Good starting pitching. Home runs. A solid bullpen effort. It’s nice, isn’t it? If only we could see it every game. Not that I’m complaining about a 29-16 record, but the bullpen disaster from yesterday is still fresh in my mind.
Kyle Gibson started off iffy but got stronger as the night went on. He ultimately pitched seven innings and was ready to turn the ball over to the team’s two most successful relief pitchers. Both Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista struggled compared to their typical pitching performances (Cano gave up a run! GASP!) but pulled through in the end. Add in three home runs and you’ve got yourself a 6-2 win and a now four-game lead over the Blue Jays.
Gibson started the game by getting quite a few loud outs. Outs are outs but they made me nervous. George Springer led off the game with a hit but got thrown out by Austin Hays trying to stretch it to a double. The next two batters flew out on hard-hit balls.
The lone run Gibson allowed came in the second when he mildly fell apart. He got two quick outs but then a double, a wild pitch, a walk, and a single resulted in one run coming in to score. It could have been worse with Oriole nemesis Kevin Kiermaier coming to the plate, but Kiermaier flew out to end the inning.
The third inning saw another loud out with a long fly ball to left field that Hays grabbed at the wall, and a single from Vladimir Guerrero. But Gibson emerged unscathed. He found himself in more trouble in the fourth, but got a nice double play ball to end the inning.
Then, suddenly, Gibson was untouchable. It was quite unexpected after his first four innings. He was pitching in a way that made a three-run lead feel like it was twice that. He got three ground outs in the fifth (including a successful challenge by the Orioles). In the sixth inning, he needed just seven pitches for his 1-2-3. And he closed out the seventh almost effortlessly with two strikeouts and a fly ball to Cedric Mullins in center.
Gibson ate seven innings on a night when the Orioles really needed it. His final pitching line: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. He left the game with the score 4-1 and just two innings to go. Couldn’t ask for more from the guy.
On offense, the Orioles didn’t have a ton of success against starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi tonight, but what they did was enough. Blue Jay killer Ryan Mountcastle struck again, launching a three-run home run in the third inning to give his team a 3-1 lead. Mountcastle also walked in the first inning, which is even more unheard of.
Not only has Mountcastle owned the Blue Jays to the tune of 14 home runs and a 1.014 OPS in 42 career games, but he has also especially loved hitting against Kikuchi. It’s a small sample size, but an impressive one. Coming into tonight, Mountcastle was 4-for-9 with a double, three home runs, and two walks against the lefty pitcher.
After the Mountcastle home run, Kikuchi retired the next seven batters before walking Adley Rutschman with two outs in the top of the fifth. He had been cruising but the Jays’ manager was not about to let him face Mountcastle again. He was lifted for Trevor Richards, who got Mounty to fly out to end the inning.
Richards wasn’t as lucky against the next batter, Anthony Santander. Leading off the sixth, Santander mashed a home run of his own. The solo shot put the Orioles up 4-1, and that was it for the offense until the ninth inning.
With the score 4-1, Yennier Cano came in to do what he does best. Except, something weird happened. The first batter, Kiermaier, singled to right field. Then Springer really got a hold of one and hit a ball down the right field line that bounced up into the stands for an automatic double.
What was going on? Multiple hits? Runners on second and third with no outs? None of us are used to this from Cano. But then the truly bizarre happened: Cano gave up a run. We all knew it would happen but it still felt terrible. Because Cano is still awesome, it scored on a ground out and not a hit.
Next up was what turned into an epic battle of Cano vs. Vlad Jr. After working the count full, Vlad fouled off three more pitches before finally striking out on the ninth pitch of the at bat. Huge! Daulton Varsho grounded out to first and Cano was out of the inning with minimal damage.
Logically I knew that Cano would give up a run eventually. But before tonight, a small part of me wondered quietly, “But what if he doesn’t?” Oh well. His ERA is now 0.40.
On to the ninth! Jorge Mateo finally got a hit! And, surprise!, stole second base. But he didn’t even need to, because Adam Frazier followed him with his 5th home run of the year.
Frazier’s home run put the game out of save territory, but closer Félix Bautista was already warming up and Brandon Hyde still brought him in. I was happy with the decision because after yesterday’s game, I could frankly not handle seeing any of those other jabronis. But then Bautista started to pitch.
He wasn’t his best, let’s just say. He started Matt Chapman off 3-0 and ultimately got him, but then walked the next batter. He made Whit Merrifield look silly on a swinging strike three, but then Danny Jansen single to extend the game. Kiermaier struck out looking to end the game and, ultimately, Bautista was successful. He did throw 25 pitches.
Orioles win! They put some space between themselves and the Blue Jays, who have now fallen into fourth place behind the Yankees. They remain on pace to win over 100 games, and their record in the 22-game gauntlet now stands at 8-6 with eight games to go.
Saturday’s game is a 3:07 start with Grayson Rodriguez facing off against Alek Manoah.
Who is the Most Birdland Player for Friday, May 19th?
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Kyle Gibson (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K)
Ryan Mountcastle (go-ahead 3-run HR)