t quite repay Hyde’s trust, allowing another goddamn Bo Bichette single and another by Alejandro Kirk. With runners on the corners and no outs, a double play wasn’t the worst result. But it did mean a fifth Blue Jays run to slice the lead to one again.
For some innings now, the Blue Jays dugout had been jawing about the home plate ump’s calls (which, if we’re being honest, were screwing both sides in an impartial and even-handed way), and when Bryan Baker whiffed Matt Chapman, someone couldn’t resist saying something nasty to Baker, who couldn’t resist mouthing back. The benches cleared, but not much happened. Until the next inning, when Ryan Mountcastle saw three straight balls (they were balls), and Toronto’s Schneider decided to mouth off again towards home plate. He promptly got tossed, and we in Birdland promptly got a reminder of all the reasons there are to hate the Toronto Blue Jays.
With six outs left and a one-run lead, Brandon Hyde turned to Félix Bautista for his longest save of the year. Mountain Time. Suck-it-in, Hold onto your Butts Time.
The Result of the Experiment: pretty darn good. A one-pitch groundout, a three-pitch K, and another groundout. Next!
Insurance runs against Toronto are really nice, and even though this game was three-and-a-half hours in, Orioles hitters refused, as Tina Turner once sort-of said, to go down nice and easy, adding, not one, not two, but three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Rougned Odor started it all off with a single to center off Toronto set-up man Trevor Richards that he somehow, inexplicably, ridiculously stretched into a double! “He’s out by 30 feet—” Kevin Brown started to say… but he wasn’t! On replay, Bichette completely whiffed on the tag. It was, as Brown said, the greatest double of the season. (My recommendation: save this clip to your phone and watch it on replay when you’re sad.)
Rougned Odor, safe somehow, because why not pic.twitter.com/X4fxdv2rni— Zachary Silver (@zachsilver) September 7, 2022
The inning only got more ridiculous after that. With two outs, Cedric Mullins hit an oopsie swinging-bunt single and stole his 30th base of the season, tying his effort from last year. Adley drew yet another big-boy walk and with the bases juiced, Anthony Santander drew another (an easier walk, because Richards was looking like a ball of nerves by this point). That pushed Odor in, a moment that felt like the dam bursting.
In another big-time situation, Ryan Mountcastle came up and smoked a single to right field. Mullins scored easily. Adley motored home from second and was tagged out by Toronto’s Kirk. But wait! On the replay, it looked like Kirk either blocked the plate or that Adley’s cleat slid in under the tag. Take your pick of legal theories, umps. Hyde’s challenge won, and the Orioles were credited with runs eight and nine.
The Mountain was back out on the mound, now pumping 102 mph with a four-run lead. (Technically, this was still a save situation because he entered in a one-run game.) George Springer sent a hard-hit ball to the outfield, and so did Guerrero—almost like the defeated, angry Blue Jays were fruitlessly swinging out their frustrations. (Love it!) The Bichette-and-Kirk Show then put together another rally. But it was all sound and fury, signifying nothing, because Bautista did what he does and blew away Teoscar Hernández to end the game.
September 6th is an important day in Birdland history, as you probably know. Tonight didn’t disappoint. It was, as the MASN booth said, maybe the most emotionally charged night of the season. Flinging absolutely everything they had out there, the Orioles stole a game back from the Blue Jays and put themselves in a position to earn a series split tomorrow. An epic.
Who was the Most Birdland Player on Tuesday, September 6?
This poll is closed
Cedric Mullins (2-for-4, drove in the sixth run with two outs against a lefty)
Dillon Tate (nails after getting thrown into the fourth inning with men on the corners and no outs)
Adley Rutschman (1-for-3, 2B, 2 BB, 2 RBI, ridiculous command of the strike zone)
Rougned Odor (1-for-3, 2B, BB, kicked off both rallies with a BB and the most ridiculous double of the season)
Jorge Mateo (1-for-3, 2 R, 3B, BB)
Ryan Mountcastle (2-for-5, 3 RBI)
Félix Bautista (six-out save)
Brandon Hyde (pushed all the right buttons in a must-win game)