Listen. If I had told you beforehand that tonight’s game would feature Kyle Gibson throwing 30 pitches in the first inning, multiple Orioles hitters getting robbed of home runs by The Great Wall of Baltimore, a seemingly obvious blown call against the Birds not getting overturned, and both the Birds’ manager and center fielder getting thrown out of the game in the seventh inning, you’d probably expect that things went horribly wrong for the Orioles.
And yet! Despite the many frustrations and weird occurrences sprinkled throughout, the O’s took care of business against a bad team, setting down the Athletics, 5-1, to open a four-game series at Camden Yards.
They aren’t always pretty, folks. But a win is a win.
When this game first started, the vibes were totally off. Maybe it was the half-hour-early 6:35 start time. The top of the first inning was a dreary, lifeless affair, in which starter Kyle Gibson labored for 30 (!) pitches against an unrecognizable Athletics lineup, falling behind on nearly every hitter. What’s worse, the shoddy outfield defense that plagued the Orioles in the opening series in Boston reared its ugly head again, first with Austin Hays overrunning a foul popup that would’ve been the second out, then with Ryan McKenna kicking around a Ramón Laureano shot off the wall to give him an easy triple. The three-bagger, which capped off an 11-pitch at-bat, plated Aledmys Díaz (who had walked) to give the A’s a 1-0 lead.
The Orioles, fortunately, didn’t take long to respond, though the bottom of the first still brought some frustrations. Against A’s lefty JP Sears, three hitters in a four-batter span — Adley Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle, and Austin Hays — crushed absolute rockets to left field, measured at 372, 421, and 382 feet, respectively. Two years ago, all three of those missiles would’ve settled comfortably into the stands for home runs. Nowadays, of course, left field is the wrong place to target at Camden Yards, and only Mountcastle’s blast actually cleared The Great Wall, with the other two resulting in extremely long flyouts. Curse you, wall!
Still, the Mountcastle shot, which was preceded by a Cedric Mullins walk, put the Birds in front, 2-1, and led to the debut of the Orioles’ new home run celebration. What do we think of this, Orioles fans? Must admit, I’m not a huge fan. Just seems unsanitary to have everyone drinking from the same funnel. Think of the germs! We don’t need half the team coming down with, like, the mumps. And yes, I realize I’m extremely lame.
Happily, both Rutschman and Hays would later get sweet revenge for their denied first-inning homers. Adley, batting again in the third, tagged Sears for another titanic thump to left, and this one, at 399 feet, had enough juice to clear The Wall. Rutschman has officially heated up again, folks.
In the sixth, it was Hays’ turn. He wisely decided not to bother with left field and instead scorched one to center, a 417-footer that extended the Orioles’ lead to 4-1. That homer, by the way, came off of veteran Jeurys Familia, which I mention only so I can bring up this classic tweet.
Meanwhile, Gibson, after his arduous first inning, enjoyed a stunning turnaround. He regained his command, which had been utterly lacking in the opening frame, and began to pound the strike zone early and often. Incorporating his new “sweeper” pitch that he only started throwing last September, Gibson tied up A’s hitters in knots and got plenty of quick outs. How quick? In the fifth inning, he threw only five pitches to retire the side, finishing it with a nicely turned double play. In the sixth, he threw just five more.
Gibson’s newfound efficiency allowed him to pitch into the seventh inning, a feat that earlier in his outing seemed unfathomable. Gibson capped off his excellent night’s work with a strikeout of former Terp Kevin Smith, and departed the mound with 92 pitches thrown and just one run allowed. A fine home debut for Gibson as an Oriole, who not only has the only win this year by an O’s starter, but now has three of them.
A revitalized Bryan Baker finished the seventh with a pair of strikeouts, and Cionel Pérez worked past two hits to toss a scoreless eighth. He had some help, though, as shortstop Jorge Mateo finished the inning with a sensational play, ranging deep into the hole to snag a Laureano would-be single and throw him out at first. Jorge is the best, you guys.
Mateo makes it look too easy pic.twitter.com/2kPZouQeLV— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 11, 2023
The Orioles added an insurance run in the eighth on a Ramón Urías RBI single to plate Hays, who had doubled. Hays hit the ball hard in every at-bat tonight, picking up two extra-base hits to show for it. That made it 5-1.
Even as the O’s cruised to an inevitable victory, weird stuff kept happening. In the sixth inning, with two on and two out, Mateo hit a grounder to the right side and seemingly beat the second baseman’s late throw to first, but was called out. The Orioles rightly challenged, and the replay appeared to provide clear evidence that Mateo’s foot landed on the bag before the fielder’s. And yet, after an extensive review, the play was upheld, to most everyone’s bewilderment.
An inning later, the Orioles again had their troubles with umpires. Cedric Mullins, after being called out on a third strike, said something to home plate umpire Malachi Moore as he walked back to the dugout. Moore ejected Mullins, bringing a heated Brandon Hyde out of the dugout to speak his mind to Moore, who gave him the heave-ho as well. It was the mild-mannered Mullins’ first career ejection and the less-mild-mannered Hyde’s 10th. Like I said...things were weird tonight.
No matter. Félix Bautista mowed down the Athletics in the ninth, striking out the side in a non-save situation to wrap it up. The Orioles are back in the win column, and Grayson Rodriguez makes his Camden Yards debut tomorrow on his T-shirt night. Life is good.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Monday, April 10?
This poll is closed
Kyle Gibson (6.1 IP, 1 ER, third win, nice recovery)
Austin Hays (2-for-4, homer, near-homer, double)
Ryan Mountcastle (mammoth HR, inaugural swig from the home run bong)