The surprising Baltimore Orioles have played many memorable games this season, but their 5-4 11th inning walkoff victory over the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday afternoon (Sun Sep 17) at Camden Yards was truly remarkable. Even gracious Rays GM Erik Neander admitted afterwards that it was a great game.
The Birds trailed in the bottom of the 8th, 9th and 10th innings. Young budding superstar catcher Adley Rutschman somehow managed to homer on a 101 mph fastball off fearsome Rays closer Pete Fairbanks to cut the lead to 3-2 in the 8th.
Down to their last out in bottom of 9th, journeyman Adam Frazier came through with an opposite field double to send the game into extra innings as speedy Jorge Mateo, pinch-running for Austin Hays who had singled up the middle, went flying around the bases. The Rays grabbed the lead in top of 10th on two Baltimore chop grounders that scored the ghost runner from second. More on that annoying innovation in a moment.
In top of 11th, young southpaw D.L. Hall had perhaps his finest moment as an Oriole holding the Rays scoreless. And then Oriole baseball 2023 style won the game in the bottom half.
Ryan O'Hearn, who didn't even make the Orioles out of spring training after 5 pedestrian years with Kansas City, laid down the first sacrifice bunt of his MLB career. O'Hearn has been a godsend to the lineup. making up for the injuries to regular first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Also a corner outfielder,
O'Hearn has a chance to finish as the team's only .300 hitter.
How fitting it was that Cedric Mullins, who came up at end of 2018 and has endured more losses than any current Oriole, hit a deep sacrifice fly to score ghost runner Rutschman with the winning run.
Now about that ghost runner or Manfred Man, as one wit wth pop music cred calls it. I was happy to learn that the joint player-management rules committee UNANIMOUSLY voted to not to use it in playoffs. I ask: Why keep it in regular season? The whole point of baseball should be earning bases not being given bases.
And while I'm ranting a bit, how about doing away with the oven mitt for base runners? It's an unfair advantage to the runner to augment the hand with five fingers that God gave you. I might call it is a performance enhancement and we don't like that, do we?
Several minutes of our lives were wasted yesterday during a replay of whether Rays outfielder Josh Lowe was safe or out on a close play at the plate that would have given Tampa a big insurance run in the 9th inning. Fortunately the Orioles won the challenge, but if Lowe had not been wearing the oven mitt, there would have been no doubt in real time that Adley Rutschman tagged him.
With 13 games left, the Orioles are assured a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. They hold in effect a 3-game lead on Tampa Bay because Birds won season series from Tampa 8-5. The Rays must play 6 with Toronto including the final 3 of regular season in Canada. The Blue Jays could be a very dangerous team in playoffs and they will have much to play for since they are now leading for the second wild card over Texas with Seattle right behind Texas.
The Orioles face a big hurdle starting tonight (Mon Sep 18) in Houston against the enigmatic defending champion Astros who have been only a .500
team at home this year. In last week's post, I predicted wrongly that Houston had an advantage playing tailend KC and Oakland. Somehow the Astros managed to lose both series. Yet the defending world champions are narrowly holding on to first place ahead of Texas and Seattle.
Time will tell how the Orioles end the season and with what kind of momentum they enter the playoffs. I still love the cliche, "Momentum in baseball is the next day's starting pitcher." Certainly after this past weekend, a split never seemed more sweet because the Rays had won the first 2 games, 4-3 and
A rare Orioles 4-game losing streak was snapped on Sat night behind 8 shutout innings from highly-touted rookie Grayson Rodriguez, the longest outing of his young career. They took charge early led by rookie Gunnar Henderson's booming bat and won 8-0. Then came the 5-4 Sunday classic.
Tampa's rout on Fri night behind RHP Zack Eflin happened despite a capacity crowd that came out to honor center fielder Adam Jones who signed a one-day contract so he could retire as an Oriole. I've never met Adam but he is a refreshing person, a Southern Californian originally signed by Seattle who spent much of his career in Baltimore.
What Adam Jones does and says is worthy of our attention. One of his great gestures came when Cedric Mullins arrived in Baltimore to take his place in center field. As Adam prepared to run out to right field, he let Cedric lead the team out onto the field.
A one-time number draft pick of the Mariners, Jones often cites the advice from the scout that signed him: "You're only a number one draft pick for one day." About the rise of the today's Orioles, Jones said this weekend, "There's nothing better than when you go through the mud and then you get out."
That's all for now. By next post, I hope the NL wild card race has at least one team with a record 10 games above .500. The Phillies are pretty much set as number one WC but there is a fierce competition among Diamondbacks, Cubs, Marlins, and Reds with Giants now looking like long shots.
The level of play hasn't been particularly distinguished, but it is exciting fans in the involved cities. NL. Division winners LA Dodgers and Atlanta Braves have long ago clinched their titles. The Dodgers swept Seattle on the road to make a statement while somehow the Braves were swept in Miami.
Milwaukee will soon clinch the NL Central ,but they will have to play the last wild card winner - no byes for the Brew Srew.
Happy Autumn to all and always remember: Take it easy but take it, and stay positive, test negative!