ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Orioles played the kind of game yesterday that is hard to summarize in one story. Even on the internet and with its limitless space.
That’s what happens when a top pitching prospect is lights out indoors for five innings. When a lead is lost in the eighth, but a game is won in the ninth. With so many contributors and key moments. From the most obvious, like a tie-breaking single, to a sacrifice bunt that usually warrants one line or less.
Here are a few leftover observations:
Depth size matters.
Adam Frazier batted for Ramón Urías leading off the ninth and singled. Ryan O’Hearn batted for Jorge Mateo with one out, after James McCann avoided a 98.6 mph fastball by ducking and bunting at the same time, and he dropped an RBI single into right field.
McCann is a backup catcher, which won’t draw many crowds to his locker, but he had a two-run double earlier in the day, threw out a runner trying to steal and another on a tapper near home plate, produced his third sac bunt of the season, one short of his career high in 2015 with the Tigers and tying Frazier and Jorge Mateo for the team lead, and guided Grayson Rodriguez through one of his finest outings in the majors.
Jordan Westburg pinch-ran for O’Hearn and stole his first major league base.
“Hyder (Brandon Hyde) says it all the time,” O’Hearn said. “He wants to play all 13 position players. When we had 14, he wanted to play all 14 position players.
“It’s a ton of depth, everybody wants to jump in there and help. When you have that kind of group of guys pulling together for the same thing, it’s a beautiful thing and it’s really fun to be a part of.”
Hyde will play for one run – with one important caveat.
Hyde instructed Frazier to bunt Thursday night in the 10th inning, moving automatic runner Aaron Hicks to third base. Rookie Colton Cowser hit a fly ball to left field, Hicks scored, and the Orioles won 4-3.
McCann was instructed to bunt yesterday with the score tied in the ninth. The Orioles again won by one run.
Why go against the “don’t give away a run” crowd? Hasn’t Hyde watched “Moneyball?”
Félix Bautista is a game-trending changer.
“There are a lot of factors,” Hyde said. “I’ve got Bautista coming into the game, so I’m just trying to score somehow.”
He could have stopped right there. One factor is plenty.
Hyde also like the matchup between O’Hearn and Pete Fairbanks.
“Just try to score a run anyway we can sometimes,” Hyde said.
Shintaro Fujinami will work in any leverage situation.
Why should he be any different from the other relievers?
There’s no dipping your toe in the water. And it’s going to be boiling.
Hyde wanted to ease Fujinami into the heat of the pennant race with a new team, but he responded to a question about the plan on Friday by saying, “Have you been watching our games?”
Yes. They look a lot like yesterday’s thriller.
Fujinami replaced Yennier Cano, who was done after nine pitches, to begin the eighth inning and walked the first two batters. He threw a wild pitch, got a ground ball that scored a run and cut the lead to 5-4, struck out Harold Ramírez with a splitter and surrendered the game-tying single to Randy Arozarena, who’s had a horrible series at the plate and in left field.
“I’ve just been trusting his stuff,” said Hyde, who used Fujinami for an inning on Friday and watched him give up a first-pitch home run to Jose Siri before retiring the next three batters.
“I didn’t want to put Cano back out there after putting him in a really tough spot in the seventh. I’m continuing to do that and it’s making it hard on him. So, I’ve got Fuji, who felt good today. For me, that was the option there in the eighth inning.”
Fuji, as he prefers to be called, threw three pitches Friday that exceeded 100 mph and 10 more yesterday. It’s just about commanding the fastball.
“His fastball gets on you, his splitter’s hard with good break, and I think you see what he has,” McCann said. “He throws strikes, he’s tough to hit.”
Is Cano tiring?
Cano let another inherited runner score yesterday, and Ryan Mountcastle bailed him out with a diving stop of Josh Lowe’s grounder.
Yesterday goes down as Cano’s fourth scoreless outing in a row, but he’s allowed hits in each game. He surrendered a run in four of six before his streak. The arm slot appears to be lower on some of his offerings.
The All-Star break didn’t provide much of one for Cano, since he pitched for the American League. His 47 2/3 innings rank second among Orioles relievers behind Bautista’s 48.
Cano raised the bar with his ridiculous start to the season. His ERA is 1.51. This is no time to panic. But it really makes sense for the Orioles to trade for another reliever by the deadline.
Cionel Pérez got short-changed.
At least in my story.
Too much happened to include his called third strike on Brandon Lowe after replacing Fujinami, but Hyde made sure to give him props.
"Pérez might have got the biggest out of the game," Hyde said. "A guy that's been kind of scuffling a little bit."
The at-bat lasted nine pitches. He stranded a runner. The Orioles broke the tie in the top of the ninth.
Pérez earned the win, his third in four decisions.
Orioles fans travel.
They tend to take over The Trop, and boy, have they done it in this series.
Yesterday’s crowd of 25,025 was announced as a sellout because the upper deck is a dead zone. The entire left side of the lower section was draped in orange, extending past the two corners of the visiting dugout.
They were a loud bunch. A club known as “Orioles Fans of Tampa” made the trip to St. Petersburg, according to an industry source with direct knowledge of crowds. Employees from the Sarasota complex joined in the fun.
It was a party.
“There's definitely some added intensity because of who we're playing in this ballpark," Hyde said. “The crowd’s electric. It’s the loudest I’ve ever seen it here, so it’s been a lot of fun. They’re really close games, there’s good players on both sides. Two really good teams. So, it’s been a lot of fun.”
“A lot of O’s fans on the road,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s something to really look forward to, especially coming in here. And hearing the “Os” during the national anthem, it almost sounded like Camden Yards today.
“Just means a lot to have the fans on the road really helping us out down the stretch.”