The Orioles won with a trio of home runs and a solid major league debut from Mike Baumann.
The rookies were the story of the game tonight, with the Birds ambushing the Royals’ rookie starter and Mike Baumann looking impressive in his Orioles debut. As a result, Baltimore was able to even the series at one game apiece. But before we get into all that let’s talk defense.
Third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez flashed the leather in the first on a couple of plays. He made a stupendous over the shoulder basket catch in shallow left, and a nice diving stop and throw at the line to steal another hit. With the defensive help, starter Alexander Wells was able to work around a single for a scoreless first inning.
Now if only Gutierrez could do a bit more with the bat, he’d be a really interesting piece for the Orioles. He went 0-for-3 at the plate tonight with two strikeouts, and he’s hitting just .200 with the Birds this year.
After an exciting top of the first, the O’s jumped out to an early lead with four runs in their half of the inning. Royals rookie Jackson Kowar surrendered back-to-back walks to Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle before an RBI infield single from Anthony Santander. Austin Hays followed with an RBI groundout, and two batters later, DJ Stewart cranked a two-run home run to center field. It was Stewart’s 12th home run of the year. 4-0, Orioles.
After retiring the Royals in order in the second, Wells gave up a lone run in the third. Hunter Dozier walked with one out and was replaced at first by Whit Merrifield, who hit into a fielder’s choice ground out and then stole second base. Nicky Lopez drove Merrifield home — despite a valiant diving effort by Mullins — on a bloop single into shallow center field. 4-1, O’s.
Baltimore’s offense struck again in the bottom half of the third. Santander started the inning with a single, and the O’s took advantage with the long ball after that. Austin Hays entered play with a .375/.400/.625 slash line in the past 13 games, and in his second at-bat he delivered a towering two-run home run to left. 6-1, O’s.
Trouble followed Wells into the fourth inning, but he was able to minimize the damage. Carlos Santana hit a solo home run, his 19th of the year, after a groundout by Adalberto Mondesi. Then the Royals loaded the bases with two outs, but Merrifield lined out to end the threat and also end the night for Alexander Wells. His final pitching line was four innings, five hits, two runs, two walks, and two strikeouts. He allowed one home run and threw a total of 80 pitches, including 48 strikes. 6-2, O’s.
Newly recalled Mike Baumann entered in the fifth for his major league debut. He comes in as the Orioles no. 10 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and has done well in the minors this year. The right-hander has a 3.44 ERA across three minor league levels, including a 4.89 ERA in 10 Double-A starts and a 2.00 ERA in six Triple-A starts. He’s struck out 71 batters in 70.2 innings while averaging 0.8 HR/9. Across parts of four minor league seasons, he has a 2.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 8.9 SO/9.
Baumann made quick work of the Royals in the fifth by recording a ground out, a line out, and a fly out. It only took six pitches. And the sixth inning was more of the same. Baumann pitched to contact and retired the side in order, needing 11 pitches to put down the Royals.
In the seventh, Baumann worked around a two-out double by Whit Merrifield for his third scoreless frame. In the bottom half of the inning, Cedric Mullins crushed a solo home run onto the flag court to pad the lead. 7-2, O’s. It was his 27th home run of the year, which puts him three home runs and four steals away from the coveted 30-30 club.
The Royals put a couple of runners on base in the eighth, on a single and a walk, prompting manager Brandon Hyde to remove Baumann with two outs in the inning. Dillon Tate took over and gave up an infield hit before a fielding error by Gutierrez allowed a run to score. But pinch hitter Ryan O’Hearn took a called third strike to end the frame. 7-3, O’s.
Baumann’s final pitching line was as follows: 3.2 innings, two hits, one unearned run, one walk, and one strikeout.
Tyler Wells came on in the ninth to close things out and he made it look easy, needing just 12 pitches (including 9 strikes) to dispatch of the Royals. Merrifield fouled out, Lopez struck out, and Salvador Perez flied out.
With tonight’s victory, Baltimore has evened up the series after their loss on Labor Day. But momentum is only as good as the next day’s starter, and that person is Matt Harvey tomorrow for the O’s. We’ll see if the Birds can keep these positive vibes going.