Baltimore Orioles: Small wonders win ballgames, Birds back over .500

After having their 10-game winning streak snapped last night, the Baltimore Orioles looked to start a new one this afternoon. Dean Kremer got the start today at Tropicana Field, and while he had a struggle or two, he also set the tone for the Birds. In terms of pitching, that is. Kremer’s line: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

Tampa took an early lead in the last of the first, scoring on a wild pitch by Kremer. However the Orioles tied it quickly. Ramon Urias had another big game at the plate today, tying the game at one with an RBI-single in the top of the second.

But Tampa’s a tough team to keep down, especially at the Trop – where the O’s have lost ten straight. Kremer uncorked another wild pitch in the third, giving Tampa the lead back at 2-1. Arozarena would follow with a solo homer, and Tampa led 3-1. Suddenly we wondered if the O’s were about to start a losing streak – but the game was far from over. Not by a long shot.

Tyler Nevin’s RBI-single in the fifth got them Birds back to within one at 3-2. Brandon Hyde sent Adley Rutschman, who previously had the day off, up as a pitch hitter in the eighth. And Rutschman didn’t disappoint, smacking a solo home run and tying the game at three.

The game went to extra innings tied at three, and the O’s almost had it won due to good fundamentals. With Austin Hays at second as the ghost runner in the top of the tenth, Ramon Urias popped out in foul ground. Hays tagged up and went to third base. He would later score on Rutschman’s sac fly.

It appeared that Hyde was pushing all the right buttons – and he was. But the O’s would have to wait one more inning to snap that losing streak at Tropicana Field, as Choi’s RBI-single in the last of the tenth would tie the game back up at four. And we played on.

Rougned Odor was the ghost runner in the eleventh, but he was picked off trying to get to third base. Jorge Mateo followed with a triple (which would have given the Orioles the lead, if not for the pickoff), and Cedric Mullins walked. Mullins would later steal second base, on a play where Tampa appeared to neglect to even throw through. This gave the O’s two runners in scoring position…

…and they didn’t neglect the opportunity. Down to his last strike and with the Birds down to their last out in the inning, Ryan Mountcastle blooped a ball into shallow right field, scoring both Mateo and Mullins. This giving the O’s a 6-4 lead, which was eventually closed out by the bullpen. This snapped the Birds’ aforementioned ten-game losing streak in Tampa, and it guaranteed that they would have a record of at least .500 at the break. They’re currently one game above .500.

Small things win games such as this one. While it didn’t ultimately win the game, Austin Hays tagging up on that foul ball in the tenth and going to third certainly could have been a game-deciding play. It looked like it would be for awhile.

But make no mistake that one of the many plays that did decide the game was Mullins stealing second in the eleventh and getting into scoring position. That enabled a base hit to score two runs, and gave the Orioles the lead AND an insurance run. Those sorts of intangibles in games don’t show up on the stats sheet, but they make a huge difference. They certainly did for the O’s this afternoon.

The series (and the first half of the season) concludes tomorrow at Tropicana Field. Jordan Lyles gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Corey Kluber. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM.

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