The Orioles’ most consistent starting pitcher versus a Yankees starter so bafflingly inconsistent that, just this season, he was nearly booted from the rotation, then threw a perfect game. Who would come out on top?
The Orioles scored three quick runs off the Yankees’ Domingo Germán, but Tyler Wells’ home run bug bit again late in the fifth. Wells still left after six innings with a 3-2 lead, but his efforts were erased by the bullpen, which laid a big fat egg in the middle innings. Mike Baumann and Yennier Canó let in the tying run in the seventh. Worse, Danny Coulombe picked a bad time for one of his worst pitches of the season, a hanging sweeper that Harrison Bader cracked into the seats in the eighth, driving in three runs with one swing.
Despite outhitting New York, the Orioles’ propensity to serve up homers hurt them. But let’s not lay this one at Wells’ feet: we’ll still take six innings and two earned runs every time. Against the perfecto version of Domingo Germán, Wells wouldn’t have been up to snuff, but tonight, he was equal to the task.
Germán was dominant for exactly one inning, and the horrible thought crawled across Birdland minds: he couldn’t throw two perfect games in a row, could he?
Perish the thought. The second inning saw Ryan O’Hearn break the perfect streak, the hitless streak, and the scoreless streak all at once. The lefty served a double into the left-center gap and came around to score two batters later on consecutive singles by Ramón Urías and Cedric Mullins. 1-0 Orioles. Not so perfect now, huh, Domingo?
Okay, that was petty—and karma is a bitch, because the O’s then squandered the two-on, no-out situation, most infuriatingly with Urías getting picked off the bag at second.
The Birds got another chance in the next inning, cashing in this time for two runs. Gunnar Henderson singled ahead of Adley Rutschman. The O’s catcher grimaced as he got slightly under a curveball, but the ball carried 329 feet into the left field corner, and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, not an outfielder by trade, couldn’t reel it in. Gunnar read it brilliantly, cautiously pausing at second ‘til he saw the ball bounce away, then motored home. Two batters later, Ryan O’Hearn, who sees Germán really well, turned on a fastball, allowing Adley to score just ahead of the throw from Giancarlo Stanton.
The Orioles scored three runs in the entire series with Minnesota, but here they were, up 3-0 after three innings against New York. It felt like a solid lead, but come the late innings, the wasted RISP opportunities would hurt.
Wells definitely had less-than-perfect stuff tonight, but for 4 2/3 innings, he kept things scoreless—with a little brilliance from his defense.
There was lots of that: a diving Jorge Mateo snaring a Gleyber Torres liner to help Wells close out the first inning in seven pitches. Gunnar Henderson vacuuming up a 102.3 mph grounder to initiate a timely double play in the second. Then Mateo again, firing to third to freeze the lead runner with two on and one out. Aaron Hicks making a long ranging grab on a deep ball look easy.
But Wells’ command started to wane with two outs in the fifth… and the flyballs started to travel a lot farther. Anthony Volpe drove a cutter 392 feet into the stands. The dreaded Tyler Wells solo home run curse! Then, Higashigaoka did the same. Curses again! Now the score was 3-2.
Wells has earned his manager’s trust, and it showed, as Hyde let him finish the sixth inning. Giancarlo Stanton hit the longest double you will ever see: 420 feet to dead center. Anthony Rizzo walked right after. But two consecutive popouts followed, and poof, Wells was out of danger.
It was another Tyler Wells Special tonight: six innings with two earned runs on two solo home runs. In fact, he’s allowed two runs in each of his six starts in June. If nothing else, commend the man for consistency. Nah, commend him for more than that: his ERA is down to 3.19 and his WHIP 0.90. Wells isn’t perfect, but he’s damn good.
Where the Orioles have struggled is bridging between the starter and the back of the bullpen. So, I’m sorry to report, it was today.
Mike Baumann faced the minimum three batters and left with just one out and men on second and third.
Yennier Canó came in to save the day, but couldn’t: he got the second out at home, nabbing the lead runner trying to score on a grounder back to the mound. But with a runner on third, he fired a fastball way wide of the plate, his first wild pitch of the year, and the tying run slid home.
Coulombe, as mentioned, hung one disastrous pitch, and suddenly, this game was out of reach. Down 6-3, Brandon Hyde brought in rookie Chris Vallimont, who pitched a wild, random, but ultimately effective two-thirds of an inning.
Yennier Canó and Coulombe were far from brilliant today, but the real hole in the bullpen has been apparent for some time now: the Orioles really need someone to step up to pitch the middle innings (or to buy some help at the deadline). Will the team take action to fix the problem?