Every game has a different star, as the Orioles Magic song says, and this afternoon it was Rio Ruiz for the Baltimore Orioles. More on that later. But remember folks, it begins and ends with starting pitching. Asher Wojchiekowski put the O’s in a spot to win today’s game, and with a quality start at that. In fact, he left the game in line to be the winner. Wojchiekowski’s line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K.
Wojchiekowski retired one of the best lineups in baseball 1-2-3 in the top of the first, throwing only nine pitches in the inning. Houston started perennial all-star Verlander, who was forced to throw 20 pitches in the first. And that included an RBI-double by Jace Peterson, which gave the O’s a 1-0 lead.
Verlander didn’t pitch poorly, just not as good as he normally does. And the Orioles took advantage. Wojchiekowski on the other hand set the tone for the Birds – save for one pitch. He allowed a three-run homer to Correa in the second inning which gave Verlander and Houston a 3-1 lead.
However Trey Mancini would foreshadow the Orioles’ coming heroics with an immediate RBI-single in the last of the second which cut the Houston lead to 3-2. Fans has to be thinking that after seeing the team lose in epic fashion last night, at least they were battling and putting up a fight this afternoon. Little did they know that the Orioles had only begun to fight.
Peterson would smack an RBI-triple in the last of the fifth which tied the game at three. Hanser Alberto would add a sac fly, and before you knew it the O’s had the lead back at 4-3. The O’s would later trade runs in the sixth and seventh with Mancini’s RBI-single, and Altuve’s RBI-groundout. But the Birds took a one-run lead to the last of the ninth.
Mychal Givens has been tapped in the eighth to complete a four-out save. Unfortunately, he began the ninth by putting the first two runners on base. Brantley then smacked one into the right field corner, which Santander bobbled in right. That allowed not only two runs to score, but it gave Brantley the chance to come around and score as well (ruled a triple and an error). Suddenly the O’s trailed 7-5.
As if it wasn’t enough that the O’s had been embarrassed at home by their division rivals all week, or that they had been embarrassed 23-2 the night before, now this. The O’s had a lead and basically at that point were going to lose the game in about as savage a manner as possible. Houston’s one of the best teams in baseball. If there were ever a coup de grace, it was going to be that moment.
But hold on a moment; surely…all was not lost yet, was it?! The O’s still had to come to bat in the last of the ninth. Was it possible that they could do what Houston did and put up three runs? Or would this beleaguered team with it’s beleaguered players and manager just fold up and head to New York for tomorrow’s games?
After putting a runner on base, the Birds came to within 7-6 on Chris Davis‘ sac fly-RBI. But that had to be it, right? They couldn’t come back further to win…not even after Chance Sisco was hit by a pitch and brought the winning run to the plate, could they?
That HBP brought Rio Ruiz to the plate with two outs. He ran the count to two strikes, bringing the O’s to the brink. And at that moment I’m sure that somewhere in this favored town, babies cry and children shout. And somewhere out there a cloud casts a pall; but Baltimore hearts were happy then, for Rio hit the ball.
And he hit it a long way at that – onto the flag court in right field. With that, the Orioles defeated Houston, one of the best teams in baseball, on a walk off home run. Winning the game (and in that manner at that) doesn’t erase the past week or it’s hardships. Heck, it doesn’t erase last night’s angst. But it’s nice to end all of that on a high note. A win counts as one win, margin of victory is unimportant.
With all of that said, Rio Ruiz has put his name in the record books as being a steward of Orioles Magic. He joins the Dempsey’s Ripken’s, Murray’s, Robinson’s, and DeCinces’ of the world in that. And wow did he ever do it with a bang.
The O’s now head to New York for the first game of a doubleheader with New York tomorrow afternoon. Gabriel Ynoa gets the fall for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by NY’s James Paxton. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.