After taking an early 3-0 lead, things fell apart for the Orioles Tuesday as they dropped the series finale to the Phillies, 6-4.
Early on in the game the O’s looked like they had gotten off to the perfect start. Kyle Bradish—one of the AL’s best pitchers in July—was on the mound and looking comfortable early. Then, after ending grounding into two hard-hit double plays to the 1st and 2nd innings, the Orioles bats looked like they put it all together in the 3rd. Jorge Mateo flared a one-out single into left field and then Ryan McKenna tapped an infield single up the third base line to give Baltimore two on and one out.
After Austin Hays lined out to center, the fate of the inning fell on the shoulders of Adley Rutschman. The Orioles All-Star catcher delivered in the biggest way possible, first working the count full and then launching a 3-2 fastball into the left field stands to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead. The game looked like it was setting up perfectly to be an Earl Weaver special—a win off the backs of pitching, defense and the three-run homer. Unfortunately for Birdland, those first two parts didn’t exactly hold up.
Adley’s swing is a thing of beauty pic.twitter.com/9soqlBgXvk— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 26, 2023
The normally reliable Bradish delivered a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde night in Philadelphia. Early on he looked like the pitcher that’s dominated opposing hitters throughout July. He got through the first two innings without allowing a base runner, only needing 14 pitches to get six outs. Besides a hard hit ball that Jordan Westburg made a great diving stop on, Bradish looked completely in control.
Unfortunately for the O’s, that control completely disappeared in the 3rd and 4th innings. After the Orioles took the lead on the Rutschman HR, Bradish seemed intent on giving it back. He walked center fielder Brandon Marsh on four pitches to start the 3rd. Then, after Marsh moved to second on a slider in the dirt, left fielder Jake Cave shot a ball in to the left field corner to score Marsh and cut the lead to 3-1.
Bradish then issued another free pass to No.9 hitter Edmundo Sosa to give the Phillies a two-on, one out scoring threat. The 26-year-old righty did strike out DH Kyle Schwarber looking, but he couldn’t keep another run off the board as right fielder Nick Castellanos singled up the middle to make things 3-2.
After ending the 3rd on a double play, Bradish looked to build up some momentum in the 4th. Those hopes fell flat immediately, as third baseman Alec Bohm and second baseman Bryson Stott led off the inning with back-to-back singles to give Philadelphia an immediate threat. Catcher J.T. Realmuto then launched a double into the left-center gap to bring both Bohm and Stott home and deliver a 4-3 lead to the Phils. For much of the 3rd and 4th, Bradish seemed to have completely lost the release point on both his breaking balls, and the Phillies were able to tee off on his fastball.
It looked like Bradish would get the early hook, but after getting another inning-ending double play in the 4th, Brandon Hyde sent him back for the 5th inning. That’s when the Orioles de facto ace rediscovered his form. He worked a 1-2-3 5th, including a strike out of Castellanos on a perfectly executed 1-2 curveball. Bradish built off that strong inning in the 6th, again retiring the side in order.
As their starting pitcher rediscovered his form, it gave the Orioles offense time to try and tie the game. Their first opportunity came in the top of the 6th, when Jordan Westburg barely missed hitting a game-tying solo HR to right field, settling instead for a double off the wall. In the next AB, Ramón Urías looked like he had tied the game or given the Orioles the lead, but instead Cave made a leaping catch at the wall to deny the O’s a run.
Baltimore’s bats did finally find that tying run in the 7th inning however. James McCann led off the frame with a double down into the left field corner, and later moved to third on a Ryan O’Hearn ground out. That brought Austin Hays to the plate with two-outs and a runner on third, and the All-Star outfielder wasted no time—lacing an RBI single up the middle on the first pitch to tie things at four.
The O’s never got more than that tying run though, and perhaps Hyder went to the well one too many times by sending Bradish back out for the 7th. After getting two quick outs, Sosa took an 0-2 Bradish fastball and deposited it into the right field seats to give the Phillies a 5-4 lead. The inning then spiraled out of control, as Cionel Pérez came in to relieve Bradish. Pérez walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, hit the next guy with a fastball inside and then gave up an RBI single to Harper the very next pitch.
Now staring down a 6-4 deficit, the Orioles lineup had to contend with former All-Stars Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto. Kimbrel shut down the heart of the O’s lineup in the 8th inning, getting Anthony Santander to pop out in foul territory before punching out Ryan Mountcastle and Westburg. Soto made similarly quick work of the Urías, McCann and Mateo in the ninth—getting a groundout, flyout and strikeout on nine pitches to end the game.
The good news for O’s fans as the Orioles leave Philadelphia is that the Rays also lost Wednesday, meaning the division lead stays at 1.5 games. These last two series have also had plenty of moments that felt as much like playoff baseball as a game in July can feel. So hopefully, we’ll be able to look back at this Phillies series and say it prepared this Orioles team to face the ups and downs that inevitably come in October baseball. Still though, dropping two out three in Philly after the high of the Rays series is certainly a let down.
We now all get a day of rest before the Yankees come to Baltimore on Friday for a three-game series. Use that rest day wisely, Birdland, and if a Phillies fan tries to get you down, just ask them who won the 1983 World Series.