Orioles survive a bizarre ninth; Nunez, Ruiz hit three-run homers; Means strong in final start before All-Star Game - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles survive a bizarre ninth; Nunez, Ruiz hit three-run homers; Means strong in final start before All-Star Game

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida—For once, it was the Orioles capitalizing on physical and mental errors. Entering the ninth inning tied at 3, the Orioles scored six runs — because of aggressive play and shoddy Tampa Bay defense.

By the time the inning was over, the Orioles had equaled their biggest inning of the year and doubled their best ninth inning of the season. Then they sweated out a bad outing by reliever Richard Bleier before Shawn Armstrong got the final out to secure a 9-6 win over the Rays on Wednesday night.

The win broke a three-game losing streak and gave the Orioles a day off to savor one of their more unlikely wins of the season.

Anthony Santander, who was batting for Chris Davis, led off the ninth with a walk against Tampa closer Jose Alvarado. Rio Ruiz bunted Santander to second, and he advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Pedro Severino bounced to short, and Santander, running on contact, beat the throw home for the go-ahead run.

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Jonathan Villar’s sinking line drive to center skipped past Guillermo Heredia, scoring Severino. Trey Mancini bounced to short but Willy Adames’ throw was kicked out of catcher Mike Zunino’s mitt by Villar, whose run made it 6-3.

Chance Sisco reached on an infield single when Alvarado didn’t cover first in time. Renato Nunez put the game out of reach, as it turned out, by crushing a three-run home run to left, his 19th.

“I thought we played the game pretty well, especially that inning, that ninth inning,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We did a lot of things really, really well — things that we’ve talked a lot of about … the bunt, the contact reads, the patience at the plate against a tough closer that was struggling with his command. We just did a lot of good things well.”

Bleier entered the bottom of the ninth with the six-run lead and quickly gave back three. Armstrong came in and struck out Tommy Pham on a 3-2 pitch for the final out with the tying run at the plate.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of come-from-behind wins or late-game wins,” Hyde said. “I was really happy with our at-bats and how we played the game, obviously, in that top of the ninth.

“With the six-run lead, you feel like you should be able to hold that. It’s baseball, and things happen. [Bleier’s] done a nice job for us in the last few weeks. It’s just they stayed on some balls, hit some line drives the other way on him. Shawn Armstrong made a big pitch, and fortunately we won.”

Mychal Givens won his first game since September 24, 2017. He had lost 11 consecutive decisions since then. And he might have made the play of the game.

Givens came in for the eighth after starter John Means pitched seven strong innings. Givens allowed a leadoff single to Travis d’Arnaud. Pinch-runner Kevin Kiermaier stole second and advanced to third on Pham’s bouncer to first.

Yandy Diaz grounded back to Givens, and he saw Kiermaier breaking for home. Givens alertly charged the plate and tagged Kiermaier to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring. Givens’ background as a shortstop was in evidence on the dive to tag Kiermaier.

The Orioles had taken a 3-1 lead in the fourth on Ruiz’s fifth home run, a three-run shot. It was Ruiz’s first since May 16.

Means allowed an unearned run in the third when Joey Wendle scored from third on Ruiz’s bad throw to second on a relay.

Rookie Mike Brosseau homered in the fourth, the first of his career, and Tampa Bay tied it in sixth when Diaz doubled and scored on Avisail Garcia’s single.

Means’ night: In his final start before the All-Star Game, Means equaled his career high by pitching seven innings. He allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits, striking out five without walking a batter. His ERA remains at 2.50.

“It’s just going to get better because I was going five innings and now I can go deeper into games,” Means said. “That’s one of the things you try and work on.”

Means has made six consecutive starts of five innings or more with two or fewer earned runs, the longest streak since Wei-Yin Chen had seven such starts from June 4-July 12, 2015.

“I was really hoping we’d get him the win,” Hyde said. “I just thought he pitched really well … Pitched ahead in the count really well. I don’t think he was behind hardly anybody — no walks, and that was huge. John Means is a really good pitcher, and has proven it.”

