The Orioles bats were lifeless through seven innings. Then they started hitting dingers and held on for a win.
What’s the secret to scoring runs when you can’t buy a hit with a runner in scoring position? That’s easy. Just get someone on first base and then hit a homer. The Orioles spent seven innings failing to score before finally getting on the board in the eighth inning with a pair of two-run homers and a couple of productive outs that followed a double. It was enough to fuel a victory over the Mariners on Monday night, 5-3. They never did get a hit with RISP.
The eventual eighth inning rally was all the more welcome because Seattle was cobbling together a bullpen game for the series opener. Don’t get shut out by the other team’s relievers! Thankfully, the Orioles did not. They only got shut out for long enough to make everyone on the east coast who was staying up to watch the game start to feel regret about that decision.
The lack of run support for Dean Kremer was all the more unfortunate with Kremer pitching his first good game of the 2021 season. It wasn’t a “strike out 14 guys” kind of outing or a “no-hit the other team through seven” kind of outing, let’s not get carried away. It was a six inning outing – the first time Kremer had even pitched as many as five innings – with two hits and two walks allowed. He also picked up four strikeouts.
It’s not legendary dominance, but it will get you a win most of the time. Just not in this game, because the O’s only scored after Kremer had been gone from the game for a while. One of the two hits Kremer allowed was a home run by Mariners catcher Tom Murphy that just snuck into the first row of seats in right field. Cheap ones count the same against the ol’ ERA. Kremer left with his team trailing, 1-0, as a result.
When a run-scoring rally finally got going, it was Pat Valaika who got it started. As is often the case, Valaika was not supposed to be in the starting lineup originally and then he ended up having a fine game, reaching base three times. In the eighth inning, he led off with a walk against Mariners reliever Anthony Misiewicz.
This turned the lineup over for Cedric “The Entertainer” Mullins. That’s meant good things for the 2021 Orioles with frequency that few would have predicted three months ago. Mullins walloped a 1-2 pitch that Seattle outfielder Mitch Haniger tracked all the way to the fence and leaped for a play at the wall. On the live broadcast on MASN, Scott Garceau dramatically proclaimed that Haniger had caught the ball.
Anyone who has watched some Orioles games in 2020 or 2021 has come to expect this. There are challenges, to be sure, about the TV crews trying to call games off of monitors back in Baltimore when the team is in Seattle. Then there are other challenges that aren’t worth getting into at 1 o’clock in the morning in a game the Orioles ended up winning.
In fairness to Garceau, Valaika was clearly confused by what had happened as well, as he was only about ten feet in front of Mullins as the two rounded the bases. It’s good both players were alert enough that Mullins didn’t pass Valaika. We don’t need that. Replays showed that the ball did glance off of the tip of Lewis’s glove on the way over the fence. The homer was Mullins’s fifth of the season, tying him for the team lead. This gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
The home run did not kill the rally. The next batter, Austin Hays, doubled. Hays moved to third base when Trey Mancini flew out to center field. Seattle changed pitchers and brought in the infield and neither of these things stopped Hays from scoring on a ground ball to the shortstop hit by a flailing Maikel Franco in an 0-2 count. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
This also did not stop the rally. Ryan Mountcastle kept the party going with a walk. His hitting streak was snapped at seven games here, but an on-base streak will keep going at least one more game. So Mountcastle was on first base when Freddy Galvis blasted a pitch into the bullpens. The lead was 5-1.
The Orioles ended up needing the runs. A four-run lead was safe enough for Brandon Hyde to decide to try to use Shawn Armstrong, who came into the night with a 9.00 ERA because he’d given up runs in five of his first seven outings. Armstrong was bad again. He walked the first batter on four pitches and had a 3-0 count on the next one before Taylor Trammell bailed him out with a weak ground ball.
Armstrong decided to start throwing strikes to the next batter, Haniger. He started off with an 0-2 count. That’s good. Then he gave up a home run. Not so good. With his three minimum batters reached, Armstrong got the hook. His 2021 ERA is now 10.80. I don’t know how much longer they can keep him on the roster if he’s going to keep pitching like this. Tanner Scott relieved Armstrong and got two outs on four pitches.
There was one more bite at the RISP apple for the O’s in the ninth. Mullins doubled with two outs, his third hit of the game. This put him in the Triple Shy of the Cycle Club. Hays nearly got an infield single with RISP that would have still failed to score the run. The replay appeared to show the ball bouncing over third base and the third base umpire signaling fair.
However, Hays was back in the batter’s box. The MASN booth never quite figured out what happened and I didn’t either. Hyde didn’t seem too mad about it, so I’ll trust him that his team didn’t get screwed. Hays ended up grounding out and the O’s went to 0-9 with RISP.
Dead Fish peddler César Valdez came on for the ninth. There was no drama. He retired the side on ten pitches, racking up two strikeouts of the sort that prompts Ben McDonald to occasionally say, “That’ll hurt your feelings.”
The win puts the Orioles back within a game of .500. They remain at the bottom of the AL East, as every other team is .500 or better. They only trail the leading Red Sox by three games, though, and have just a 1.5 game deficit to the second wild card spot, currently held by both these Mariners and the Astros.
The O’s have another chance to get back to .500 with another east coast late night game as the Mariners series on Tuesday. Jorge López is set to start that one. Maybe he can follow Kremer with his own first good start of the 2021 season. Seattle is expected to send Justin Dunn to the mound.