Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn’t agree that Kyle Gibson’s start tonight could influence how the playoff rotation and bullpen are constructed for the Division Series that begins Saturday at Camden Yards. He wasn’t going to put that much emphasis on it.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a big start,” Hyde said, responding to a reporter’s question. “I think we know what Kyle can do, and if he doesn’t pitch well today it’s not really going to impact anything. A lot determines the postseason roster on who we play, where we’re playing and those types of things.”
The Orioles played the Red Sox again tonight, Gibson tossed five shutout innings, and they scored three times in the eighth in a 5-2 victory before a sellout crowd of 43,150.
Gibson scattered seven hits and left after 80 pitches. Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann, recalled earlier today, made his first appearance in the majors since July 4, didn’t allow a run through two innings and earned the win.
"He did a great job of minimizing damage," Hyde said of Gibson. "I thought it was actually a perfect workload for him heading into the playoffs."
"Felt good," Gibson said. "I think anytime I go out there and I'm able to execute pitches, that's a good thing. ... For the most part I've felt like I've executed pitches a lot better in September, and just tried to do that again tonight as long as I could stay out there."
Jack Flaherty, pitching for the first time since Sept. 19 in Houston, surrendered a run in the eighth on Trevor Story’s two-out infield single that scored Justin Turner, who was hit by a pitch. The Red Sox were shut out on 10 hits before Story reached. Masataka Yoshida had a two-out RBI bloop single off Jacob Webb in the ninth.
Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford retired 18 of 19 batters, including the last 10. He faced the Orioles twice in 2022 and allowed 11 runs and 12 hits in 3 2/3 innings.
"I think he was just locating well, throwing all his pitches for strikes," said Ryan Mountcastle. "I feel like we put together some good at-bats, just not much luck tonight."
Josh Winckowski replaced Crawford in the seventh and gave up Mountcastle’s two-out double that plated Jorge Mateo, who entered as a pinch-runner after Adley Rutschman singled. Mountcastle came home on Heston Kjerstad’s infield hit, on a ball that second baseman Pablo Reyes backhanded and lost on the transfer to his bare hand.
"I was just running and saw (Tony) Mansolino waving me home, so I just kept going hard," Mountcastle said. "I didn't really see what happened. I just kept running hard to the plate."
The Orioles had gone 15 consecutive innings without a run. They improved to 101-60 heading into Sunday’s regular season finale, the most victories since 1979, and won the season series from every division opponent for the first time since 2014.
The 14 consecutive series against division opponents without a loss breaks the club record of 13 set in 1969, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Mateo had a fielder’s choice RBI in the eighth, with Jordan Westburg avoiding the tag after his one-out single and Gunnar Henderson’s double. Henderson has 66 extra-base hits to break Cal Ripken Jr.’s club rookie record.
A second steal by Mateo gave him 32 for the season, and Anthony Santander followed with a two-run single.
Gibson lowered his ERA to 4.73 and fell an inning short of his 18th quality start. Kyle Bradish ranks among the major league leaders at 2.86. John Means has registered a 2.66 ERA in four starts. Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez have posted ERAs of 4.12 and 4.35, respectively.
One starter will move into a relief role. The Orioles are discussing it, as well as mapping out their workout plans for next week.
"They'll figure that out," Gibson said. "Even normally when you get to a seven-game series you're really not using five. You're going to utilize that off-day and get your four best guys out there. So, I don't know what they're going to do. I don't know that any of us really do. Be ready whenever they tell you it's your chance to pitch and you take the ball whether it's in the first inning, the fourth inning or the eighth inning. Whenever it is. Look forward to a chance to pitch whenever it is."
Hyde talked about Gibson this afternoon after offering his thoughts on Félix Bautista’s pending reconstructive elbow surgery, and how the other relievers have responded to it by posting a 3.66 ERA before last night without their closer. How his club was 20-12 in that span and able to win the division.
