The last time the Orioles saw Blue Jays starter Jose Berríos, he no-hit them into the seventh inning and shut them out through 7.2 innings. He was not able to repeat this act even if he did manage to retire the first nine batters in order. The offense pounded him for five runs, including a colossal Anthony Santander home run, and this was enough support to send Kyle Gibson through eight innings.
When all was said and done, the O’s had a 5-3 win over Toronto to put a bow on a season series that’s tipped 10-3 in favor of Baltimore. That is the kind of margin that frequently found the Orioles on the other side of it in the recent dark years, but here in 2023, it’s the O’s dishing that out to a quality wild card contender like the Jays, who, by the way, have the best ERA of all American League teams. Times have changed for the awesome, at least so far. At 79-48, these dudes are on pace for 101 wins.
The first three innings of the game were over in the baseball equivalent of a flash. Orioles starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and Jays starter Jose Berríos carried dueling perfect games the first time through each opposing order, with neither having much of an elevated pitch count. The game was one-third over with a 0-0 tie after only 33 minutes, a kindness to anyone in the stands or at home who waited out the 70 minute rain delay before the game began.
Action ramped up right as soon as batters started getting their second looks at the pitchers. The Jays broke up their end of the perfect game with Whit Merrifield’s fourth inning leadoff single. AL hits leader Bo Bichette offered an example of the benefits of making contact with some swinging bunt contact that rolled softly enough that no one had a play on it.
Like that, Toronto had two on with none out, and it got worse as Gibson walked Brandon Belt to load the bases. Bases loaded for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is not a good scene. Guerrero hit a grounder that was headed for left field before Gunnar Henderson dove to grab it. Henderson fired a strong throw to get one runner out at second base as a run scored. Following this, George Springer gave a pitch a ride to the warning track, where it was corralled by Cedric Mullins for the second out. A second Jays run scored. Gibson avoided further damage even after giving up another double.
The Orioles returned the rally promptly. Adley Rutschman did a little perfecto destruction of his own by leading off the bottom of the fourth with a single. This was its own kind of relief, since the last time the Orioles faced Berríos, they got no-hit into the seventh. One batter later, Anthony Santander stepped to the plate and did this:
Not all home runs are created equal. Some have an inherent majesty to them. The crack of the bat, the way they’re soaring at such an obviously fence-clearing trajectory with rapid speed. This, as you saw, was one of these. Santander’s game-tying homer was later judged to have landed on Eutaw Street. It’s the ninth time that Tony Taters has done this in his career, putting him in second place, now two behind the leader, Chris Davis.
Gibson kept the Jays off the board in the fifth, the often-elusive “shutdown inning” that makes sure not to immediately squelch any good vibes from a team tying a game or taking a lead. This let the bats get back to work in the bottom of the inning, and work they did. Austin Hays led off the inning with a single to extend his hitting streak to a modest six games. Cedric Mullins promptly cracked his own homer, not as loud nor as far as Santander’s but over the fence for two runs just the same. The Orioles never trailed again.
Before that inning was over with, four more consecutive Orioles singles brought another run home. This did not score more because as Adam Frazier was running home to score the fifth Orioles run, Rutschman was thrown out trying to go first-to-third. That was the second out. After one more single, hit by Santander, the inning came to an end with the O’s sitting on a 5-2 lead.
Toronto got one back as Gibson pushed into the sixth. Belt drove a Gibson pitch into the row of fans standing in front of the fence on top of the out-of-town scoreboard, cutting the Jays deficit to 5-3. They started to have a chance to get more the next inning - catcher Danny Jansen split the left-center gap and when Mullins couldn’t cleanly catch the bounce, Jansen rounded second and headed for third. Mullins made a strong throw in and, helped by Jansen’s late decision to try to do the old swimming move of tag avoidance, Urías tagged him out.
Pitch count still low enough, Gibson came out for the eighth. There was no drama with a couple of quick groundouts, and at 7.2 innings Gibson had notched the longest Orioles start of the year. He went one more out for good measure, working behind from a 3-0 count to strike out Belt and close out his night. In fairness, he was helped by plate umpire Dan Iassogna calling a comically large zone for the old 3-0 auto-strike, and by Belt weirdly deciding to try to bunt on a 3-1 count. Belt then stared at strike three, which actually was in the zone.
Eight innings! It is, in fact, allowed for a starting pitcher to go eight innings. This was an impressive effort from Gibson on a night where Yennier Cano and solid-since-arriving Jacob Webb were unavailable. As my wife observed, perhaps it was Gibson’s tribute to go eight in honor of Cal Ripken Jr.’s birthday today. Gibson’s line closed out at eight innings, six hits, one walk, three earned runs, and eight strikeouts. Yeah, that’ll do. The man was justifiably fired up as he ended his night with the strikeout:
If the starting pitcher can bridge directly to the closer in the ninth inning, good things will often follow. Brandon Hyde’s Tuesday gambit of not sending out Félix Bautista for the tenth inning on Tuesday, which contributed to that loss, got a chance to pay off two days later when the Mountain strode in from the bullpen with the task of retiring the Jays 4-5-6 hitters to end the game. It worked.
Bautista was better than these jabronis. You already knew that. He demonstrated it again, with two quick outs and a warning track flyout following a 3-0 count that ended the game. The Orioles were back in the win column, putting a bow on a 10-3 record against the Jays this season. Another AL East series win was in the books as Bautista collected his 33rd save.
The Orioles kept pace with the Rays, who won earlier on Thursday, holding their division lead at two games. The magic number to clinch the division is down to 33.
With the contender leaving town, the Orioles will next face the Rockies. The Rockies are fresh off of a pathetic sweep at the hands of the Rays. The O’s will have to take care of business against these guys as well while the Rays get a weekend appointment against the wallowing Yankees. Kyle Freeland and Cole Irvin are the scheduled starting pitchers for Friday’s 7:05 series opener.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 24, 2023?
This poll is closed
Kyle Gibson (longest start by an O’s starter this year)
Anthony Santander (Eutaw Street game-tying tater)
Cedric Mullins (go-ahead homer, threw out a fool)