Friends, I’m going to start with the good news. The Orioles defeated the Kansas City Royals this afternoon, 13-10, securing their 21st victory of the year and their seventh straight series win. They’re 11 games over .500 and — as of this writing — are tied for the second-best record in MLB.
But my goodness. The path to today’s win was an absolutely draining one, a roller coaster of emotions that saw the Orioles systematically fritter away a should-be blowout win, squander a seven-run lead, fall behind, rally late, retake the lead, and then white-knuckle it through a control-challenged ninth inning from their enigmatic closer. I don’t know whether I should be elated or frustrated. Mainly I’m just exhausted.
The Orioles won. And in the end, that’s all that matters.
...But is it, though?
This game sure started out promising enough. With former Oriole Jordan Lyles on the mound for Kansas City, the O’s wasted no time showing why they made the right call by declining his $11 million option for 2023. In fairness, Lyles didn’t get any help from his defense in the first inning. With two outs, Ryan Mountcastle lofted a shallow pop to right that should’ve capped an easy 1-2-3 inning. But right fielder MJ Melendez, a converted catcher, dropped the ball near the foul line, allowing Mountcastle to reach. The next batter, Anthony Santander, sat dead-red on a 3-0 count and crushed a towering blast to right field for his third home run. The O’s quickly led, 2-0, on a pair of unearned runs.
Lyles can’t blame his defense for what happened next. The O’s battered him around for three runs in the second and another three in the third, whacking the ball all over the field against their ex-teammate. The trio of second-inning runs scored on one glorious swing of the bat by Cedric Mullins, who stepped up with the bases loaded — after a single, walk, and hit batsman — and brought everyone home with a double to the wall in center field.
Lyles’ wildness continued an inning later, as he walked Adam Frazier, uncorked a wild pitch to move him to second — where he immediately scored on a Jorge Mateo single — and then bounced another one in the dirt to advance Mateo. Finally, Lyles floated one in the strike zone...and Gunnar Henderson demolished it for a 425-foot homer to right, his third dinger of the season and the first one to his pull side. Is Gunnar starting to heat up? This would be a very good time to do so, considering the competition that’s up next for the Orioles.
At that point, the Orioles were winning, 8-1. Finally, they were going to have a low-stress, comfortable victory. You might even call it a laugher. Come, laugh with me! Ha-ha-ha! Oh, joy and mirth! What could possibly go wrong? Ha-ha-ha! Ha-ha...ha...heh... (starts crying)
With each passing inning, the vibes grew increasingly uneasy for the Orioles. The first sign that things wouldn’t go as planned was when starter Grayson Rodriguez, uh, forgot how to pitch, basically? The 23-year-old’s sixth major league start was by far his worst. After tossing a scoreless first — which extended his shutout inning streak to 15 — Rodriguez couldn’t get anyone out. Melendez led off the second with a scorched double to the gap and scored on a Maikel Garcia RBI single. OK, just one run, whatever (and that came before the Orioles’ three-run third extended the O’s lead to 8-1).
But even after being spotted a seven-run advantage, Rodriguez continued to melt down. Backup catcher Freddy Fermin opened the third with his first major league home run, and Rodriguez walked the next batter on four pitches. Two batters later, Salvador Perez — who has crushed the O’s in this series — did so yet again with an opposite-field homer to right, just out of the reach of a leaping Anthony Santander. Suddenly, it was 8-4.
Brandon Hyde wanted to give Rodriguez every chance to settle himself down, but the hard contact only continued in the fourth, starting with a Kyle Isbel roundtripper. Fermin then roped one to the wall, just out of the reach of Cedric Mullins, for his first career triple. (Big day for Freddy!) Hyde let Rodriguez face one more batter before pulling the plug on his underwhelming outing. Grayson’s 3.2 innings pitched were a career low, and the six runs he gave up — the last one scoring after he left, on a Vinnie Pasquantino RBI single off Cionel Pérez — were a career high. I mean, his career hasn’t been that long, but still, not good.
