The Orioles are now 24 games into the 2023 season and they’re still winning two out of every three games played. This almost certainly will not last but it’s fun for as long as it does. They closed out their homestand with a 6-2 victory over the Red Sox to win an AL East series for the first time this year and improve to 16-8. Perhaps they have started a new winning streak, though that’s up to how the team plays in the next series in Detroit.
One way you know that things are going well for the team is when the team itself, or individual players, are making the good kind of history. In the bad, rebuilding years, the Orioles were often making the bad kind of history. Wednesday afternoon’s win featured some more clutch relief from Yennier Cano, who tied a club record dating to 1976 (Fred Holdsworth) for consecutive batters retired to begin a season. That was after getting out the first four batters Cano faced today. He did not break the record because he hit the next guy with a pitch, but Cano got one more out and has still yet to allow a hit or run this season.
All of this was excitement for later in the game. The Orioles and Red Sox traded early runs, with the O’s getting on board in the bottom of the first inning following a Cedric Mullins leadoff hit. A fielding error got Mullins to third base, where he scored on an Anthony Santander fly ball. This was more dramatic than it sounds, as Mullins tested center fielder Jarren Duran’s arm on a not terribly deep pop fly.
One might say Mullins was hungry like the wolf. Duran did not pass the test. Mullins was safe at the plate. Batters behind Santander could not do anything else with Adley Rutschman starting on first base for them, but it was enough to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
This lead did not survive even one batter into the top of the second inning. Boston outfielder Masataka Yoshida did not miss a hanging changeup out over the plate, blasting the ball 412 feet to center field. Starting pitcher Tyler Wells walked the next batter, Enrique Hernandez, before settling down and striking out two of the next three batters. Wells ended his afternoon with seven strikeouts overall, including striking out the side in the fourth inning. This tied a career high for Wells.
In the bottom half of the same inning, the bottom part of the Orioles lineup delivered. Adam Frazier, Ryan O’Hearn, and Ramón Urías opened up the inning with consecutive base hits. O’Hearn and Urías each tore into the first pitch they saw. Urías’s single scored Frazier to get the Orioles back on top, 2-1. #9 hitter Terrin Vavra dropped a sacrifice bunt to move up each of the remaining runners into scoring position.
The Sox chose to play the infield in, leaving second baseman Enmanuel Valdez helpless to field a Mullins grounder. O’Hearn scored on this single and Urías reached third base, where he was then able to score a fourth Orioles run as Rutschman hit a sacrifice fly. Mullins stole his tenth base of the season in spite of the Red Sox pitching out. In all, only one of the 11 Orioles hits went for extra bases. Stringing together singles and then capitalizing with productive outs was crucial.
Wells rolled into the sixth inning with this 4-1 lead, having only allowed two hits and one walk through the first five innings of the game. You know the Orioles were either confident in Wells or desperate to save the bullpen a little bit because they let Wells keep rolling into the third time through the Red Sox lineup even after Alex Verdugo hit a one out double. Wells got a second out and the chance to finish off the inning if he could retire Justin Turner.
The at-bat against Turner began with Wells having already tied a career high with 95 pitches. Turner was responsible for a bunch of those, including a ten pitch battle in the first inning that Wells won. Turner took another long at-bat, seeing seven pitches before getting an RBI single and chasing Wells from the game. It was still a nice outing, especially since reliever Danny Coulombe didn’t allow the inherited runner to score as he relieved Wells. The big righty now has a 2.79 ERA through five games. That’ll work.
The Orioles answered the Red Sox cutting the lead to two runs by scoring another one in the bottom half of that sixth inning. Urías was once again in the middle of it, starting things off with a single - one of his four hits on the day. Pinch hitter Ryan McKenna added another single. The O’s went small again, with Mullins dropping a sacrifice bunt to get the runners into scoring position. A walk to Rutschman loaded the bases back up, then Santander got his second sacrifice fly RBI of the game.
Coulombe gave way to Cano with one out in the seventh inning. That set up Cano’s run to tying that 47-year-old record, as Cano finished the seventh and went through the eighth as well. Urías and McKenna combined again for a run in the eighth inning, with McKenna doubling to drive in Urías for a sixth Orioles run. Though it was no longer a save situation, the Orioles brought Félix Bautista anyway, perhaps because he’d started tossing last night and was warming again today as well, so they might as well use him.
In truth, it wasn’t the most dominant Bautista has ever been. Hernandez picked up a cheap bloop hit and Bautista then walked Casas. “The tying run is on deck” is not that threatening, but it is still threatening. But it’s okay. Bautista retired the next three batters in a row. No one even scored. It wasn’t a save situation. It was a nice win wrapped up.
The Orioles head off on their longest road trip of the season after closing this series and homestand with a win. Four games in Detroit await. Kyle Gibson and Joey Wentz are the scheduled starting pitchers for the 6:40 opener against a hopefully-still-cruddy Tigers offense.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 26, 2023?
This poll is closed
Ramón Urías (four hits, three runs scored)
Yennier Cano (tied club record for batters retired to begin a season)
Cedric Mullins (2 hits, BB, gutsy and successful tag play)
Tyler Wells (career high in pitches, strikeouts, 5.2 IP, 2 ER)