Mountcastle, Bautista come up big as Orioles outlast Kirby

August 13th, 2023

SEATTLE -- Zero runs scored over nine innings isn’t a great recipe for success. Most teams aren’t winning that game.

However, the 2023 Orioles have continually proved they’re better than most teams.

After Seattle’s George Kirby blanked Baltimore for the entire length of a standard contest, the O’s finally broke through following the right-hander’s departure in the 10th.  served as the offensive hero, delivering an RBI single to end a scoreless duel and lifting the Orioles to a 1-0 victory Saturday night.

But it was All-Star closer  who again stole the show, this time on a night when another Félix -- Félix Hernández -- was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame in front of a sellout crowd of 45,823 at T-Mobile Park.

Bautista, who worked a scoreless ninth, came back out for the 10th and struck out Josh Rojas, Julio Rodríguez and Eugenio Suárez in order, with each of the three going down swinging, as the 6-foot-8 right-hander earned the win in impressive fashion.

“What he’s done this entire season is unbelievable. There are no other closers that are doing that,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Doing it in the fashion that he is, too -- we are just so fortunate to have him. He is just incredible.”

This was the fourth time Bautista pitched both the ninth and 10th innings this season -- all on the road, and all Baltimore wins. Hyde’s formula in such situations makes a ton of sense: Use Bautista to keep the game tied in the ninth and force extras, play for one run in the top of the 10th and then send Bautista back out to secure the win.

Over those four appearances -- the previous three coming May 20 at Toronto, July 7 at Minnesota and July 20 at Tampa Bay -- Bautista hasn’t allowed a run, giving up only two hits and recording 15 strikeouts in eight innings.

“He’s unbelievable, and he’s been our rock the whole year,” Mountcastle said. “And he’s going to continue to do it.”

Bautista wouldn’t have pitched the 10th if it hadn’t been for Mountcastle’s clutch knock in the top of the inning -- a one-out single up the middle off Mariners right-hander Andrés Muñoz that marked the Orioles’ fourth and final hit of the night. But it was the only one they needed.

Kirby yielded only three singles and didn’t allow a Baltimore runner to advance past first base until the ninth, when Jordan Westburg was stranded on third to end the inning. Kirby needed only 103 pitches to navigate nine frames, striking out seven and not issuing any walks.

So Baltimore was glad to see Kirby leave and wasted little time capitalizing. Cedric Mullins, the automatic runner in the 10th, stole third base and then scored via the knock by Mountcastle, who continued a torrid August in which he’s batting .459 (17-for-37).

“We had no scoring opportunities almost the entire game until we get a runner on second base there in the 10th -- for free,” Hyde said. “To be able to pull out a win when you’re not swinging the bat, that’s massive.”

It was only the 12th time in Baltimore history (since 1954) that the Orioles won a game in which the opposing starter threw nine scoreless innings. The previous occurrence was also against the Mariners, on May 12, 2011, when Jason Vargas dominated before Baltimore went on to win, 2-1, in 12 innings.

The O’s pitching staff did an exceptional job of matching Kirby in putting up zeros. Cole Irvin threw five strong innings in his return to the rotation -- which has bumped up to six starters to preserve several heavily used arms -- and he was followed by Mike Baumann (one inning), Jacob Webb (two-thirds), Cionel Pérez (one-third), Yennier Cano (one) and Bautista (two).

“You throw 10 shutout innings, you’re doing something right,” Hyde said.

“We scraped across the run we needed to win, and ultimately, that’s all that matters,” Irvin added. “We won the game, and it’ll be a big boost for tomorrow.”

The Orioles (an American League-best 72-45) cooled off the hottest team in baseball, snapping the Mariners’ eight-game winning streak. They also won’t need to worry about trying to extend their streak of consecutive multi-game series without being swept in Sunday’s finale, as they already pushed that run to 77.

“We’re a good team,” Mountcastle said, “and that’s just what happens with being good.”

Baltimore is good. And its latest impressive win -- its 22nd by a margin of one run -- further showcased that.