Heading into the top of the 9th Friday night, the Orioles had a 1-0 lead, a 34-inning scoreless streak going and Félix Bautista on the mound. It seemed like the perfect setup for their second 1-0 win this week. Instead, Birdland was treated to a second straight walk-off at Camden Yards.
After Bautista blew the save in the top of the 9th, the Orioles’ previous walk-off hero Adley Rutschman stepped up to the plate to lead off the bottom of the frame. Rutschman couldn’t repeat the feat grounding out to second for the first out. That’s when the wheels of the walk-off really started to get into motion.
After fighting off a couple of 0-2 pitches, Ryan Mountcastle singled into center to put the winning run on base. Then, on a 3-2 pitch and with Mountcastle running, Anthony Santander snuck a single past a diving first baseman to give the Orioles first and third with one out.
Adam Frazier came to the plate and quickly fell behind 0-2. Frazier then did what he did best in putting solid contact on the ball. With the infield in, the O’s second baseman hit a hard chopper to first base, and Mountcastle beat the throw to the plate to give the Orioles their fourth straight victory.
For the usually reliable Bautista, Friday was a night to forget. He led off the 9th by giving up a single to Maryland native Akil Baddoo. The speedy Tigers’ outfield then swiped second, putting the tying run in scoring position with no outs. Bautista looked set to work around it, striking out Nick Maton and getting Riley Greene to ground out. However, after getting Javier Baez down to his last strike, Bautista’s splitter caught too much of the plate and Baez rocketed it past Ramón Urías to tie the game.
Up until the 9th inning, the story of the game was starter Tyler Wells’ brilliant effort in his third start of the season. Coming into Friday’s game, the Orioles were riding a 26-inning scoreless streak. When Wells left the game after pitching seven innings, that scoreless streak stood at 33.
Wells dominated a meek Tigers lineup from the first inning. He struck out Maton to lead off the game and worked around a weak infield single to a near-flawless first. Wells worked a perfect second and struck out Greene on an excellent changeup to end the third.
After another perfect inning in the 4th, Wells showed he could stay calm under pressure in the 5th and 6th. In the 5th, after walking the leadoff batter, he got future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera to pop up and then induced a 4-6-3 double play against former Oriole Jonathan Schoop. The Tigers catcher Jake Rogers led off the 6th with a single on a ball up the middle that Adam Frazier almost turned into an out. Then, after a nice play by Cedric Mullins on a fly-out to center, Wells ended the inning by getting Greene to line into another double play.
Wells pitched into the 7th for the first time in his career, but you would never have known it by the way he performed. He ended his outing by getting Baez to fly out to right, striking out cleanup hitter Kerry Carpenter on another good changeup and then got former No.1 overall pick Spenser Torkelson to ground out to third. As the play-by-play man Geoff Arnold put it after the top of the 7th, Wells’ start was the best start we’ve seen from an Oriole this season.
Offensively, the Orioles continued to rely on the big hit. Austin Hays put the Orioles on the board in the bottom of the 7th with a majestic two-out home run into the bullpen in center field.
Until the homer from Hays, the Orioles had largely struggled to get a hit when it mattered most. Heading into the 7th, the Orioles were 0-4 on the games with runners in scoring position. Cedric Mullins led off the 4th with a walk, before moving up to second on a balk. However, the Orioles failed to drive him home. Adley Rutschman struck out, Ryan Mountcastle hit a sinking line out to RF and Anthony Santander ended the scoring threat with a loud flyout to left field.
The same situation presented itself in the 5th inning. With two outs, Gunnar Henderson hit a rocket off the base of the right-center wall for a double. However, Ramón Urías couldn’t bring Gunnar home, striking out on a fastball up and in.
Despite the end of the scoreless innings streak, the Orioles' pitchers showed again Friday night that they are a group to be feared. In the intro to MASN’s broadcast of the game, they showed a group of fans wearing rubber Orioles masks—the terrifying kind that you might wear when robbing a bank. I can only imagine that opposing hitters are experiencing the same type of fear when they step into the batter's box against the O’s these days.
While another 1-0 win would have been fun—and given Wells the W in the stat sheet he deserved—no one can deny the magical sensation of a walk-off winner in Camden Yards. With the win, the Orioles continue to prove they not only have the fun and exciting qualities of the 2022 team but also the consistency to continually beat the teams they’re supposed to. So enjoy this latest win Birdland and let’s go win the series tomorrow (maybe in less dramatic fashion).
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