Defense backs bullpen in impressive 2-1 win (updated)

There’s nothing dads love more than fundamentals. They preach it in Little League. They drill it on empty fields on Saturday afternoons. 

There were probably plenty of beaming fathers in the Baltimore area pointing at their televisions Sunday, turning to their sons or daughters, and saying, “See? Fundamentals.”

The Orioles (30-38) played a clean, fundamental game and turned several phenomenal defensive plays to help Brandon Hyde navigate an unwelcome bullpen game and beat the Rays 2-1 on Father’s Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

It started in the top of the second inning, when a picture-perfect relay from right fielder Ryan McKenna to second baseman Rougned Odor to catcher Adley Rutschman turned a Vidal Bruján single into an inning-ending tag play. The Orioles, already leading 1-0 on a first-inning home run by Anthony Santander, kept the Rays off the scoreboard.

It continued in the sixth, when Odor scooped a Taylor Walls grounder from the dirt and underhand lobbed it to first baseman Ryan Mountcastle to get Mike Baumann out of a jam. Another scoreless frame, and a 2-1 lead preserved.

"Two enormous plays in the game," manager Brandon Hyde said.

Typically, it’s the Rays, annually one of the best defensive teams in baseball, who frustrate opponents by finding outs where there are none.

Today, the Orioles beat them at their own game.

"We're playing really good defense," Hyde said. "We're solid. We got a guy playing Gold Glove shortstop (in Jorge Mateo). You look in the outfield today, there are three guys (in McKenna, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins) that can really, really run, and all three are plus defenders. And we're doing a great job behind the plate.

"Defensively, it's nice to not give extra outs and give us a chance."

A superb defensive game like the one the Orioles had Sunday was an absolute necessity in guiding the bullpen through another one-run affair. Reliever Austin Voth started in place of veteran Jordan Lyles, who was scratched due to a stomach bug a few hours before first pitch.

In all, the Orioles used seven pitchers - Voth, Bryan Baker, Nick Vespi, Mike Baumann, Félix Bautista, Cionel Pérez and Jorge López - to stifle the Rays and help the O’s win the series in front of an engaged and energetic crowd.

"Where do I start?" Hyde said when asked what's different about the O's 2022 bullpen. "Makeup, toughness, stuff, grit.

"Guys are just kind of falling in. They have really good stuff and they're pitching with a ton of confidence on the plate. Haven't had that."

Voth did exactly what was asked of him, if not a little bit more: 2 ⅔ innings of scoreless baseball with three hits, a walk and four strikeouts. After putting two runners on in the third, Voth left Baker to pick up the third out. But after walking a batter to load the bases, Baker struck out Randy Arozarena on a 96-mph fastball to escape trouble.

"The amount of live arms that we have ... that can throw hard and locate it well with one or two good off-speed pitches, you don't really see that too often," said Voth of the O's bullpen.

After the game, Hyde called Voth, who found out around 8 a.m. that he would start, "incredibly impressive."

"For me, Voth set the tone there," said Hyde. "Telling him a few hours before the game he was going to start, and he throws 2 2/3, which he hasn't done in a long time."

"Luckily, I was here early enough that I had time to prepare and everything," Voth said. "I was just like, 'All right, let's go.' I've prepared for these situations before, it has happened to me before, so it was nothing new."

The Rays didn’t score until the fourth inning, when catcher Francisco Mejía, fresh off a four-hit game Saturday, singled off Baker to open the inning and was eventually driven in by shortstop Walls.

Walls’ RBI double was the only defensive miscue for the Orioles, as Cedric Mullins bobbled the ball in center field and allowed Walls to advance to third. But Vespi came in for Baker and quickly stopped the bleeding by striking out Kevin Kiermaier on three pitches.

Santander got the scoring started in the bottom half of the first with a long solo shot down the right field line off Tampa Bay starter Corey Kluber. Had it not been for the orange awning over the flag court bar, the ball would have a plaque on Eutaw Street.

The O’s scored another in the third, as McKenna reached on an infield single and scored on a Mullins double into the left-center gap.

The Orioles get a much-needed off-day Monday before returning to Camden Yards to face the Nationals on Tuesday.

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