This is what September is about in Baltimore. The presentation of another prospect to evaluate, and the hopes of squeezing out a few more wins and perhaps influence a pennant race.
The Orioles took a poke at the Red Sox’s balloon, winning 4-2 before an announced crowd of 8,098 at Camden Yards in the last home series in 2021. Zimmermann held them to one run over four innings.
Kyle Schwarber homered with one out in the second inning for the only scoring against Zimmermann, who allowed two hits, walked two batters and struck out two. Manager Brandon Hyde removed him at 70 pitches in an attempt to ease him back into major league competition.
Chris Sale carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth after Hunter Renfroe led off the top half with a home run off Marcos Diplán for a 2-0 lead. Kelvin Gutiérrez reached on an infield single and Ryan Mountcastle launched his 32nd home run to tie the game.
Three straight singles followed, the last by Pedro Severino off Hansel Robles giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead. Ryan McKenna’s two-out bloop single in the eighth scored Trey Mancini with a big insurance run.
“That was a big game, that was a great team win,” Mountcastle said. “We pitched really well, we had big hits throughout the game and overall played great defense, too, and definitely a good win for us.”
The Orioles had scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their last 15 games. McKenna gave them a bump tonight in the eighth.
“Like always, I just want to be competitive and stay competitive,” Hyde said. “We’re facing good teams that put themselves in a great position to play in October and, hopefully, someday we’ll be in that spot. But up until that point, just want to stay competitive and try to give everybody a good game and give us a chance to win every single night.”
Making his first start since June 13 due to biceps tendinitis and later a sprained ankle, Zimmermann stranded Rafael Devers after a two-out walk in the first inning by striking out Xander Bogaerts on a 91 mph fastball. That same pitch thrown to Schwarber in the second inning gave him 32 home runs and the Red Sox a 1-0 lead - the ball traveling 411 feet to center field, per Statcast.
The Ellicott City resident and Loyola-Blakefield graduate responded by retiring Bobby Dalbec on a fly ball and striking out former Orioles infielder José Iglesias on a changeup.
Renfroe’s infield hit in the third on a ball that shortstop Pat Valaika could only knock down and Schwarber’s two-out walk in the fourth didn’t hurt Zimmermann.
“I can’t ask for much more than that,” Zimmermann said. “I knew I was going to be on four or five innings and I just wanted to go out there and have a strong outing and keep the game in play for the guys behind me, because they were going to pick up some innings. So, really happy with coming off the rehab and everything like that.”
Zimmermann’s first three career starts came against the Red Sox and he allowed a combined seven runs in 16 innings.
“Very pleased,” Hyde said. “I thought he did a great job mixing his pitches. Just that one mistake to Schwarber in the middle part of the plate, but besides that, did a nice job of changing speeds. Only a couple punchouts, but I thought he pitched extremely well, got a lot of early contact. ,,, Really competed well.”
Zimmermann would have returned much sooner if not for the ankle sprain sustained while doing leg exercises in the weight room before leaving Triple-A Norfolk.
“As soon as the unfortunate accident happened,” he said, “my mindset was, I knew it was going to be a super-tight timeline rehab-wise, but I wanted to push as much as possible to get back for, if it was one start, one start, but as many as I could get just to come back and pitch at this level and, hopefully, have a good outing and put a good foot forward going into the offseason.
“It was definitely a challenge; That was the first time to be on a rehab at any point in time in my career so far, so that was mental hurdle in and of itself, so just really happy to be able to get back. And to have a team win like this just feels really good.”
The day began with Zimmermann’s reinstatement from the 60-day injured list and outfielder Anthony Santander and pitcher Chris Ellis going on the 10-day IL. The Orioles have a dozen players on the injured lists, with Santander and Ellis pulled from the lineup and rotation, respectively.
Ramón Urías was getting regular starts in the middle infield. Tyler Wells was the closer and most dependable high-leverage reliever. Jorge López was a power arm for the bullpen, where he appeared to find his comfort zone. Tanner Scott was the only left-handed reliever besides Fernando Abad, and another high-leverage option. Keegan Akin began to find success as a starter. Jorge Mateo brought plus-plus speed.
The Red Sox are full-throttle in their pursuit of a wild card. The Orioles are running on fumes.
The chances of stalling against Sale are pretty good.
Severino lined a single into left field in the second inning to erase the threat of a no-hitter. It’s never too early to wonder. But the Orioles didn’t get another hit until Gutiérrez beat out a slow roller to shortstop leading off the sixth.
Mountcastle followed with a 414-foot shot to left field, exit velocity 109 mph, per Statcast, and he paused at the plate to admire his work.
“I’m not really going to dig too deep into that,” Mountcastle said. “I wasn’t looking for any certain pitch. I just got up there, saw a good pitch and hit it. He was throwing me a lot of those changeups today, and that one, he finally left one over the middle and put a good swing on it.”
Austin Hays dumped a single into center field, Sale came out of the game and Mancini greeted Robles by poking a single into right. Devers couldn’t backhand Severino’s hard grounder and Hays scored to break the tie.
Krehbiel retired the side in order in the seventh, with McKenna sprinting toward the left field corner to catch Dalbec’s liner. Krehbiel did the same in the eighth and has logged 4 1/3 scoreless innings with one hit allowed since joining the Orioles.
“Didn’t know much about him a few days ago and throwing him out there a couple times,” Hyde said. “We tied it there and I had him going in the game, and then he had that really good seventh, so I threw him back out there for the eighth. He threw 12 pitches in two innings. Fastball was up from his last outing and was sitting around 97. Some good off-speed stuff to (Alex) Verdugo and Schwarber, two good left-handed hitters, and he had some good sliders. I love the aggressiveness, love the way he comes in and pounds the strike zone with really good stuff.”
Gutiérrez, who’s reached base in 11 straight games, walked with one out in the third inning and was doubled off first base on Cedric Mullins’ scorching line drive to Dalbec. Devers committed an error on Mancini’s bouncer with two outs in the fourth, but Sale gloved Severino’s one-hopper.
Mullins struck out to end the seventh after another Gutiérrez walk. Mancini singled again into right field with two outs in the eighth, Severino reached on an infield hit and McKenna produced his 13th RBI.
The game ended with McKenna racing into left-center and jumping to grab J.D. Martinez’s liner.
“The play he made down the line, went a long way for that ball,” Hyde said. “And then to end the game, that’s a tough play. Straight over your head like that, kind of hooking. Really a great play. We didn’t want to see Schwarber up there as the tying run and Mac’s been playing really good defense for us this year at all three spots, so happy with how he’s playing defensively. He’s made some really key plays for us.”