When the Orioles were about to embark on their seven-game trip to Houston and New York, I was asked by a friend to put an over-under on how they would do.
I said three wins. Then I thought about it and, figured, eh, maybe two wins was more likely.
If I had stuck with my gut, the house would have won.
The Orioles were 3-4 on the trip, but it seems much more successful than that.
Because after being swept in Houston and looking like they would be completely overmatched by the big boys in 2018, the Orioles won three of four against the New York Yankees.
They now have more wins at Yankee Stadium this April than they did in all of 2017, when they were 2-8 in the Bronx.
And it’s not simply that they beat the Yankees, but how. Winning one game in 14 innings and another in 12. They were put in a 5-0 hole by starter Mike Wright in the first inning Sunday and rallied in extra innings.
It’s hard not to make too much about Sunday’s victory, because it looked lost several times. And when the Orioles finally had the one-run lead in the 12th, closer Brad Brach walked the first two batters he faced and then loaded the bases by misfielding a bunt.
All the good mojo seemingly would have been lost heading back to Baltimore if Brach hadn’t induced a double play against Aaron Judge. The Yankees slugger bounced one back to Brach, who threw home to catcher Caleb Joseph, who then smartly threw to third base for the unconventional 1-2-5 double play. That obviously boosted Brach, who struck out Giancarlo Stanton to win the game.
So, in a blink, this club went from potential blown-save disaster to a third win in four games. There’s a lot of confidence created in such a win, such a series. Especially early in a year when clubs are still learning about themselves.
Will it carry over?
But, for the Orioles, it sure beats the alternative.
Santander is holding his own – and more
One of the things that struck me about the series in New York is that right fielder Anthony Santander is showing he can hold his own in a major league lineup and in right field.
Much was made about the Orioles bringing Rule 5 right-hander Pedro Araujo north with the club despite Araujo pitching just two innings above High-A ball in his career (and Araujo acquitted himself nicely Sunday by striking out five of the eight batters he faced).
But let’s not forget that when the Orioles selected Santander from the Cleveland Indians in the December 2016 Rule 5 draft, he hadn’t played above High-A, either. And barely played at all in 2017 (13 games in the majors and 16 in the minors).
He was supposed to stick with the Orioles all last season, but injuries prohibited that. The plan was that Santander would be back for 44 consecutive days with the Orioles to fulfill Rule 5 obligations before he could be sent down to Triple-A without having to pass through waivers or be offered back to the Indians.
Yet, the way Santander has played so far, he may not be going anywhere.
Santander had a huge, 400-foot homer Sunday – the first of his big league career — and a really good catch at the right field wall. He’s started seven of 10 games so far this year, and though he began slowly at the plate, he had three hits Sunday, lifting his average to .207.
There’s also hesitation in the outfield at times, but Santander looks a lot more comfortable there this year than he did in 2017.
The important thing here is that Santander is only 23; he’s actually younger than Orioles’ outfield prospects DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins.
He’s getting an opportunity to play at the big league level, and he’s taking advantage of it. That’s all he and the Orioles can ask for.
A big win for castoffs
Sunday’s win was basically the payoff for the club’s “throw them against the wall” roster philosophy.
Look at who the heroes were:
Santander, a Rule 5 pick; Araujo, a Rule 5 pick; Richard Bleier, acquired in minor trade last year after being designated by the Yankees; Craig Gentry, a journeyman reserve outfielder, Pedro Alvarez, who had to wait until spring training for the third consecutive year to get a job; Danny Valencia, who was stuck in free agent camp in February; and Caleb Joseph, who toiled in the minors seemingly forever and is now a starter.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette gets ripped often for his “bottom-feeding” when it comes to roster construction. But having role players who can step in and perform when needed is crucial in a long season.
Gentry is the perfect example. Orioles manager Buck Showalter continually talks about how important Gentry is to this club. He showed it in the field Sunday with a clutch catch with the outfield drawn in, and then came up with the game-winning hit on an 11-pitch at-bat in the 12th
Maybe Duquette and Showalter know a little about baseball after all.