On the most literal level, today’s Orioles game is not a must-win game. The Orioles season will continue to Tuesday regardless of what happens today. However, on a practical level, it IS must-win. Going on the road with a 2-0 deficit in the series, with no more losses to spare, would be massively difficult. Best not to do that, obviously. So they have to find a way to beat the Rangers this afternoon.
Can it be done? Of course it can. What was so frustrating about Saturday’s loss is that it didn’t HAVE to be that way. It was not guaranteed that the Orioles offense would have a flat result against a series of Rangers pitchers. That’s just the way that it worked out. They’re good enough to be better than they were, and they just... weren’t. And now for the next couple of games they’re going to have to play against better starting pitchers. It is a regrettable disadvantage.
One lingering mystery from yesterday’s loss was settled. The play that ended up going in the scorebook as a Gunnar Henderson caught stealing was actually a blown hit-and-run, the sign not being picked up by Aaron Hicks. Manager Brandon Hyde told reporters that the team had other opportunities and it’s not why they lost the game. Hicks, in any case, is not being punished for the miscue - he’s back in the starting lineup for Sunday.
Although it is another lefty starting pitcher from the Rangers in Jordan Montgomery, the Orioles are not running back the same lineup from yesterday. Among the reasons they may have decided to shift things around a bit is that they anticipated Andrew Heaney would not pitch deep into the game (a correct supposition, it turned out) while Montgomery can be expected to do something closer to a typical starter’s workload in a postseason game.
- Adley Rutschman - C
- Ryan Mountcastle - 1B
- Anthony Santander - DH
- Gunnar Henderson - 3B
- Austin Hays - LF
- Aaron Hicks - RF
- Jordan Westburg - 2B
- Cedric Mullins - CF
- Jorge Mateo - SS
I didn’t expect to see Mateo start many, or even any, games over this postseason, but here we are. He did hit lefties much better than righties this year, a .746 OPS compared to .515 against righties. Ouch.
You can drill down into individual placements in the lineup and quibble with whatever - Henderson as cleanup man against a lefty pitcher doesn’t seem ideal - but what it really comes down to is that the players need to do better than they did yesterday. Santander was the biggest contributor and nobody else that batted did much to help the team win.
I don’t feel great about it. That’s not a bit. Montgomery was great against the Rays in the wild card series and the offense struggling is not an aberration - they were pretty bad the last two weeks or so of the season as well. It’s going to take an escape from those woes to avoid a sweep in this series, to say nothing of trying to rally to win it.
I am happy it’s Grayson Rodriguez pitching in the game, though. His second half of the 2023 regular season was really special and he’s earned this position. The team also needs him to live up to it. Not an easy task - the Rangers offense is tough and they’re also capable of better than they showed yesterday.
- Marcus Semien - 2B
- Corey Seager - SS
- Mitch Garver - DH
- Adolis García - RF
- Evan Carter - LF
- Jonah Heim - C
- Nathaniel Lowe - 1B
- Josh Jung - 3B
- Leody Taveras - CF
Rangers batters struck out 16 times in Game 1. It wasn’t a very good game for them and they still won. Today is a new day. The Orioles have shown resilience a lot through this season. They need it more than ever here in Game 2.