The 1-2-5 double play executed yesterday by the Orioles in the 12th inning was the first in club history and certainly the first involving Tim Beckham, who’s making only his 16th career start tonight at third base.
Beckham alertly covered the bag as reliever Brad Brach fielded Aaron Judge’s comebacker with the bases loaded, no outs and the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead. Brach fired to catcher Caleb Joseph, a calm and accurate throw given the intense situation and his two walks and fielding error that proceeded it, and Joseph cut down the lead runner, Didi Gregorius, instead of going to first.
Joseph wanted to eliminate the possibility of a walk-off single and worked out the play in his head before Judge came to the plate. He never mentioned it to Beckham, who already was on the same page.
“You don’t see it too often,” Beckham said earlier today. “If Judge hit it back to Brad, then I knew we might have a chance at third, so we want to get that lead runner knowing we’re up 8-7. Once I saw it hit back to the pitcher, I kind of ran through it. I went through the situation before the ball was in play. Once it was hit, boom, I wanted to retreat and get back to the bag and make sure we had a play there.”
With no prior communication with Joseph, Brach or anyone else.
“Just a heads-up play, a baseball play,” Beckham said. “I commend Caleb for that and Brad, and I commend Brad for staying in the game and grinding it out. It didn’t start out how he wanted it. He stuck with it and trusted his ability and it happened. And that’s a big win for us going forward and I think we’ll take that momentum over to this series.”
The two walks and error on Brett Gardner’s bunt could have forced the Orioles to settle for a split of the four-game series. They seemed to be headed in that direction, especially with Judge at the plate.
“He kept his composure,” Beckham said. “He made a calm throw to the plate to get the out and it was a heads-up play all around.”
A play that produced the unexpected and, for the Orioles, unprecedented 1-2-5.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen it,” Beckham said. “That’s a baseball play. You’re trying to grind it out early in the season. It’s a tough April. No excuse, but it’s a tough April for all of us and we just want to keep playing good baseball and stay within ourselves and trust our ability. We have a great ballclub and we’re going to do special things.”
Manager Buck Showalter didn’t want Beckham’s contribution to go unnoticed or get lost in the fuss over the front end of the play.
“What gets missed a little in that play is Tim Beckham being at third base,” Showalter said. “A lot of third basemen wouldn’t have been there. And you had to have the right hitter up to be there. Obviously, if it was a left-handed pull hitter he wouldn’t have been there.
“We were looking at the overhead. There was a potential triple play there, but I’ll take the two.”
Showalter laughed at the notion that he called in advance for Joseph to make the throw to third.
“Uh, no,” he said. “I’ll tell you, if you had taken a bet that, ‘Hey guys, I have no doubt that Judge is going to nub a ball back to the pitcher that we could do that with,’ I’m in the wrong profession. I need to be out in Vegas.”
Brach was relieved to be out of the jam that he created.
“It was huge,” he said. “When I go out there and I can’t throw strikes to those first two batters, it’s definitely one of those things where you just want to throw it over the plate and then when I finally get a ball back to me for an out, I make an error and kind of an amateur move there trying to go with the bare hand. After that it was taking one pitch at a time.
“It was a big series win and I’m just glad I didn’t ruin it for the other bullpen guys who kept the game intact and just glad we got out of there with a win.”
Brach said he didn’t have a 1-2-5 plan in place as he faced Judge.
“I had no idea,” he said. “For me, I was just trying to get it to Caleb and from there it’s up to Caleb to make the move. I had never seen it personally, but it worked out great. Like he said, a bloop hit after that, if we get the out at first we lose the game, so that’s what he was thinking the whole time.
“I’m just glad he didn’t hesitate. Say he throws to third base and there’s not an out, that could be a huge mistake, but he didn’t hesitate and that’s what they always say to do in baseball, that whatever your gut feeling is to just go with it. But I wasn’t really thinking. I just wanted to get the ball in his hands and it was up to him from there.”
Brach also could work down to the next batter, Giancarlo Stanton, without fear of a wild pitch scoring the tying run.
“I could go right after the hitter,” he said. “Honestly, I got a huge jolt of energy. As the ball was coming to me I could just feel the excitement coming. I just had to make a nice easy throw to Caleb, and as soon as he turned and got the double play, I had a good feeling about the next batter.”
Stanton struck out for the fifth time in the game and the Orioles had the happy train ride home.
“It was just kind of unbelievable that we got out of it with no runs,” Brach said, “but it was just a great feeling to get the team a win.”
Rather than blame the cold for his lack of command, Brach pointed to how he kept failing to finish his pitches.
“I kept kind of cutting them off, and if you look at the difference between the first two batters and then when I faced Judge and Stanton, I was finishing the fastball as opposed to letting it ride through the zone,” Brach said.
“The first couple batters I was kind of cutting it off and I just couldn’t keep it on the plate. Just kind of a mid-inning mechanical adjustment I wish I had made after the first batter. But yeah, just one of those things I was able to make the adjustment at the right time.”
Beckham had to be alert again tonight in the second inning as Dylan Bundy fielded Russell Martin’s comebacker with runners on the corners and no outs. Bundy threw to Beckham, who hustled to the bag and blocked it while tagging former Oriole Steve Pearce.
Pearce led off with a single, his 500th career hit, and moved to third on Kendrys Morales’ single. Morales left the game for a pinch-runner after appearing to injure his hamstring.
Bundy walked Kevin Pillar to load the bases with one out after retiring the side in order with two strikeouts in the first inning. Devon Travis struck out on a slider with the count full and Aledmys Díaz flied to right field.
Update: Pearce hit a two-run homer in the top of the third and Machado answered with a solo shot to almost the exact same spot to reduce the lead to 2-1.
Morales left the game with a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring.