One day, when they make a season retrospective video about the 2023 Orioles, this afternoon’s game will not be included.
A day full of frustration, and the occasional but all-too-fleeting moment of awesomeness, resulted in an aggravating 6-5 loss to the Angels to finish the Orioles’ 10-game homestand. What had the potential to be a thrilling, come-from-behind victory for the Birds, who overcame missed opportunities early to take a late lead, turned sour when a collection of Relievers Who Are Not Yennier Cano let the game slip away in the eighth.
Early on, you’d never have guessed what a roller coaster, back-and-forth affair this game would become. For the first few innings, it simply looked like it was going to be one of those forgettable games where the team is totally flat out of the gate, falls behind early, and trudges through a never-particularly-competitive defeat. It hasn’t happened a lot to the Orioles this year, but it happens every now and then. It happens to everyone.
For Tyler Wells, who has been the Orioles’ best starter this year, the afternoon was a slog. Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout did Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout things, with the former socking a solo homer in the first and the latter bashing a two-run blast in the third. I suppose there’s no shame in giving up home runs to those two.
Wells managed to keep the Angels off the scoreboard beyond those two dingers. It wasn’t easy, though. The Angels had constant traffic on the basepaths, picking up six hits and a walk against Wells, who entered the game with a league-best 0.723 WHIP. He labored for 95 pitches in five innings, but did strike out seven. I’d call it a gritty performance from Wells, but one that fell short of the high bar he’s set for himself this season.
Adding to the frustration was the Orioles’ early offensive output — or lack thereof — against soft-tossing veteran lefty Tyler Anderson. The Birds squandered tons of early scoring opportunities, none bigger than in the first inning, when they loaded the bases with one out. Anderson racked up a huge strikeout of James McCann — badly miscast as a #5 hitter — and retired Ryan McKenna on a fly to right.
The second inning featured more unproductive at-bats with men in scoring position, as a pair of one-out baserunners were left stranded when Austin Hays and Adley Rutschman flied out. At that point, the O’s were already 0-for-5 in RISP situations. They decided to remedy that situation by not getting a single runner on base in the third or fourth. Like I said, it was shaping up to be one of those forgettable games.
But wait! All of a sudden, it wasn’t. After a momentum-changing top of the fifth — in which Wells retired Trout, Ohtani, and Hunter Renfroe after a pair of leadoff hits — the Birds found their bats in the home half. Joey Ortiz was the spark plug with a leadoff single, and Hays roped a double off the right-field scoreboard. One more hitless RISP at-bat followed before Ryan Mountcastle broke through, lofting a fly ball to left. It wasn’t hit especially deep, but Ortiz tagged from third and slid home safely with the Orioles’ first run.
One batter later, Anthony Santander tied the game with one big swing, crushing a hanging cutter from Anderson over The Wall in left for a two-run shot. At last, the matinee crowd at Camden Yards had reason to go crazy, and the Orioles were back in business.
Or so it seemed. No sooner had the O’s evened it up than the Angels went back in front, tagging Mike Baumann for two hits, a walk, and a run in the top of the sixth. Down 4-3, the Orioles were going to need to come from behind again.
That’s exactly what they did. In the bottom of the seventh, with one on and one out, Adley Rutschman did what he does best: be incredibly awesome. He jumped on a Chris Devenski fastball and tattooed it deep to right, well over the scoreboard, for a go-ahead, two-run home run. You guys, isn’t Adley just the best? Again the Camden Yards crowd erupted, as over in section 86, Mr. Splash doused fans in the Bird Bath seats. Life was good. The Orioles were ahead, Adley Rutschman was the hero, and all was right with the world.
Well...uh, about that. The Orioles still had two innings left to go, and it turns out they were ill-equipped to handle them. Setup man extraordinaire Yennier Cano, having worked two nights in a row, presumably was unavailable for the eighth, forcing Brandon Hyde to try to finagle the inning with lesser relievers. It did not work out.
Bryan Baker was first, and after he struck out the leadoff man, he ran into trouble with a single and a walk. Hyde had seen enough of Baker, whose pitch count was 24, and replaced him with...Austin Voth?? Oh, my. I know Hyde’s options were limited, especially since Baumann and Cionel Pérez had already pitched earlier, but I’m not sure Voth is the guy I want trying to hold an eighth-inning lead with two runners on base.
Indeed, the Angels instantly tied the game on Voth’s third pitch, a Gio Urshela sharp single up the middle to plate the first inherited runner. Voth struck out Taylor Ward for out number two but then drilled Trout in the arm with a pitch, loading the bases and bringing up Ohtani. Out came Hyde again, this time for lefty Danny Coulombe.
Coulombe very nearly pulled off the great escape...if only he had remembered to field his position. Ohtani smoked a hot shot to the right side that Mountcastle snagged with a great dive. But Coulombe, caught being a spectator on the play, didn’t get over to cover first base in time and Ohtani beat it out. He was credited with an RBI single, giving Los Angeles the lead once more, 6-5.
This time, the Orioles were fresh out of comebacks, and another annoying inning in the ninth didn’t help. Facing Angels closer Carlos Estévez, Adam Frazier laced a shot off the wall in right, but got greedy and tried to stretch it to a double, where the strong-armed right fielder Renfroe nailed him at second base. Ugh! Frazier, of all people, should’ve known about Renfroe’s cannon, considering they were teammates for three years at Mississippi State.
The bad baserunning cost the Orioles, as pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins followed with a double that — if Frazier had stayed at first — would’ve set up a great scoring opportunity. Instead, with two outs, the Angels intentionally walked Rutschman, and Estévez struck out Mountcastle on three pitches to end a disappointing game.
Oh well. It was still a good homestand for the Orioles, going 6-4 against three quality teams. But the way it ended wasn’t ideal.