An improbable walk-off home run by defensive whiz Ryan McKenna in the 10th inning salvaged a horrific day on the base paths for the Orioles, lifting them to a 6-4 win over the Mariners on Saturday evening at Camden Yards.
There were two constants in this game: The next home run was always around the corner, and an Orioles base runner would find a way to get thrown out in a silly way. Those two things largely overshadowed what was a standout day for O’s starter Dean Kremer.
The Orioles’ first run of the day was manufactured in the second inning. Gunnar Henderson reached base on a one-out single and later swiped second base. Following a Ramón Urías walk, Adam Fraizer knuckled a weak liner into right field. Henderson rounded third to score easily. The throw home was cut off, catching Frazier in between first and second to begin a run down. But rather than track him down, Mariners second baseman Kolten Wong fired towards the plate, where Urías was gunned down trying to sneak home. It was nowhere near the last time that a poor base running decision would cost the O’s more opportunities.
Seattle came right back in the top of the third inning to first tie and then take the lead on a pair of weird home runs to right field. Mike Ford’s blast came first. It was lofted 170 feet in the air at a launch angle of 46 degrees. The ball was in the air a long time and, as Kevin Brown explained on the MASN broadcast, it is the highest launch angle of a home run this season.
Later in the frame J.P. Crawford smacked a laser that actually ricocheted off the railings above the out-of-town scoreboard and bounced back to get stuck behind the tarp in foul territory. Everyone on the field played it like an extra base hit and Crawford sprinted to third base, but after some conversation the umpiring crew determined it was indeed a round-tripper.
Anthony Santander answered with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the inning, a no-doubter into the center field bleachers to tie things back up at two runs apiece.
Four home runs in his last five games pic.twitter.com/BppqipGu3m— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 24, 2023
It was back to the factory in the fifth inning for the O’s. Frazier opened with a single, and moved to second on a stolen base (which was upheld upon review). Adley Rutschman walked on five pitches, giving Mariners starter Bryce Miller the hook in the process. Santander welcomed reliever Matt Brash with a single to right field, scoring Frazier. But once again the batter responsible for the RBI also made a poor base-running decision. The throw from the outfield went through to third, and then got fired back to second to nab Santander trying to take an extra base. Ryan O’Hearn followed with a ground out and the threat was over after scoring just one run.
There was no lockdown inning to be found in sixth inning. Kremer hung a 1-2 sweeper to Julio Rodríguez, a batter that doesn’t miss many of those, and he smacked it into the bullpen area to knot the score back at 3-3.
home run derby mode activated pic.twitter.com/zsfx7owq7t— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 24, 2023
Fortunately, Aaron Hicks was able to keep the theme of solo homers going in the bottom of the sixth. He took a sinker that didn’t sink and launched it on a line into the Orioles ‘pen, nearly hitting several members of the Orioles’ relief corps. Once again the Birds were on top 4-3.
That allowed Kremer to leave the game with the lead, but not before he worked through seven innings, his longest start of the season. He did give up three home runs, but they were all solo shots and he limited all other traffic by only walking one and allowing five hits.
Kremer’s sweeper had a different look to it in this game, the velocity was down more than three miles per hour and its spin rate was up 159 more revolutions per minute. It only got three swings, two of which resulted in exit velocities over 102 miles per hour or better. Perhaps whatever tweaks he is making will improve with experience.
All in all, this was another nice start for Kremer. It was his style. Sometimes he gives up a little too much hard contact but seems to rise to the moment and keep his team in contention. That’s what you want out of a starting pitcher.
Back on offense, O’Hearn nearly hit another long ball for the O’s in the seventh inning. This would have been of the two-run variety! But unfortunately he hit it in the vicinity of Rodríguez, who managed to elevate above the outfield fence and snatch it away to keep the deficit at one run. It would have been a homer in 13 other big league parks and had an expected batting average of .540, per Baseball Savant, but not here.
That's why they call it the No Fly Zone ♂️ pic.twitter.com/hGlGGDFeFA— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 24, 2023
But who cares? The O’s bullpen, it seemed, would only need to cover two innings. Easy, right? Eh.
Yennier Cano trotted in for the eighth and gave up back-to-back singles into centerfield. A soft ground out back to Cano by Ty France moved both runners into scoring position. The infield was then pulled in, a move that paid off when Teoscar Hernández hit a bouncer to the shortstop Henderson, who fired home to cut down Crawford at the plate. With left-handed hitting Jarred Kelenic coming to the plate Brandon Hyde turned to southpaw Danny Coulombe. He needed just one pitch to get a groundout and escape with the lead intact. Whew!
Things would not turn out so well in the ninth inning. Félix Bautista came in to close things out, and he made quick work on the first two batters he faced with a fly out and a strikeout. But big boy Ford came back to the plate, and he came up hacking. The first pitch he got was a 100-mph fastball right down the middle, and he did not miss it. About 434 feet later, this game was tied.
Mike Ford: The Power from Princeton. pic.twitter.com/AZJeHfDrvc— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 24, 2023
The Orioles ran themselves out of another inning in the bottom of the ninth when pinch runner Jorge Mateo was doubled up at first base. Mateo had taken off for second with the pitch, which the newly healthy Cedric Mullins popped up behind the plate. Mateo, evidently, did not know where the ball was and reacted too late to get back in time.
On to extras, where Mike Baumann took the hill and looked great! The first batter he faced hit a little dribbler back to the mound. Baumann looked the Manfred runner back and recorded the out. He then proceeded to strike out the next two hitters and get the Orioles back up to hit with the game still tied.
The O’s were primed to score in their half of the 10th, and score they did, albeit in unexpected fashion. Mullins headed to second to begin the inning, and Rutschman stepped to the plate. The O’s star catcher couldn’t advance the runner though, instead flying out to center. That brought up the third spot in the order, which had been occupied by Santander until the eighth inning.
The right fielder had a great day, going 4-for-4 with two RBI. But he had been lifted in favor of Ryan McKenna to protect the slim lead at the time. Now that the lead had evaporated, the O’s seemed handicapped by the light-hitting McKenna. But he made fools of us all by taking the Justin Topa 2-1 offering and sending it into the right-center bleachers for a two-run dong and the first walk-off of his career.
Now that was a ballgame! It was tied on five different occasions and saw seven total home runs. The Orioles seemed to be a nose ahead for most of the afternoon, but four different base running mistakes kept things close.
The Mateo error is somewhat forgivable as he was trying to steal a base, and finding a pop up in foul territory is a hard ask. But Frazier and Santander being thrown out trying to get the extra base can’t happen, and neither can Henderson being picked off at first base.
Sometimes good teams have to win ugly. This game would definitely qualify. As good as Kremer was, the bullpen was dicey. And while the home runs were refreshing, the poor base running was frustrating. But the O’s did just enough against a flawed opponent to come out on top.
Now they need to go win the series. Kyle Bradish (3-3, 3.88 ERA) is on the bump against George Kirby (6-6, 3.29 ERA) in the rubber match. First pitch is 1:35.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for June 24, 2023?
This poll is closed
Dean Kremer (seven innings, quality start)
Ryan McKenna (walk off dong!)
Mike Baumann (scoreless 10th inning)
Anthony Santander (4-for-4, another homer)