Sonny Gray tossed six scoreless innings against the Orioles last Sunday. He limited Baltimore to only two hits and struck out seven. The Birds managed to come back and beat the Twins last week, but they never touched Gray.
What a difference a week can make.
Baltimore tagged Gray for six runs in the second inning. Gray, to his credit, regrouped and returned to form, but the damage had been done. The Orioles needed only one crooked number to clinch the series with a 6-2 victory at Target Field.
The Orioles started the second with three consecutive singles. Ryan O’Hearn pulled a ball sharply to right, Austin Hays muscled a ball to left, and Aaron Hicks lined a ball too hard to score O’Hearn from second.
Colton Cowser stepped in with the bases loaded and watched four straight pitches. Gray grooved a 3-0 fastball that appeared to catch the zone, but home plate umpire Ben May never called a strike. Cowser eventually trotted to first, and the Orioles had evened the score at one.
Ramón Urías followed with a professional at bat. Urías earned the second free pass of the inning after working the count full, and Baltimore secured the lead for the first time.
Despite watching Gray issue consecutive walks with the bases loaded, Adam Frazier inexplicably swung at the first pitch. The aggressive approach paid off as Frazier lifted a ball into left field that scored two. The sneak attack extended the O’s lead to three.
Gunnar Henderson followed with a grounder to the left side. Minnesota shortstop Carlos Correa played Henderson up the middle, which allowed the ball to sneak into left field. Urías never broke stride as he rounded third and the Birds led by four.
Adley Rutschman chased a breaking ball for the first out, but Anthony Santander ripped an RBI-single for the sixth run. The Birds continued to hit the ball hard, but Minnesota finally found some luck. O’Hearn ripped a ball right to Donovan Solano. Solano caught the line drive and tagged out Santander to end the inning.
Tyler Wells capped an All-Star worthy first half with six strong innings. Wells allowed a one-out double to Edouard Julien in the first. Julien advanced on a groundout and scored the first run on a wild pitch. MASN’s Jim Palmer believed Rutschman could have blocked the ball, but the offense picked up Baltimore’s finest battery in the second.
Wells delivered four scoreless innings after that. He generated a double play after a leadoff walk in the third, and utilized another DP to escape some trouble in the fourth. Wells retired Joey Gallo, Michael A. Taylor and Correa consecutively in the fifth.
Byron Buxton managed a one-out single against Wells in the sixth. Solano followed with a double to the gap in right-center. The ball never reached the wall, Buxton’s speed allowed him to beat the throw home. The Twins trimmed the lead to four, but Wells delivered back-to-back strikeouts to end the sixth.
Bryan Baker stepped up and provided Baltimore two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Baker struck out the first two batters he faced and escaped trouble after allowing a pair of singles in the seventh. He worked his way through the eighth with another strikeout and a pair of ground balls to Urías at third.
Danny Coulombe worked a scoreless ninth.
These are quietly the types of games that indicate how special this team can be. Yes, Gray dominated the Orioles last week, but he’s also one of the better pitchers in baseball. Baltimore maxed out their opportunities in the second inning and never let Minnesota back in the game.
The Orioles did not record an extra-base hit. Urías and Henderson made impressive plays in the field, and O’Hearn hit the ball hard multiple times. Brandon Hyde said after the game that the team likes to make it hard on him, but he managed a few smiles during the post-game press conference.
Baker and Coulombe prevented any late-inning drama with Félix Bautista unavailable. A two-out double forced Yennier Cano to get loose in the bullpen, but Coulombe retired Correa to end the game.
Yes, the Orioles need a more balanced approach in the future, but this will do today. Baltimore finished 4-for7 with runners in scoring position, while Wells and the gang held Minnesota hitless in eight opportunities with runners on second and third. Those numbers play any day of the week.
Baltimore will look to complete the sweep tomorrow afternoon with Kyle Gibson facing Joe Ryan at 2:10 pm. The Orioles are 53-35.
Who was the most Birdland player on Saturday, July 8?
This poll is closed
Tyler Wells ( 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K)
Bryan Baker (Two scoreless innings to save bullpen)
Ramón Urías (RBI-single, walk, strong defense)