Ending an unusual and difficult season, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde acknowledged that it was a trying time, dealing with a team during a pandemic.
“We’ve all gone through a lot this year,” Hyde said after the Orioles’ 7-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo on Sunday.
In their 60 games, Hyde managed to keep the Orioles healthy and balanced, and they even improved their record.
The win, just the fifth in the last 19 games, gives the Orioles a 25-35 mark, which is tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for fifth worst in baseball. In 2018, they were 47-115, the majors worst record, and a year ago, they finished 54-108, the second poorest mark.
“I really like our club,” Hyde said. “I thought we did a lot of really good things and we were thinking about it today. Summer camp feels so long ago, spring training 1.0 felt so long ago just because of everything that we gone through. There’s been a lot of ups and downs and a lot of things that have come our way this year that none of us have ever dealt with before.
“It’s over. That’s always a strange feeling.”
Many thought the season would be ended or interrupted well short of the scheduled 60 games by outbreaks of the coronavirus, but the Orioles and Major League Baseball were able to deal successfully with the conditions and protocols necessary in 2020.
“We rolled into summer camp having zero clue what it was going to look like,” Hyde said. “Who was going to stay healthy, how protocols were going to be followed, so many question marks. For our club, and our league to have handled things the way that they have handled them is a credit to so many people, not only in our organization but in Major League Baseball.
“Every day was new, and you never knew what was going to happen next. I felt like we rolled with the punches well. It’s been a wild ride, for sure.”
Mullins stars: Centerfielder Cedric Mullins had two triples in the Orioles’ win. Ryan Mountcastle and Renato Núñez each had two hits.
Toronto scored in the second on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Davis. Núñez’s RBI double in the third tied it at 1.
The Blue Jays took a 4-1 lead against starter Keegan Akin in third on home runs by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel, a two-run shot.
The Orioles tied it against Tanner Roark in the fourth on a two-run triple by Mullins and a sacrifice by Austin Hays.
Shun Yamaguchi replaced Roark to begin the fifth, and the Orioles scored three runs against him.
Mountcastle and Núñez began the inning with singles. Rio Ruiz doubled to score Mountcastle and Núñez. Pat Valaika singled to score Ruiz, and the Orioles led, 7-4.
“It did mean a lot,” Hyde said. “To be able to end the season strong and to end the season with a win, we felt like that was important. I’m happy with how the team played today. I’m happy with how we swung the bats. Our bullpen guys did a great job. I thought we did a lot of good things today… It was definitely nice to end the season with a win after a tough few weeks.”
Mullins, who earlier had a home run taken away by Toronto rightfielder Jonathan Davis’ outstanding catch, tripled again in the eighth. It was the second time in his Orioles’ career that he had two triples in a game.
“We’ve got a lot of young talented guys who are ready to show what they’ve got,” Mullins said. “I’m excited for all of us.”
Mullins ends the season with a .271 average and was outstanding in center field.
Travis Lakins pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Akin for the win. Lakins finishes with a 2.81 ERA.
Lakins, Paul Fry, Hunter Harvey, Shawn Armstrong and César Valdez combined for six innings, allowing an unearned run on two hits and walking two. Valdez earned his third save.
Jonathan Villar scored in the eighth on Mountcastle’s error at first base.
Akin’s day: Akin allowed four runs on five hits in three innings. He walked one and struck out four. He ends his season with a 4.56 ERA.
“He just had a little bit of arm fatigue,” Hyde said. “I felt like he wasn’t finishing his pitches that last inning. I thought he threw some really good fastballs again. I thought he threw some good changeups, but I could tell he wasn’t quite right.”
Akin was happy the team finished with a win.
“It makes the flight home a little more enjoyable,” he said. “Sending the team off on a good note.”
Akin’s path to the majors wasn’t easy.
“You get ramped up in spring,” he said. “You go down to Florida and enjoy the nice weather and then they tell you you’ve got to go home. The team splits, goes their separate ways, for who knows how long at that point, really. You don’t even know at that point if there’s going to be a season.
“To show up every day, to get up every day, to do your work and stay in shape and keep your arm in shape, it’s tough for three months. I obviously enjoyed it, getting the call-up. It was a dream come true for me. It was definitely different with no fans, but I’m glad to be where I’m at.”
Pitchers’ next step: Hyde thinks Oriole pitchers can be quick learners. “I just think we’re inexperienced on the mound,” he said.
“We have some guys with good arms. I think a lot of guys have taken a huge step forward this year, and I’m proud of that, and I think that’s a huge bonus for us going forward. Now, it’s about command, and being consistent with your command and having secondary stuff that you go to.”
Hyde’s postseason: “I’m going home tomorrow,” Hyde said. “I’ll be talking to [executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias] every day, probably two or three times a day for the rest of the offseason. I’m sure I’ll be traveling back into Baltimore some. I’ll be going to Sarasota. I’ve only seen my family for a couple of days since we started summer camp, so looking forward to going home and taking the kids to school.”
Urias surprises: Ramón Urias made a positive impression in the last week of the season after his recall from the alternate site. Urias, who didn’t play on Sunday, was 8-for-20 in the five games he played.
Overall, Urias, who was claimed on waivers from St. Louis on February 11th, hit .360 with a home run and three RBIs in 10 games.
“He’s played pretty well,” Hyde said. “I think he’s taken some good at-bats. I like the way he uses the whole field.
“I like what he’s done with the bat. I think he’s played more second base than shortstop so we want to get a look there at how he would handle that. I think he’s done fine. I think that he’s an interesting player, and he’s done a nice job this week.”
In the minor leagues, Urias played second base, shortstop and third base and could compete for a utility position next spring if he remains on the roster.