SEATTLE - Entering tonight’s game, the Orioles had won six of the last seven games in which Tyler Wells was on the bump. On the other side, the Mariners had won four of the last five games in which George Kirby had started. Unstoppable force, immovable object, etc., etc.
It was not a pitchers' duel in the 9-2 Orioles victory. George Kirby lasted just four innings, allowing nine hits, seven earned runs and four home runs.
The Orioles were able to get to Kirby early and often, hitting back-to-back home runs twice in the first four innings. That hasn’t happened for the O’s since Aug. 10, 2017. Adley Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle did it in the third inning, and Anthony Santander and Austin Hays didn’t waste any time making it happen once again in the fourth.
"I thought we took some of our better at-bats of the year those first four innings," said Hyde. "I thought our approach was outstanding. Up and down the order, really good at-bats."
Rutschman got a nice ovation from family and friends for his first at-bat in Seattle. The Oregon State product attended Sherwood High School in Oregon, with the Mariners being the closest big league team.
The catcher didn’t waste any time thanking fans for making the trip, driving in the first run of the game on an RBI single in the first inning, and adding a solo shot in the third.
It was the first time Rutschman’s grandpa got to see him play in the big leagues, and the No. 1 prospect in baseball hit a home run for him. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
"It's just so special. Home run or not, just having him in the stands again was just so extremely important and special for me and my family. It means the world," an emotional Rutschman said. "The people who support you and have been with you since day one, watched you grow up, there's something special about that. When you experience that feeling, it's unlike anything else in the world."
Jorge Mateo added a home run of his own in the sixth inning, his second home run in the last three games.
Cedric Mullins joined the party too, just without a longball. The speedster recorded seven hits in the four-game set against the White Sox, and continued that hot streak with an RBI double in the second inning. On a totally normal fly ball that Julio Rodríguez and Jesse Winker inexplicably let fall between them.
Winker was suspended for seven games following the brawl that broke out between the Mariners and Angels Sunday after he was hit by a pitch. He was in the lineup Monday, however, as his appeal goes through the process, and got a standing ovation from Mariners fans his first time in the box. Tyler Wells promptly struck him out on three pitches.
Before the game, Brandon Hyde said that Wells would “unfortunately” be more limited tonight after throwing 95 pitches last time out. One can only imagine the smile on the skipper’s face watching Wells toss a seven-pitch second inning.
"So good," Hyde said with a laugh. "Just had everything going. Super quick innings, throwing strikes, all pitches working. We got a lead for him and he pitched with that lead so well."
The 6-foot-8 righty didn’t face any stress until the fifth inning, when he gave up a solo shot to Cal Raleigh on a 3-and-2 count. That fifth inning would be where the night would end for Wells, who allowed just that one run and one hit on 63 total pitches.
"The ability to hit spots and trying to attack the zone," Wells said. "Felt like I had a good fastball tonight, that's the best it's felt in a while."
The strikeout numbers still weren’t there for Wells, who struck out just three batters tonight and was in the eighth percentile in strikeout rate entering the game. The outs, however, were certainly there.
"Everything was working to get guys out quick," Wells added. "I was happy to be efficient."
The righty was cool, calm and collected, but it wasn't meditation. We asked.
The O’s bullpen wasn’t completely flawless in relief of Wells, allowing a run and nearly more in the sixth inning. Mullins saved two runs with an excellent sliding catch in shallow center field. A seven-run cushion through five innings up to bat is a nice thing to work with.
Mullins had a great night in every facet, knocking two doubles and making yet another spectacular diving catch in the eighth inning.
"It was a matter of time for Ced to get things going a bit," Hyde said. "How about the defense? He's making at least two plus plays a night, defensively. He's saving us so many runs. He's been unbelievable in the outfield."
Keegan Akin settled things down the rest of the way, and didn’t allow a run.
An Anthony Santander sacrifice fly in the ninth inning would push the ninth run across, as the O’s took the first game of this series 9-2.
"We've got a lot of confidence right now," Hyde said. "Our dugout is as good as I've seen it since I've been here. It's super positive, guys are really pulling for each other, and there's a lot of energy in there right now. It's a lot of fun."