The Orioles and White Sox just completed a three game series that was expected to be a battle of the bats. While both teams were able to put up crooked numbers in all three games, it was pitching that stole the show for the Orioles in a 2-1 series win.
Game one saw the White Sox take an early 1-0 lead that went to 3-0 by the end of the sixth inning. Mike Clevinger only allowed one hit to the Orioles through six innings and added five strikeouts but also had five walks. He was pulled after those six innings and the Orioles immediately took advantage of a struggling White Sox bullpen. The Orioles utilized a two out rally to put up four runs, highlighted by Adley Rutschman's three RBI double, off of Jake Diekman and Reynaldo Lopez in the seventh inning to take their first lead of the game Batlimore added two more in the eighth and held on for a 6-3 victory.
The big story of game one was the Orioles bullpen. Mike Baumann entered the game for Tyler Wells after 5.1 innings. Baumann came into a tough situation where two runs had already scored and two men were on base with only one out. Baumann walked the first batter he faced to load the bases but then struck out Yasmani Grandal and Lenyn Sosa to end the threat and keep the Orioles withing striking distance. But Baumann wasn't the only great pitching performance for the Orioles.
Yennier Cano, who was recently recalled, made his season debut in the seventh inning. Cano came in to face Luis Robert Jr with one out and two runners on base. Cano forced an inning ending 1-4-3 double play to preserve the Orioles lead. Cano came back out for the eighth, pitching a perfect inning adding his first strikeout of the season and his second putout of the game. Bautista came in to pitch the ninth and struck out the side to end the game.
Game two was a back and forth affair that needed more than nine innings to be settled. Both offenses continued to shine and both pitching staffs continued to struggle. Kyle Gibson yielded four runs through 5.1 innings with only one strikeout in his first no decision of the year. White Sox starter, Michael Kopech, was not much better allowing three earned runs in 5.0 innings. The Orioles were able to take a one run lead in the top of the tenth when Adley Rutschman knocked in Gunnar Henderson (who started the inning on second base as the ghost runner) from third on an RBI fielders choice.
With Bautista not being available, due to having pitched the previous two days, to hold the lead, the Orioles turned to Logan Gillaspie. It should be noted that Gillaspie replaced Cano who pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts. Gillaspie was unable to record an out giving up hits to all three batters he faced. The White Sox scored two runs to take the game 7-6 and tie the series at 1-1.
The biggest highlight for the Orioles in this game was Anthony Santander finally breaking out of his slump with a 2-5 performance including his first homerun of the season. The worst part of the game was when Ramon Urias took a 96.2mph fastball from Kendall Graveman of the back of his helmet. Urias immediately went down but was able to walk off the field under his own power after being checked out by team trainers. The good news is that Urias has only been diagnosed with a contusion is said to be feeling better and has not been put on the seven day concussion IL.
Game three saw the emergence of Grayson Rodriguez who had another tough first inning, allowing four earned runs, but seemed to mature in front of our eyes after that. GrayRod settled down and finally seemed to have the confidence and command that we've all read about for years. Rodriguez finished the day with 5.0 innings pitch and set a new career high with eight strikeouts. The gutty performance from the youngster was enough to keep the Orioles within striking distance.
The Orioles offense seemed to rally around GrayRod's performance and were finally able to break through in the fourth inning with three runs against one of the games top starters, Dylan Cease. The Orioles tied the game in the sixth when Henderson scored on a wild pitch from Cease. The Orioles scored off the White Sox bullpen three more times in the eighth and once more in the ninth before Bautista again came in to put the finishing touches on the White Sox.
Game three featured a big day from superstar center fielder Cedric Mullins who went 3-5 with four RBI's. Jorge Mateo continued his hot start to the season going 2-3 with a run and an RBI, and Gunnar Henderson had his first big game of the season with a 2-4 showing while scoring three times.
Overall the Orioles used a balanced attack of good pitching and timely hitting to win their third series of the season. If this was the start of Mullins, Santander and Henderson breaking out of slumps to go along with the hot hitting of Rutschman, Mountcastle and Hays, then pitchers will have no safe place to turn when facing the Orioles. Add that to the emergence of Yennier Cano and Grayson Rodriguez and the Orioles might start to look like the playoff contender that I thought they would be.