It was an emotional night in Baltimore as a sellout crowd filled the stands on Félix Bautista bobblehead night. But Bautista would not pitch as he had been placed on the IL with an injured UCL. The weight of that shaded everything about the game, but the Orioles still had a job to do. And though it was shaky at times, they did just that.
Another strong outing from a starting pitcher, just enough hitting, and a bullpen that held on even without its biggest contributor all led to the 5-4 victory and series win.
On the mound for the Orioles was rotation stalwart Kyle Bradish. After two strong innings to start, he had a shaky third. It started with a double by Michael Toglia. Two singles resulted in Colorado’s first run of the game, and Bradish’s first out was an RBI groundout for the second.
After those two runs, though, Bradish snapped back into form. He got out of the third inning and struck out the side in the fourth. He allowed one baserunner in each of the fifth and sixth innings but finished the sixth with his eighth strikeout of the game.
Unfortunately, the Orioles offense was not looking so hot against Rockies starter Chris Flexen. It was frustrating because the team was in an early 2-0 hole and also because Flexen has been a pretty lousy pitcher across the board this season.
They had an early chance in the second when the two Ryans (Mountcastle and O’Hearn) got on base via a hit-by-pitch and a single, respectively. But groundouts from Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins squashed any rally. Mullins’s was of the double-play variety. After that, the Orioles spent a few innings mired in futility. Flexen was striking out a lot of batters, seven in total in his outing.
Finally, the Orioles got on the board in the fifth inning with a run manufactured by Hays and helped along by Colorado’s defense. He walked to start the inning. As Mullins was striking out, Hays stole second and went to third when Rockies’ catcher Elias Díaz made an errant throw.
With the infield back, Ramón Urías hit a ground ball to shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. Hays broke for home and Tovar fired the ball home. Díaz tagged Hays and he was called out, but a challenge revealed that Díaz was blocking the lane and the call was overturned. Not the most exciting way to get the first run, but luckily for the Orioles they had a few more in them.
Flexen began the sixth inning and gave up back-to-back singles to Gunnar Henderson and Anthony Santander. That drove him from the game as Rockies manager Bud Black had the longest, slowest mound visit in history to give the relief pitcher time to warm up. That pitcher was Tommy Doyle, and he did not have a good day.
The first batter Doyle faced was the red-hot Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle had already been on base twice in the game, and this time he delivered by dropping a double into left field that just stayed inside the foul line. Both Henderson and Santander scored to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
The next batter, O’Hearn, moved Mountcastle over to third base with a grounder to second. That productive out turned very big when Hays hit a ground ball to Tovar at shortstop. Mountcastle ran home and Tovar had a chance to get him. But he bobbled the ball and had to take the out at first instead. Mountcastle scored the O’s 4th run of the game.
Now armed with a two-run lead, Brandon Hyde sent Bradish back out to start the seventh inning. But that was short-lived as Bradish was pulled after giving up a leadoff double. In came Danny Coulombe, whose name I always have to double-check before typing. Thus began the relief pitcher merry-go-round for tonight, one that we all knew couldn’t end with Bautista.
Coulombe struck out the first two batters he faced but then walked Charlie Blackmon. He was replaced by Jacob Webb, who got an easy fly out to end the inning.
An insurance run came in the bottom of the seventh, which ended up being very important. Jordan Westburg worked a leadoff walk and was still on first with two outs when Santander came to the plate. He lined a ball down the third base side and Westburg took off. The play at the plate looked like it could be close but the throw was no good and Westburg scored standing. That gave the Orioles a three-run lead; they would need every one of those runs.
Webb came back for the eighth inning and for once since coming to the Orioles, he looked fallible. He walked Ryan McMahon, who came in to score on a double from Díaz. It was the first run he had allowed as an Orioles. It came in his 10th game.
The newly promoted DL Hall was the next man up in the bullpen, and he came into the game in a tough spot. It got worse when Nolan Jones dropped an absolutely perfect bunt to the third-base side. Hall fielded and threw to first but it wasn’t even close. Suddenly the Rockies had runners on first and third with no outs.
But Hall did not break. He looked very good in his first game since being promoted. He induced a double play off the bat of Brendan Rodgers. It did score Díaz but was certainly an acceptable outcome. He got the third out without incident and the Orioles finished the top of the eighth inning clinging to a one-run lead.
I had hoped that the Orioles could score a few in the bottom of the eighth, but they were retired quickly instead. That sent us to the top of the ninth inning with a one-run lead. But no Omar whistle would blow tonight, signaling the entrance of the toughest closer in the game. Instead, it was Yennier Cano, who said after the game, “I just wanted to do my best impression of him.”
There were shenanigans at the start, when after the standard glove check, the umpires decided that Cano’s glove had too much rosin on it. Seriously? Imagine Cano found out he was going to take Bautista’s place and his response was, “Time to cheat!” Anyway. The umpires made him replace his glove and Brandon Hyde was obviously annoyed.
If Cano was rattled, it didn’t show. Two quick fly ball outs and a lineout to Henderson at shortstop and the game was over.
Orioles win, 5-4! It was the team’s 81st win of the season, which is nothing to sneeze at. Their magic number to clinch the AL East is now 30 and they retain their three-game lead in division. Tomorrow they go for the sweep with Jack Flaherty on the mound for the Orioles.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 26th?
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Kyle Bradish (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K)
Yennier Cano (perfect ninth inning)
Anthony Santander (2-for-4, run, RBI double)
Ryan Mountcastle (2-for-4, run, RBI double as well)