Some teams have Felix Bautista at the back end of their bullpen and some teams simply do not. The Orioles closer outshined his Blue Jays counterpart, Ryan O’Hearn hit a late game-tying home run and the Orioles ground out a 6-5 win over Toronto in 10 innings.
The game really turned for the Orioles in the 8th inning. Baltimore entered the top of the 8th down 5-2, the bullpen arms of Bryan Baker and Michael Baumann having failed to keep the Jays off the board in the 6th and 7th. Anthony Santander walked to lead off the inning, before he was erased at second on a Ryan Mountcastle fielder’s choice that saw RMC beat the throw at first. Adam Frazier then slapped a single to left on a high fastball, and Austin Hays came off the bench with the first opportunity to be a hero.
Hays would go down without a whimper, flailing at a two-strike splitter to go down on strikes and keep the runners at second and third. Then, O’Hearn stepped to the plate and the Blue Jays countered with All-Star closer Jordan Romano. After falling behind 2-1, Romano evened the count on a slider at the bottom of the zone. However, when he tried to go back to that low slider to punch out O’Hearn, the Orioles DH instead launched it out of the park into the right-center stands. After feeling like the game was the Blue Jays’ to win, O’Hearn’s bomb breathed live back into the Orioles.
Yennier Cano would work a scoreless 8th, but the Orioles offense couldn’t take advantage of a one-out Adley Rutschman in the top of the 9th. With the score still tied, Bautista came in looking to guide things to extra innings. Longtime thorn in the Orioles' collective side Kevin Kiermaier led off the inning with a single and then stole second. Bautista then walked George Springer, giving Toronto two on with no out and All-Stars Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Alejandro Kirk due up.
However, Bautista seemed to thrive on the extra pressure he created, striking out Bichette on a splitter below the zone and getting Guerrero to lift a lazy fly ball to shallow center. That left it all up to Kirk, who quickly got ahead 3-1. The Mountain then reared back and got Kirk to chase two fastballs right above the top of the zone, punching out the Blue Jays DH and sending the game to extras.
In the top of the 10th, the Orioles turned to small ball to finally retake the lead. Frazier led off the inning by bunting Manfred Man Mountcastle to third. Hays then came up and hit a sharp grounder to third. With Mountcastle running on contact, it looked like Gold Glover Matt Chapman would gun him down at the plate, but the throw ricocheted off the runner and Mounty slid in safe for the Orioles sixth run.
After the Orioles went quietly in the remainder of the 10th, Bautista came back out looking to protect the new found lead. Not only did he come up big in the top of the 10th, Bautista outright dominated the Blue Jays that dared to come to the plate against him. The Mountain threw 14 straight fastballs to strike out the side and seal the Orioles' 30th win of the season.
All of this drama came after the O’s started off the game by taking advantage of a wild outing from Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah. Adam Frazier led off the top of the 2nd by tripling on a line drive to right, which skipped under the glove of Jays outfielder Springer. Two batters later, O’Hearn singled to right to drive Frazier home and give the O’s a 1-0 lead.
That lead would double in the top of the 3rd, as Cedric Mullins launched a ball to right field that squeaked over the top of the fence for a solo HR. The hit was originally ruled a double, but upon further review, replay showed that ball kicked off a fence just beyond the top of the wall—and so they gave Mullins the four-bagger and the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
That lead would not last as a two-run homer off starter Grayson Rodriguez in the 5th, a solo HR off Baker in the 6th and two runs off myriad singles and stolen bases in 7th saw the O’s dig themselves that three-run hole. After failing to score with runners in scoring position and less than two outs in the 6th and 7th, the O’s offense looked like it was going to let this game slip—until O’Hearn’s heroics that is.
Early on Saturday, Rodriguez looked like he was putting together the best start of his young major league career. The O’s rookie right-hander struck out two in the 1st inning to bookend a great diving by Cedric Mullins. Rodriguez came back and started the second by striking out Matt Chapman looking on a fastball.
Throughout the start, the rookie’s fastball control was some of the best we’ve seen over his first nine starts. The righty consistently located his heater at bottom of the zone early in counts, and then often blew the fastball by hitters up in the zone to finish off hitters. In the bottom of the 3rd, Rodriguez stranded a runner at third by blowing a 99-mph fastball by Bo Bichette.
He would then repeat the Houdini act in the 4th inning. After a Brandon Belt walk and Chapman double gave the Blue Jays second and third with one out, Rodriguez got Danny Jansen to ground out right back to him, catching Belt in a rundown between third and home that eventually saw Chapman tagged out at third. Then, to finish off the inning, Rodriguez once again threw his fastball by a Blue Jays hitter, striking out Daulton Varsho on a high heater at the top of the zone.
Where Rodriguez succeeded with his fastball usage, he eventually ran into trouble on his other offerings. The rookie’s best secondary pitches Saturday were his cutter and change up. While Rodriguez did collect his first K on a change up, he more often used the off-speed pitch to get ahead of the hitters—often throwing it for first pitch strikes. If he fell behind in the count, he would turn to his cutter to get back into the at-bats.
That predictable pattern is what ended up costing Rodriguez in the end. After Santiago Espinal singled to lead off the 5th, Rodriguez fell behind George Springer and then left a cutter over the plate. Springer deposited that cutter into the left field bullpen for the two-run homer that tied the game at 2-2. Rodriguez’ final line of five innings pitched, four hits allowed, two earned runs and six Ks looks good enough on paper, but it certainly felt like there was potential for better.
Everything will now be viewed through orange-colored glasses thanks to the incredibly clutch efforts of O’Hearn, Bautista and all the Orioles who contributed to the late-inning comeback effort. Baltimore is now the second team in MLB this season to reach 30 wins, trailing only division rival Tampa.
Saturday’s win squarely felt like a game past Orioles teams wouldn’t have come close to tying, let alone winning. And yet, with everything we’ve seen from these Birds over the first 46 games of the season, it also doesn’t seem all that surprising that the 2023 O’s pulled this one out. That just goes to show how far this team has come and heights that are seemingly waiting for them on the horizon. Enjoy this win, Birdland, and let’s hope this high carries over into tomorrow’s Adley Day celebrations.
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