Orioles didn't win series in Toronto but again proved their competitive point

We could harp on the two games lost over the weekend in Toronto, a bad outcome for a team scrambling to earn the last wild card. The Orioles needed to win the series, and a sweep would have been huge. Each defeat feels like a dagger. And Ryan Mountcastle was unavailable yesterday after being hit Saturday above the left elbow.

Or …

Yesterday’s comeback again says so much about the 2022 Orioles, even if they don’t make the playoffs. And so much about the future of this team. What may lie ahead next summer.

Down 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1. The Blue Jays starting Cy Young candidate Alek Manoah, who had 14 wins, a 2.43 ERA and a 0.996 WHIP. Closer Jordan Romano, with a 1.91 ERA and 34 saves, on the mound in the ninth. Everything working against them. But I’d love to know the spin rate each time the Orioles turn the tables this season.

The 15th triple play in club history, executed in the third inning after the Orioles fell behind 2-1.

Jesús Aguilar’s first home run as an Oriole, which reduced the Blue Jays’ lead to 3-2 in the eighth.

Terrin Vavra’s diving catch to rob Raimel Tapia and send the game to the top of the ninth, when the Orioles scored three times and held on for a 5-4 win.

Manager Brandon Hyde beginning the rally by sending up Kyle Stowers and Ramón Urías as pinch-hitters. They both singled to the opposite field.

If Hyde isn’t the American League’s Manager of the Year, it’s going to be an unfortunate snub. And making the playoffs shouldn’t be a prerequisite.  

Cedric Mullins walked after the back-to-back singles, and Adley Rutschman beat the shift with his tremendous bat control, roping a two-run single to left-center field on a 98 mph fastball. Aguilar’s RBI single with two outs padded the lead, which proved critical.

Aguilar also had two hits in his last start on Wednesday in D.C.

No team had scored on Romano in his last 14 appearances.  

Félix Bautista retired the first two batters in the ninth, walked Cavan Biggio and surrendered an RBI double to George Springer. Hyde came to the mound instead of pitching coach Chris Holt, draped his arms around Bautista and Rutschman, and said whatever was on his mind. He did the talking.

The entire infield joined the conference, and because of Hyde’s presence and shoulder hugs, it was one of the more memorable visits visually in a long time.

“We’re just trying to game plan out there the best we can,” Rutschman said on MASN.

First base was open, Bautista challenged Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and the flame-thrower walked him on six pitches. But Bo Bichette, who’s hit six home runs against the Orioles this season and had an RBI single yesterday, fell behind 0-2 and grounded out.

The Orioles improved to 4-61 when trailing after eight innings and 3-9 in Sunday road games. They’ve split 16 games against the Jays this season, with three more to play to close out the season.

Dean Kremer’s start might have been rescued with the 6-4-3 triple play in the third.

Mateo caught Matt Chapman’s line drive, flipped to Vavra and pointed to first base, seeing that Bichette couldn’t get back safely. The first Orioles triple play since Aug. 3, 2017 against the Tigers at Camden Yards, with Manny Machado fielding James McCann’s sharp grounder, stepping on third base and firing to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who threw to first baseman Chris Davis.

The Orioles actually turned two that season, including J.J. Hardy to Schoop to Davis on May 2 at Fenway Park.

Before 2017, the Orioles hadn’t turned a triple play at home since Aug. 25, 1992 against the Angels, with information provided by STATS. Leo Gomez and Randy Milligan were the lone participants.

There also was Melvin Mora to Jerry Hairston to Jeff Conine for a Sept. 1, 2000 triple play in Cleveland, the last one until 2017.

The last one at Memorial Stadium was executed on June 15, 1989 against the Yankees. Cal Ripken Jr. to Billy Ripken to Milligan. Hey, why not?

There can’t be a stranger one than the Pat Kelly-Mark Belanger-Billy Smith-Belanger triple play to end a June, 3, 1977 game against the Royals in Kansas City.

John Wathan hit a sacrifice fly to Kelly with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth to reduce the lead to 7-6. Freddie Patek got caught in a rundown, with Belanger making the tag after taking the return throw from Smith. Belanger then tagged out Dave Nelson between third and home.

An odd way for Tippy Martinez to earn his first save.

The Orioles finished tied for second place in the American League East, 2 ½ games behind the Yankees. There were only two divisions and no wild cards.

More teams quality in 2022, six in each league.

The Mariners lost yesterday, leaving the Orioles four games back for the last wild card. Seattle holds the tie-breaker, but there’s one way around that.

Finish with the better record.

Yesterday proved again that the Orioles are blocking out the noise. They don’t think they’re done. They don’t want to hear it, so save your breath and keystrokes.

Stowers could be credited with a couple unconventional saves in his rookie season. The two-out, two-strike home run off White Sox closer Liam Hendriks in the ninth inning on Aug. 25 that sent the game into extra innings and led to a 4-3 win. And the leadoff single yesterday that sparked a rally and prevented a devastating sweep.

“I think whenever you have a good season, a special season, there’s moments in there that, you win some games that maybe you didn’t in the past,” Hyde said recently.

Stowers’ single wasn’t nearly as dramatic as his first, and so far only, major league home run that tied the game with one strike left, but it was another example of a moment not being too big for one of the Orioles’ heralded rookies.

The Orioles will face two left-handers to begin their series against the Tigers – Tyler Alexander tonight and Joey Wentz on Tuesday. Right-hander Matt Manning starts Wednesday.

The Tigers are in last place in the American League Central with a 55-91 record. Three of those victories came against the Orioles on May 13-15 at Comerica Park, right after Baltimore’s series win in St. Louis. They’ve lost six of their last seven games and 13 of 18.

Tyler Wells, Austin Voth and Jordan Lyles are starting for the Orioles, who have 17 games remaining. They can do the math, and it shows that they’re still alive.  

It didn’t look that way yesterday when Jordan Romano stepped on the mound and the Jays had their feet on the Orioles’ necks.

The good teams are hard to keep down.

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