“Yeah, they’ve done an unbelievable job of picking up the pieces a little bit,” Hyde said. “We met as a team the next day after he was hurt and talked about what he has meant and what we need to do. Guys need to step up in different ways, and they have. The bullpen guys have. They pitch in a little bit different roles, possibly, pitch a little bit earlier in the game, pitch a little bit later in the game than normal, than they were used to, and I think they’ve taken it head-on and done an amazing job.”
The Orioles will go into the playoffs relying on matchups and availability to decide who inherits a slim lead in the ninth.
“It’s been the plan since the next day after he got hurt,” Hyde said.
“It’s a lot harder. Normally, it would be an eight-inning ballgame and then you give the ball to him and take your chances, or 7 2/3, or tie game in the ninth, back out for the 10th on the road. You take a chance with a guy who’s going to punch out 40-something percent of hitters. But it’s been more challenging and our guys have risen to the occasion a little bit.”
The Red Sox put two runners on base in the second inning, with Adam Duvall’s one-out triple off the left field wall and a walk giving them a chance to break out early, but Gibson struck out Story and caught Enmanuel Valdez’s liner. Gibson allowed three singles in the second but got away clean because of a double play and Rutschman cutting down Turner attempting to steal.
Yoshida led off the fourth with a single, but two force outs and a fly ball again kept Gibson from spiraling.
Valdez opened the fifth with a liner that caromed off Kyle Gibson’s leg for an infield single. Gibson stayed in the game after a few warmup tosses, Rafael Devers singled with two outs and Gibson retired Turner on a fly ball to center field.
Crawford retired the first eight batters before Adam Frazier doubled. Henderson flied out to keep the game scoreless.
Henderson received a huge ovation before the first pitch after walking onto the field to accept his Most Valuable Oriole award, only the fourth rookie so honored since its inception in 1954. He followed Rutschman, going 1-2 just as they did in the 2019 draft.
"The history of the O's, being able to be up there with all those guys like Ripken, (Brooks) Robinson and the list goes on, is really special," Henderson said earlier in the day. "To do it in the first year is really awesome, as well."
Henderson struggled for the first two months but never lost confidence in his ability. A smart kid.
“I had some success last year when I got called up, so I knew that I could do it. It’s just a matter of when,” he said.
“Obviously, not how you want to start the year like that. Everybody goes through it, and I was just fortunate enough to go through it at the beginning of the year, get through it early. I was glad to go through it and learn how to go through it.
“The numbers, I feel like, will be where they should be at the end of the year, but my number one goal is just to make the playoffs first - and we accomplished that - and then to make a really good playoff run. That’s been my goal, and I’m glad we were able to do it this year.”
How far can they go? The other four Orioles teams to win 101 or more games reached the World Series.
"It's rare," said Gibson, whose 2019 Twins finished 101-61. "It doesn't happen that often, maybe two teams a year sometimes. I think it's special for these young guys to experience it early on and know the work that goes into it and have some fun doing it."
"I think this is my 12th year and I've only been part of one other one," Hyde said, referencing the 2016 Cubs that won the World Series. "I want our guys to understand how great of an accomplishment that is. We won every single series against the American League East. That's an incredible accomplishment, as well, with all the talent and how good the teams are in our division. Just means we won a lot of series and our guys came to play. But that's very, very tough to do."
It happened tonight in front of the sixth sellout crowd of the season.
"Super excited to see that in October, too," Mountcastle said.
"That was fun," Gibson said. "Probably the most people we've had here as I was warming up in a long time. Really soaked in the atmosphere early on and enjoy it from pitch one. So, I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty fun place here over the next couple weeks."
"That was a ton of energy," Hyde said. "Wish we could have scored some runs early to get them going a little bit, but it was loud, they were into it. It was great to see the ovation for our guys pregame and when the game started. Our players deserve it and we appreciate the fans coming out.
"It's a huge difference to have 20, 30, 40,000 people there, and the buzz in the crowd just brings energy to your team. Hopefully, the crowds continue to build and this place will be loud during the playoffs, and next year they'll feel the excitement also, I hope. It's been a lot of fun to play in front of crowds like tonight."