The Royals’ offensive assault continued in the fifth against Pérez, who remains unable to fix whatever’s been ailing him this season. Cionel gave up two more hits in the fifth — the 20th and 21st he’s given up in 12 innings this season — and a run, on a Michael Massey RBI double. The Orioles’ once seven-run lead had been whittled to one, 8-7, and it seemed almost inevitable they were going to blow the whole thing.
The only surprising part was that it didn’t happen in the sixth, when the Royals put two runners in scoring position with nobody out against Bryan Baker. It took a miraculous effort by Danny Coulombe, who struck out two batters to strand the bases loaded, for the Orioles to hold the lead for another inning.
It didn’t last any longer. Coulombe’s sixth-inning heroics gave way to seventh-inning struggles, starting with a Garcia double and a Massey walk. Garcia also alertly swiped third, putting the tying run 90 feet away with nobody out.
Even the great Yennier Cano couldn’t get out of the jam unscathed. Isbel laid down a perfect bunt to the right of the mound, and the Orioles had no chance to cut down Garcia at the plate. They didn’t even get the out at first due to some defensive confusion. And there it is. The Orioles had officially blown the 8-1 lead. It’s 8-8. And I h8 everything.
All that was left was for the Royals to take the lead, which happened two batters later when Bobby Witt Jr. snuck a single into right field past a diving Frazier. Massey raced home to give the Royals a 9-8 lead. Unbelievable. But also, not entirely unbelievable.
Don’t worry, Orioles fans. This is where it gets good again. The O’s showed much more mental toughness than me, who had already resigned myself to a complete and utter Orioles defeat.
The Birds’ bats, which had gone quiet for four straight innings — two against Lyles, two against Austin Cox in his MLB debut — came roaring back in the eighth against noted villain Aroldis Chapman. The veteran lefty muddled through the kind of wild, ineffective outing that ended his long Yankees tenure last year. He not only couldn’t throw the ball in the strike zone, he couldn’t hold runners, either. The inning turned into a track meet for the Orioles.
Frazier walked and stole a base. Mateo walked and stole a base. And Ramón Urías, pinch-hitting for Henderson, delivered the big hit, smoking a two-run single to center that put the Orioles back in front, 10-9. Bless you, Ramón Urías. You’re the best! (For good measure, Urías also stole a base later in the frame.)
The O’s stranded the bases loaded later in the inning, but after a much-needed 1-2-3 eighth from Cano, they padded their lead in the ninth. It was — guess who? — Urías who delivered the big hit again, lofting a ground-rule double off Amir Garrett with the bases loaded to make it a 12-9 game. Urías was the first Oriole since Pedro Alvarez in 2018 to drive in four runs off the bench.A run-scoring wild pitch brought in #13, and all seemed right again.
Ha! You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you? The bottom of the ninth continued the torturous affair. Félix Bautista, with a four-run lead, was a total mess. He struck out the leadoff hitter after running the count full, but then issued back-to-back walks and an RBI single to Fermin, bringing the tying run to the plate. Good thing the O’s got those insurance runs. Bautista was all out of whack. And you can’t blame overuse; he hadn’t pitched in five days.
Just in the nick of time, Félix found his form. He threw one of his few good splitters of the inning to whiff Witt, then fanned Hunter Dozier on another split in the dirt. It took him 32 pitches, but he did it. And somehow, against all odds yet exactly as it should have been, the Orioles had prevailed, 13-10.
Fifteen hundred words later, here we are. I need a drink.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Thursday, May 4?
This poll is closed
Yennier Cano (two scoreless IP, restored order in eighth)
Adam Frazier (reached base four times, scored four runs)
Gunnar Henderson (much-needed home run)
Anthony Santander (two-run HR to start the scoring)
Ramón Urías (go-ahead two-run single in eighth, two-run double in ninth)