TORONTO - It was an All-Star play by an All-Star shortstop.
With two runners on and the infield in, Bo Bichette, with his toes on the infield grass, backhanded a 94-mph one-hopper. He then fired an off-balance throw to catcher Danny Jansen, who barely had to move his glove to apply the tag on the runner coming home. The entire whirlwind exchange took about two seconds.
It didn’t matter. Jorge Mateo scored anyway. Bichette was helpless to stop it.
It was the kind of game-tilting speed that the Orioles have used to their advantage all season, and they broke it out again in a 7-3 win over the Blue Jays.
“We run on contact a lot, and we do because we have some team speed,” Brandon Hyde said after the game. “For him to be able to force a throw there, we’ve done it a lot this year. Mateo’s speed is off the charts, obviously, and it was a huge play.”
A day after narrowly avoiding being no-hit, the Orioles used an aggressively fast and righty-laden lineup to bounce back. They drew six walks, scored all seven runs in the first five innings, and, for the second time in eight days, made life difficult for Toronto starter Yusei Kikuchi.
“I thought we ran the bases extremely well, extremely hard,” said Hyde. “I just thought we took good at-bats all game long. We didn’t have a ton of hits but we had a ton of walks, ran the bases well. Drew some timely walks and some good situational hitting.”
Mateo’s mad dash home was part of a three-run Orioles fourth inning from which Kikuchi could not escape. Exactly one week after being tagged for five runs at Camden Yards, Kikuchi exited Monday’s game after allowing six runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks. The lefty threw 80 pitches in just 3 ⅓.
It was Mateo’s wheels that put him on base in the first place in the fifth. All it took was a slight bobble and a rushed throw by Bichette on Mateo’s one-out grounder to get him on first. After Terrin Vavra walked, Bichette mishandled a pickoff throw from Kikuchi at second to put two runners in scoring position.
Tyler Nevin hit the liner to short that scored Mateo. Then Ryan McKenna, who collected the first three-hit game of his young career, brought home Vavra with a double, and Adley Rutschman tallied another RBI with a sac fly. When the dust had settled, the Orioles were up 6-2.
The game’s first run was scored by more bold baserunning from McKenna, who turned a blooper down the right field line into a double to open the first. Anthony Santander drove home the center fielder to make it 1-0 O’s.
Ryan Mountcastle, who came into the series opener with a career .361 batting average against the Blue Jays, continued his torment of Toronto. Back in the lineup after missing Sunday’s game with a sore left hand, the first baseman launched a Kikuchi fastball 417 feet into the left field stands in the third inning to give the visitors a 3-0 advantage.
Mountcastle also drew two walks, marking just the second time this season he’s been issued more than one free pass in a game.
“Great to see him see pitches,” Hyde said of Mountcastle’s plate discipline. “Great to see him lay off some tough breaking balls and the elevated fastball. Looked more in rhythm tonight at the plate, and just mashed a ball to left.”
Meanwhile, Kyle Bradish lacked the same efficiency shown by the offense that backed him. The rookie righty allowed just three runs but lasted only 4 ⅔ innings, surrendering six hits and walking four.
“They laid off a lot of good two-strike pitches and fouled some off,” said Bradish. “But anytime I can come out of the game with a chance for a win, I’ll take it."
Still, Hyde was impressed with Bradish’s ability to limit damage.
“Great job staying with it, keeping his poise and keeping the lead for us,” said Hyde. “Just a few too many walks. This is such a tough lineup to go three times through, especially if you’re a young pitcher.”
“I’ve prided myself on that in the past,” said Bradish. “Runners get on, I don’t let them score. I was pretty good at that in the minors. But after that rehab stint, I’ve been able to clear my mind and go out and attack guys.”
But the bullpen cleaned up nicely for Bradish. Bryan Baker, Dillon Tate, Cionel Pérez and Félix Bautista tossed a combined 4 ⅓ scoreless.
Game two of the O’s three-game set against the Jays starts tomorrow at 7:07 p.m. as Dean Kremer looks to earn his fifth win of the season.