O's 'pen leads way in benches-clearing fray, fiery win
BALTIMORE -- The bullpen door, by surprise, swung open in the fourth. It was yanked open with more ferocity in the seventh, when the benches and ’pens cleared amid what became a testy evening at Camden Yards. It was only shut for good four hours and 10 minutes after first pitch was originally scheduled to take place, with a laundry list of events unfolding in the interim.
What resulted from the swinging green padded pendulum in center field on Tuesday night was thus: one of the Orioles’ most aggressive, gutsy wins of the season at the most crucial of times, a 9-6 victory over the Blue Jays that saw a bullpen game -- and a benches-clearing fracas -- thrust into the fire a day removed from covering 18 innings in a doubleheader. Relievers were thrust into atypical positions and cool heads were tested to the might, but the circuitous path paid off in Baltimore’s favor in a pivotal manner.
“I thought we needed to win the game,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “I was going to do anything I can to try to win the game.”
Along the way, the O’s saw the benches clear when Bryan Baker -- one of four relievers Baltimore used -- struck out Matt Chapman; they saw Félix Bautista, by necessity, complete a six-out save; and they saw the grand majority of their offense appear before blowing it open in the eighth. That frame saw Rougned Odor turn a simple single into a double with a deft swim dive and Adley Rutschman ruled safe at home plate following a lengthy review.
But most important: they saw a game seized back on the Blue Jays in the Wild Card chase a day after falling two further behind. Baltimore is now 3 1/2 behind Toronto, with a chance to try and even the ledger back to 2 1/2 in Wednesday's series finale. That will come against Cy Young contender Alek Manoah.
Such odds forced Hyde’s hand early. His bullpen, a revelation this season, bent but it didn’t break. And the Orioles’ postseason hopes remained above water for another day.
“It's a lot of hearts, a lot of guts,” Baker said. “Obviously it's a big game today, and we're playing like it's our last one. We want to go out there and win. Tensions flared. … Really proud of the way we showed up and grinded out a victory.”
The manner in which Tuesday was won was important. This series could do much to determine Baltimore’s likelihood for October. A four-games-in-three-days sprint, it has had the feelings of an early-September postseason environment.
And that was all brought to a head when Baker struck out Chapman to close the seventh.
A Blue Jay last season whom the Orioles claimed off waivers, Baker seemed to make a chirping mouth gesture towards Toronto’s dugout as he walked back to his. The intent, he said after, was to let Teoscar Hernández know that he heard him talking, though he regretted how far it was taken. The Blue Jays took exception all the same.
"I guess he was mad because yesterday I hit a homer. Every time he pitches against us, he tries to make a show,” Hernández said. “I wasn’t even paying attention to anything he says. When I hit the ground ball, he’s staring at me, and saying, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ I don’t know. Then he struck out Chapman and turned to the entire dugout and [was] pointing at me, saying I was talking too much. But I wasn’t saying anything. Then he started walking and I just reacted.”
Said Baker: “I think everybody knows at this point, I'm pretty fired up, pretty intense out there. It was nothing towards their team or anything, it was just kind of letting him know that I know that he's talking. There's really no issue with the team or anything like that. I don't think there's any bad blood or anything like that. I just was letting them know that, really.”
“You can enjoy the moment -- we understand that. You strike out somebody, you can celebrate," said Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (through interpreter Hector Lebron). "But when you stare at the person it's kind of disrespectful. I mean, maybe you think you're a superhero or something? Whatever. But yeah, he does cross the line.”
By the time the dust settled, the Orioles had three more runs to score. And by the time calm found Camden Yards, they had a victory to relish.
Down from a chaotic doubleheader sweep on Monday, the O’s quickly found themselves down again on Tuesday, another home run from Bo Bichette ultimately pitting them to a three-run deficit. As Kyle Bradish was allowed to face two more runners in the fourth, back-end reliever Dillon Tate was already warming.
Tate, Cionel Pérez and Bautista -- all rarely used earlier than the last third of the game -- worked with Baker to piece together a crucial performance. They were primed for the task, knowing just how important a win was on Tuesday, and how hard it might be to come by on Wednesday.
“[The games] all feel intense right now, to be honest with you, especially with a club like the Blue Jays playing solid baseball,” Tate said. “It’s imperative that we were able to handle business. It's good that we were able to do that tonight.”