The Orioles are now 20 games above .500. They have 55 wins, which they did not manage to get in any whole single season from 2018 to 2021. Let’s bask in that awesomeness before we get into anything else that happened on Friday night.
Okay. So. We all know how in the recent very bad years of Orioles baseball, it seemed like it was the other team doing something almost unheard of, or players setting new career highs against the Orioles, or whatever. The 2023 Orioles difference is this: Sometimes it’s the Orioles doing the good thing. Let’s take Adam Frazier. He is quite notoriously not a power hitter. He had never hit more than ten home runs in a season and never, in 903 games played at the big league level, hit multiple home runs in the same game...
...until this night. It happened. Frazier belted his 11th and 12th home runs. The first of these came off of reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara, the night’s Marlins starting pitcher. The second gave the Orioles some eighth inning insurance. In his 904th big league game, Frazier hit career home runs 54 and 55, and his team beat Miami, 5-2 to begin the second half of the season. He drove in four of the five Orioles runs.
The Orioles are now winners of six straight games. They are 1.5 games back of the Rays, who were idle due to a rainout against the Royals on Friday night. The season is 90 games old and the Orioles are on pace to win 99 games, which would be the most regular season wins for the team since 1980. It is a pretty cool time to be an Orioles fan, all the moreso because this is happening sooner than we were expecting it would.
Frazier was even the Oriole who got the scoring started. After starting pitcher Dean Kremer kept the Marlins off the board for the first two innings, Cedric Mullins led off the bottom of that inning with a single. Mullins went on to steal second base, his 14th steal of the season, and when catcher Jacob Stallings’s throw sailed into center field, Mullins stood on third base with nobody out. A classic conundrum for this year’s Orioles: Can they bring the guy home from third with no one out?
Aaron Hicks followed with a chopper that went to the first baseman. We’ve seen times where the runner is wiped out on a contact play like that. I thought Mullins might have made it since the fielder had to jump for the ball, but he played it safe. With a contact-oriented guy like Frazier due up, that was the right choice. Frazier beat the drawn-in infield, shooting a liner in the hole between third base and shortstop. Mullins scored and the O’s held a 1-0 lead.
Also in classic fashion for this year’s Orioles: Can the starting pitcher hold the lead after his team gives it to him? The answer is often no and for Kremer it was no tonight as well. Kremer was seized by wildness in the top of the third, walking the first batter and hitting the second, eventually loading the bases with another walk and one out. Though he picked up a strikeout of Jorge Soler for the second out, he was beaten by Bryan De La Cruz for a single to tie the game. Fortunately, it was hit so hard that there was no chance to score a second run. Kremer got another strikeout to escape a worse outcome in that jam.
This third inning turned out to be the best chance for the Marlins - who, like the Orioles, held their league’s first wild card position at the All-Star break. Kremer sent Miami down in order in the fourth and fifth innings, and in the sixth, only a Gunnar Henderson throwing error stopped another 1-2-3 inning. Kremer closed out a six inning outing with just two hits and two walks allowed. His one earned run in that time lowered his season ERA to 4.59. He also struck out eight batters. It’s nice to see this version of Kremer.
The O’s offense didn’t shut things down after the early run. Leading off the fourth inning, Mullins ambushed the first pitch he saw from Alcantara and blasted it into the seats in right-center field. One batter later, Frazier hit the first of his two home runs. Alcantara threw a sinker that didn’t sink and ended up middle-middle. Frazier launched it 413 feet, several rows into the center field bleachers. This third O’s run turned out to be all that the team would need. Alcantara’s night finished with three runs (two earned) in six innings.
With the Orioles retaking the lead while Kremer was still in the game, he was in position to win his tenth game of the season, which he did upon game’s ending. Wins and losses are not always fair for pitchers, but he certainly deserved one tonight.
Carrying a lead into the late innings has usually been a good thing for the Orioles this year. On Friday night, it was Bryan Baker who was brought in for the seventh. Baker allowed one hit, enough to make you nervous, but he got three outs without allowing a run.
Getting to the Yennier Cano-Félix Bautista eighth/ninth inning All-Star duo has been even more automatic. Fun as it would be for me to tell you about these guys combining to retire six straight batters, Cano allowed a solo home run to Soler - his 24th of the season - to narrow the lead to 3-2. After the home run, Jesús Sánchez doubled into the expansive gap in front of Walltimore. Nothing was guaranteed. Cano recovered to strike out Garrett Cooper and end the inning.
The bottom of the eighth brought insurance for the Orioles in the form of Frazier’s second home run of the night. This two-out homer was a two-run shot since All-Star Austin Hays had led off that inning with a double. They did not strand him out there.
Staked to a three-run lead, Bautista came in to close the door for good. He blew away the first two batters with his typically nasty 100mph fastball/89mph splitter combo, then induced a popout to - of course - Frazier to finish the game. The king stay the king. Bautista collected his 24th save, lowered his ERA to 1.05, and increased his strikeout percentage to 51.2%. That is the kind of thing that once prompted Gwen Stefani to spell out the name of a fruit in a song.
The Orioles will now have a chance to tie their season-high winning streak of seven straight games as the series continues on Saturday. Braxton Garrett and Kyle Gibson are the scheduled starting pitchers for the 7:05 scheduled game.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for July 14, 2023?
This poll is closed
Adam Frazier (first multi-homer game of career)
Ryan O’Hearn (two hits plus my apologies for not mentioning him in this recap’s text)
Cedric Mullins (9th homer, 14th stolen base, three-hit night)