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Bullpen game goes down in flames, 12-8, as Guardians hand O’s a series loss

Orioles hitters scored seven runs off 2020 Cy Young Shane Bieber, but they couldn’t do much about the twelve runs and seventeen hits allowed by the pitchers. 

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll let the broadcasting booth sum this one up. “Offense-oriented,” said MASN’s Geoff Arnold. Less diplomatically, Jim Palmer quipped, early in the third inning, “So this is going to be a slugfest, isn’t it?”

Boy, were they right.

If you like pitching, avert your eyes. This was a hot mess. Eighteen runs scored before we made it out of the fifth inning. Nobody seemed interested in recording an out. Shane Bieber got hammered in one of the worst starts of his decorated career, and out of an Orioles bullpen collective of Keegan Akin, Austin Voth, Cionel Pérez, Mychal Givens, and Mike Baumann, no one looked good. There were Guardians all over the basepaths the whole day.

The lead changed hands five times in this ridiculous affair, and eventually, with twelve runs on seventeen hits, Cleveland came out the winner.

Grayson Rodríguez having recently been demoted due to inconsistency, the Orioles were trying to patch together a series win with a bullpen game. Despite the hitters’ noble efforts, this strategy was exposed pretty quickly. A one-two punch of Keegan Akin and Austin Voth made it through 4.1 innings with three runs allowed on ten hits and three walks between them—not terrible, but certainly not very good.

Brandon Hyde called for Cionel Pérez in the fourth, after Voth started to lose the zone. It went badly. Voth had left two runners on for the erratic Pérez, and a pair of hung baseballs to Josh Naylor and Josh Bell later, poof, a two-run lead had disappeared, and it was 6-5 Cleveland.

The good news was that Shane Bieber was in far from his 2020 Cy Young form. The Birds seized the lead right back, hanging a total of seven runs on Bieber in four innings. These came on three surprising rallies, all with two outs.

In the second inning, it was the bottom of the order that started the party. Aaron Hicks and Ryan O’Hearn fouled off a bunch of pitches and walked consecutively. Jorge Mateo hit a Bermuda triangle double and Hicks bounded home to tie the game at one. From the No. 9 hole, Ryan McKenna plated two more with a sizzling single to center.

The fun didn’t stop there. Adam Frazier doubled, and Adley “Wheels” Rutschman legged out an infield single (he had three infield singles and one regular outfield single today). Wow. Six consecutive O’s hitters had reached base against Bieber, and four runs scored, all with two outs. It felt like a big deal at the time.

The Birds made it 5-3 in the third inning off Bieber on an Aaron Hicks single, his first as an Oriole, and a ringing O’Hearn double deep to center. Hicks runs well, I’m pleased to report.

They struck again off Bieber in the fourth, again with two outs. Adley Rutschman legged out another of those infield singles and Tony Taters hit—what else?—a tater, 423 feet of Tankness that put the Birds up once again, 7-6.

It didn’t feel like a sure thing, but a lead is a lead, right?

No. Not even close.

Mychal Givens has been painful to watch this year, but you can’t stash him in the bullpen forever, right? Givens faced three hitters in the fifth inning and couldn’t retire one.

That left Mike Baumann holding the short stick, with the unfortunate assignment of entering with the bases loaded to face a four-time Silver Slugger in José Ramírez. “There goes my hero,” sang Dave Grohl over the speakers. Could Baumann be that guy?

Eh, not today.

Baumann impressively whiffed Ramírez, but Josh Naylor smoked a fastball for a two-run double. 8-7 Cleveland, and the seesaw kept swinging. Baumann notched his second strikeout on a good curveball. But Gabriel Arías tagged a 97-mph fastball for a 447-foot homer, and the game was blown open, 11-7.

We weren’t even through the fifth and it felt like the ninth already.

The Birds weren’t quite ready for a mercy kill, though. In the bottom half of the fifth, Gunnar Henderson walked, and Aaron Hicks singled again, reaching base for his third straight at-bat as an Oriole. We love this guy already! (Do we? I guess?) Ryan O’Hearn just legged out a grounder to stave off an inning-ending double play. Hustle wins ballgames! No, better pitching than this wins ballgames. Anyway, the Orioles got a hard-earned eighth run.

Back out for the sixth, Big Mike gave the Orioles their first scoreless inning since the first. He was buoyed in this mission by a shoestring catch from Ryan McKenna. He also came out to pitch a third inning, which was a gift given how the game had been going. It would have been nicer, though, if he hadn’t given up a twelfth run off a double-single combo from the unstoppable José Ramírez-Josh Naylor duo.

It wasn’t enough to stave off a second consecutive series loss, but on the bright side, the Orioles continued to sprinkle hits around. Hicks reached three times, and Captain America, of course, had four hits. Tony Taters continues to chalk up extra-base hits, and O’Hearn added his second double of the game in the seventh inning. I’m sad to report that he failed the sprinkler test. But hey, his bat looked fantastic today and he played a solid right field.

Two pitchers who remained immune to whatever calamity had hit the rest of the staff were Bryan Baker, who tossed 1.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and no walks, and Danny Coulombe, who threw a perfect ninth, aided by a nice play at third from Henderson.

This game was ridiculous enough that it feels right to sign off with a joke. In between halves of the sixth inning, the broadcast cut to this pair of youngsters.

Without missing a beat, Jim Palmer dead-panned from the booth, “Look, there’s Jackson Holliday, taking a day off from Aberdeen.”

Hehe. Now, let’s just forget this one ever happened, shall we?