BALTIMORE -- Perhaps Brandon Hyde said it best, plopping down for his first happy postgame press conference in seven days, the weight of arguably the most trying week of his first year on the job lifted at least temporarily off his shoulders. Nearly every second of this marathon 10-game homestand had been challenging, the past six-game slog against the Astros and Yankees inordinately so, the last 18 hours in particular. Right up until the time Rio Ruiz sent a ball hurdling toward the warehouse.
“It’s been an eventful week,” Hyde quipped.
When it landed, the recently-promoted third baseman had sent the Orioles to an improbable, emotional, come-from-behind 8-7 victory over the Astros on Sunday, his walk-off two-run ninth-inning homer off Roberto Osuna snapping their five-game losing streak and sending them home victorious a day after they lost by three touchdowns. By sending a 2-2 changeup 417 feet to right, Ruiz capped Baltimore’s three-run rally off Osuna and its first walk-off win of the year on an afternoon it battled Justin Verlander only to blow a one-run lead in the ninth.
Ruiz’s was the second walk-off home run to hit Eutaw Street in Oriole Park’s history, and the first since Luke Scott on July 19, 2008. The Orioles had been 0-68 when trailing after eight innings this season.
“It just goes to show, we’re not going to give up,” Ruiz said.
For Ruiz, it was his first career walk-off hit of any kind, and his second homer in as many days back in the big leagues, and second with his newborn son, Luca James, in attendance.
“He gets all the credit,” Ruiz said.
And it almost didn’t happen.
The Orioles parlayed six strong innings from Asher Wojciechowski and three-hit games from Trey Mancini, Jonathan Villar and Jace Peterson into a 5-4 lead going into the ninth. It was nearly more, as Pedro Severino missed a grand slam by a few inches foul before stranding the bases loaded in the eighth. But a half-inning later, the first two batters singled off Mychal Givens before Michael Brantley pulled a relatively soft go-ahead two-run triple into the right-field corner. Brantley came around to score when right fielder Anthony Santander’s attempted relay throw slipped out of his hand, turning Baltimore’s one-run lead into a two-run hole.
“Tough pill to swallow there,” Hyde said. “But then Rio picked us up.”
In a vacuum, it was one mid-August victory in a season never meant to be about wins and losses. Given the circumstances, the Orioles view it as more: An emotional rebound from one of their more embarrassing defeats in recent memory, to salvage the final game of a homestand over which they broke home run records almost nightly and scrambled to move past a dugout altercation between their manager and highest-paid player.
Other stretches had hurt more in the standings -- their 10-game June losing streak out west, for example -- but none took the nature of the past five games against the Astros and Yankees, over which the talent gap was often plain to see. Even for an organization realistic about the infancy stage its rebuild is in, their minus-42 run differential this week entering Sunday was startling. Thrown up against the backdrop of Wednesday’s dugout altercation between Hyde and Chris Davis, the 23-2 defeat they were handed Saturday was jarring.
One win won’t solve any of that, and Hyde was sure to note more challenges await even in the immediate short term. Ruiz earned an honorary beer shower for his heroics, but the celebration was short. Four more games against the Yankees await over the next three days.
“I think it’s been a tough week,” Hyde said. “This feels really good after a really tough week. Now we go on the road and have another tough week. But it’s a lot better than losing.”