Despite the bizarre ninth, Means was confident the Orioles would hang on.

“I knew we had it the whole time,” Means said. “I know it got a little sticky at the end. But I knew that with our pitchers, we were going to pull it out.”

Lots of strikeouts: The Orioles struck out 14 times. They’ve struck out more than 10 times in the last four games, the first time this season they’ve done that.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    July 4, 2019 at 7:55 am

    Gotta celebrate the W’s when they come however they come, have a feeling Hyde still trying to figure when to pull a pitcher…go O’s & Happy 4th to all…

  2. cb

    July 4, 2019 at 8:47 am

    Buck never did figure it out.

  3. Borg

    July 4, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Bleier should have been gone about two or three batters before he was pulled. It was like watching BP. I liked him when he first pitched for the Os and he was a good story, but he’s lost it. Everything is up and at 88-90 mph that’s just a recipe for disaster.

    Santander should be playing every day and Davis should only play for defense late in games or when Mancini or Santander needs a day off, i.e. once a week (if that). There is absolutely no point to putting him in the lineup. The ninth inning was so much fun to watch, right up until they had to go to the bullpen. Once again, no lead is safe.

  4. Orial

    July 4, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Totally agree Borg. Santander should play every day,every inning. Get Mancini out of RF(the pitchers deserve better–ask Means). I still insist,for whatever reason,that the pitchers pitch better with Sisco behind the plate. Hoping that Hunter Harvey can eventually be that shutdown man out of the bullpen so sorely needed.

  5. NormOs

    July 4, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Have the O’s decided when the “Rebuild” will start in connection with the bullpen. IMHO it should start soon because there is not one reliable relief pitcher out there. I don’t know what is accomplished by sending a guy to Norfolk and then bringing him back 3 days or so later. He sure as hell doesn’t get any better. Its looks like nothing can improve this bunch of stiffs. I believe “Rebuild” means to start over and this bullpen really needs it. “Dumpster Dan” really did a number on this team when he got rid of Brach, O’Day, Britton, etc. etc. etc. and got zilch in return. He got even for not letting him go to Toronto.

    • Camden Brooks

      July 4, 2019 at 11:36 am

      How about a little patience? Ridiculous to already deem those trades a failure after less than a year. Calling our BP a bunch of stiffs, regardless of their production, is also uncalled for IMO.

      • NormOs

        July 4, 2019 at 1:55 pm

        We’re at the break, Camden, do you really see anyone out there being sought after at the end of the month? “Stiffs” is the worst thing I can call them since children may be reading this blog. “Patience”……….they are suppose to be major leaguers when they get here and I don’t see one out there.

    • Camden Brooks

      July 4, 2019 at 2:09 pm

      My patience comment was referring to your premature declaration that the player dump last year was a failure on “Dumpster Dan.” No doubt our bull pen needs great improvement, as does a lot of this team. Name calling towards a team I love is not what I consider being a fan. But you go ahead and have at it.

    • CalsPals

      July 4, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      Goes both ways true fan wouldn’t call names, dumpster Dan, or is it ok for you? Basically if any of us did our JOBS the way most of the bullpen does, we’d get canned(Crash)…go O’s, this is just a place to vent…

    • Ekim

      July 4, 2019 at 8:22 pm

      Not that anybody cares, but I’m basically with you, NormOs. We got “took” last year. I’ve given up looking for anything of promise for this year out of that batch. The most interesting thing for the rest of the season is just how many wanna be’s will cycle through the roster, especially pitchers. Seeing Wojo being called up was the final nail in any hope for the pitchers already on the roster. Just saying…

  6. cb

    July 4, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Brach, O’Day, and Britton were salary dumps.

  7. willmiranda

    July 5, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Don’t understand the negativity. We’ve had a couple nice wins this week.
    We’re in recovery, so it’s one day at a time. Celebrate the good ones! And that Givens play was one in ten million!

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