What they're saying about Jordan Westburg, Orioles' bullpen and 5-4 walk-off win over Diamondbacks - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

What they’re saying about Jordan Westburg, Orioles’ bullpen and 5-4 walk-off win over Diamondbacks

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan USA TODAY Sports

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BALTIMORE—What happened? Jordan Westburg’s fourth hit of the game, a soft liner into right field, drove in Colton Cowser from second base and lifted the Orioles to a 5-4, 11-inning win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday.

Westburg, who’s hitting .301, had three singles and an RBI double in the second inning.

Anthony Santander’s seventh home run with two outs in the eighth tied the score, 4-4. Gunnar Henderson hit his 12th home run in the fifth. Ryan Mountcastle had two doubles and a triple.

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“It was back-and-forth,” Westburg said. “We wanted to win that for our bullpen. Our bullpen came in and threw some big-time innings and got out of some jams there. I just figured the more opportunities we had to score a run, we were going to push one across, as long as the bullpen kept it where they did.”

Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless 11th for the win to cap off a terrific bullpen performance. Five Oriole relievers combined to one-hit the Diamondbacks in 6 1/3 innings.

“Everybody threw the ball so well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We left a bunch of runners [10] on base early and late. Credit to them for how they pitched. Our guys matched them and threw the ball fantastic out of the ‘pen.”

How important has Westburg been? Westburg had his first four-hit game of his career, and it was the Orioles’ first of 2024.

On April 1st, he hit a game-winning two-run home run against Kansas City, a game that featured a five-hour rain delay.

“Really tried to stay on the right side of the field,” Westburg said of his hit to right. “If I’m going to make an out, I want to get that guy over to third, trying to push or see something deep and shoot the ball that way. I had just enough bat on that slider, thinking, ‘Is this going to stay fair?’

In the last week, the Orioles have played some tight games, and Westburg likes their approach.

“When I got called up last year, I felt like we played a lot of intense games, a lot of close games that could go either way,” he said. “With the core that we have, a lot of the same guys, we’re used to it, unfazed. We know a lot of opportunities aren’t going to go our way, but if they keep coming up, one of them is bound to happen.

“I think there’s just a confidence in everybody on this club, whether it’s bullpen, starters, one-through-nine, bench players coming in and making an impact. I think everybody plays confident and has each other’s back.”

“He’s just getting better and better,” Hyde said about Westburg. “He’s a special player. This guy is going to be really good. It’s his first full year in the big leagues. He’s just doing a little of everything.

“How much better he’s gotten at third base, second base, the at-bats he takes. He never takes a pitch off—never. He just battles every single pitch at the plate, and he can hit the ball to all fields hard. I’m really impressed with him so far this year.”

Is Kimbrel close to returning to the closer’s role? After Hyde decided to move Kimbrel out of the ninth-inning role after he failed to convert four of five save opportunities, he pitched a perfect seventh on Friday night and was impressive on Saturday in the 11th.

Kimbrel hit Christian Walker with a pitch with one out but then struck out Jake McCarthy and retired Eugenio Suárez on a forceout.

“The last two felt good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s easy to say that when you’re able to throw scoreless innings.”

Kimbrel compared his difficulties to bowling.

“I’ve been having good spins, throwing down the wrong lane,” he said. “The last two have been good. I’ve been getting down the right lane, making some good pitches.”

Kimbrel normally wouldn’t be in the game in the 11th inning.

“I’ve done that a bunch,” he said. “It’s go out there and try to strand them, especially as the home team. If you keep them out there, you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning. That’s what we’ve been able to do.”

Kimbrel is enjoying watching the Orioles win.

“Our job is to keep the game close,” he said. “In a blink of an eye, these guys can score four runs. If we’re keeping the games close and keeping the offense in it, we’re going to have a chance to win a lot of games.”

“He went out and pitched awesome,” Hyde said. “It’s not easy to struggle, and it’s not easy to struggle in the big leagues and have everybody talk about it, either. How he’s gone about his business, how he’s a total team-first guy, how he wants the ball, how he wants to contribute, how he wants to be a big part of this team, which we need him to be. He’s been phenomenal.”

How did Means’ second start go? In his second start of the season, John Means allowed four runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings, striking out three.

“His stuff wasn’t quite as good as the first time out,” Hyde said. “I expect it to be better the next time. His command a little bit better. It’s not easy the second time. I think your adrenaline fuels you the first time out. You pitched a big league game, you sit five days. It’s challenging.

“He wasn’t at his best from a command standpoint. They took some good swings on him…He maybe ran out of gas in the fifth.”

What’s the word? “It wasn’t how I drew it up. I’m not exactly easing him in.”Hyde about using Kimbrel in the 11th.

What does it mean? The Orioles have a 1 ½ game over New York for first place in the American League East. They’ve won three straight and nine of 11 and increased their streak of not being swept in a regular-season series to 104. If they can avoid a sweep in the Toronto series that begins on Monday, they’ll tie the 1903-1905 New York Giants, who had the third longest streak at 105.

What’s the stat of the day? 14. Means hasn’t won a home game in his last 14 starts, dating back to April 25th, 2021.

What happened in the minor leagues? Bruce Zimmermann was removed from Triple-A Norfolk’s game with Memphis with right hamstring discomfort after allowing a run on eight hits in four innings. Outfielder Hudson Haskin was also removed after he was hit by a pitch.

The Tides lost to Memphis, 3-2. Nick Vespi (2-2) allowed two runs on four hits in three innings.

What’s next? Dean Kremer (3-2, 3.97) will pitch against Arizona’s Zac Gallen (4-2, 2.84) in the final game of the series on Sunday at 1:35 p.m.

Call for questions: Each weekday, I’ll be answering at least one Orioles’ question. Please send yours to: [email protected]

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