The Orioles concluded their 9-game homestand with a 6-3 record, winning 2 out of 3 games against Toronto, Colorado, and now Chicago. The Orioles also continued their historic streak of not getting swept to 82 straight series. But after dominating the White Sox in the first two games, the Orioles allowed ten runs to the Pale Hose on Wednesday afternoon, settling for two out of three and leaving fans wanting more. A promising, dominant series ended on a sour note. Let's take a look at these three games and three takeaways from each game.
Orioles win series against White Sox despite losing finale
1. Game 1: Orioles 9, White Sox 0
It's nice to have a laugher once in a while. After playing 6 straight nail-biters to open the homestand against the Jays and Rockies, the Orioles took Game 1 by the horns, racing out to a 4-0 lead after 4 innings and riding another stellar start by Grayson Rodriguez to a 9-0 victory. Ryan O'Hearn singled in two runs off of White Sox righty Michael Kopech in the bottom of the third, and the Orioles added two more in the fourth on a wild pitch and Ryan Mountcastle RBI single.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez was almost untouchable. He allowed just one hit (to White Sox superstar Luis Robert Jr., which is more than forgivable) and one walk over 6 scoreless innings, before Jacob Webb, DL Hall, and Shintaro Fujinami finished Rodriguez's masterpiece.
As the fantastic Ben McDonald would say, the Orioles added a little "in-surance" in the bottom of the eighth, capped by a three run blast by Anthony Santander.
WHAT DID WE LEARN: Grayson Rodriguez is finally showing the promise and potential that made him the number one pitching prospect heading into 2023, and barring something unforeseen, should start the Orioles' first or second postseason game.
2. Game 2: Orioles 9, White Sox 3
Unlike Game 1 of the series, this game was a lot closer than the 9-3 final score indicates. Early on, Dean Kremer and Chicago's Jesse Scholtens locked horns in a pitcher's duel, with Chicago striking first on a solo home run by Lenyn Sosa. The O's tied the game in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Adam Frazier, and the game remained tied heading into the bottom of the seventh.
The bottom of the seventh started quietly enough. Cedric Mullins bounced to second and Ramon Urias was called out on strikes. But with two strikes, unsung hero Ryan McKenna singled and stole second base. Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson walked, setting the stage for the red-hot Anthony Santander.
He did not disappoint, drilling a bases-clearing double down the right field line, giving the Orioles their first lead of the game. The Orioles padded the lead in the eighth, with Ryan McKenna, Adley Rutschman, and Santander (again) driving in runs.
Not to be outdone, Dean Kremer turned in the O's second straight stellar start, throwing six innings and allowing only the one run. For the second straight night, Brandon Hyde brought Shintaro Fujinami on for an inning of work to close the game, but he was hit hard, allowing two runs and escaping the inning thanks to a boneheaded baserunning blunder by Sosa.
WHAT DID WE LEARN: A few things. First, Dean Kremer has been on some hot streak lately, and is cementing himself as the Orioles' number three starter in the playoffs, at worst. Second, Anthony Santander is on some hot streak, and if he can stay healthy, will represent one of the Orioles' most critical players as they try to hold off the Rays. Third, Brandon Hyde is really trying to help Fujinami gain confidence so he can be trusted in close games.
Fujinami unquestionably has great stuff, and Hyde is giving him innings of work at the end of comfortable victories to get him right. But, whenever Fujinami seems to have turned a corner (4 straight scoreless appearances heading into Tuesday night), he hits a rough patch. It is unclear if, and to what extent, Hyde will be able to trust Fujinami in key situations down the stretch.
3. Game 3: White Sox 10, Orioles 5
For the second straight series, the Orioles were unable to complete the sweep of an inferior opponent. Instead, the White Sox jumped all over starter Kyle Gibson, bashing him for seven runs over 4.1 innings, ballooning his ERA to an unsightly 5.15. Luis Robert Jr., Andrew Vaughn, and Oscar Colas homered off Gibson, and the Orioles embarrassingly squandered an early 4-0 lead in the game.
In his second game since returning from the IL, Austin Voth allowed three runs over 1.2 innings. Also, not good.
There were a few positives, however. Anthony Santander hit yet another home run and drove in two total, boosting his OPS to an outstanding .825. DL Hall, Cionel Perez, and Jacob Webb combined to throw three scoreless innings, allowing Yennier Cano to rest and showing that they can be trusted. But overall, this is a game the Orioles need to wash away. Let's hope they can turn the page ahead of Friday night's opener in the desert against the Diamondbacks.
WHAT DID WE LEARN: Despite winning 13 games this year, Kyle Gibson likely cannot be counted on as a starter in the playoffs. This is not a knee-jerk reaction, but analysis based on a full season of struggles.
His 5.15 ERA is simply unacceptable, and with the imminent returns of John Means and Tyler Wells, Gibson might find himself not only out of the rotation, but off the playoff roster altogether. He's a good guy and a good veteran to have around, but perhaps these are the struggles the Phillies saw in him last year before yanking him from the playoff rotation in 2022.
The 84-50 Orioles will enjoy an off-day Thursday before starting a three-city road trip through Phoenix, Los Angeles (Angels), and Boston.