My mom cheers for the Pirates. She was raised by a single mother in Central Pennsylvania and has supported Pittsburgh sports for her entire life.
She met my dad—a die-hard Orioles fan—at Penn State University. My dad detests the Pirates to this day after a pair of fall days in the 1970s. For whatever reason, I sided with my dad as a child.
Today is a day to celebrate mothers. Unfortunately for all the Baltimore moms out there, the Pirates provided mine another reason to smile. The Orioles struck out 17 times in a 4-0 loss at Camden Yards.
Baltimore’s Sunday lineup featured James McCann, Kyle Stowers and Joey Ortiz. Gunnar Henderson—hitting well below .200—batted third in the lineup, while Adley Rutschman and Jorge Mateo were given the day off.
Baltimore had already secured a series victory before facing the Pirates best starting pitcher. The O’s lineup turned in an uninspiring, but somewhat predictable performance as Keller delivered a borderline historic outing. Keller became only the third Pittsburgh starter to strikeout 13 or more without walking a batter.
Keller consistently dotted the corners and took advantage of a wide strike zone by home plate umpire John Libka. Henderson struck out in his first three at bats, and Ryan Mountcastle failed to put the ball in play during all four plate appearances.
Henderson provided Baltimore’s only extra-base hit with a two-out double in the eighth. The knock placed two runners in scoring position for Mountcastle, but the first baseman went down swinging.
Keller’s stellar outing allowed Pittsburgh to showcase their closer after Félix Bautista picked up a pair of saves earlier in the series. Pittsburgh native David Bednar entered in a non-save situation. Adam Frazier singled and Austin Hays reached on an error, but Bednar struck out Stowers and McCann to calm the storm. Rutschman pinch hit for Ortiz and popped out to end the game.
Stowers joined Mountcastle in the Golden Sombrero club with four strikeouts in four trips. Mullins led the Orioles with two hits, but the first came via a perfectly placed bunt in the first.
The Pirates wasted no time getting on the board after failing to score on Saturday. Andrew McCutchen—batting leadoff for the Pirates for the first time in over 10 years—started the game with a single up the middle. McCutchen advanced to third on a single by Bryan Reynolds and eventually scored on a fielder’s choice by Carlos Santana.
Pittsburgh added on with a crooked number in the third. The big inning started with a strikeout. Reynolds chased a curveball in the dirt from Kyle Gibson, but the ball bounced off McCann and trickled up the first base line. Gibson tracked down the ball but his soft toss fell at Mountcastle’s knees allowing Reynolds to reach safely.
Reynolds advanced to second on a grounder by Santana, but Gibson walked Jack Suwinski to place a second runner on the basepaths. Ke’Bryan Hayes drove in Reynolds with a soft single to center. Suwinski held at third when Tucupita Marcano bunted a safety squeeze back to Gibson, but Ji Hwan Bae delivered a two-out, two-run single to place the Pirates up four.
Gibson allowed six singles in the first three innings. He failed to locate multiple pitches and issued three walks. The control issues drove up the pitch count, and Gibson exited after five innings of work.
Mike Baumann, Cionel Peréz and Austin Voth combined for four hitless innings out of the bullpen. Baumann struck out three over a pair of frames, and Voth picked up two K’s in the top of the ninth. The outings were critical for all three relievers who could be impacted by the rapidly approaching return of Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens.
The bullpen provided Baltimore an opportunity to mount a comeback, but the bats never rose to the occasion. Keller deserves a majority of the credit after another dominant performance. The 26-year-old appears destined to represent Pittsburgh this summer in Seattle.
The Orioles will settle for a series win against a first-place team. Things will not get any easier for the Birds with Shohei Ohtani taking the mound tomorrow evening at Camden Yards.