Heading into the top of the ninth inning Tuesday night, everything was going the Frederick Keys’ way.
The Orioles’ High-A affiliate was leading the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks, 4-0. The Keys’ starting pitcher, Michael Baumann — one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects — had thrown 6 2/3 no-hit innings and struck out a career-high 12. Travis Seabrooke kept Wilmington hitless for an additional 1 1/3 innings, setting up a dramatic finish for a possible combined no-hitter.
And yet the final score: Blue Rocks 5, Keys 4.
Total hits: Frederick 9, Wilmington 1.
The basics: Four walks, a fielding error and a two-out, two-run double.
After Seabrooke struck out Martin Gaspirini to start the ninth, he walked two straight batters. Luis Perez entered the game and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate. The no-hit bid was still intact, but now the game hung in the balance.
Wilmington’s Sebastian Rivero reached on an error by shortstop Yeltsin Gudino, allowing a run to score. After another walk — the seventh allowed by Keys pitchers — and a wild pitch, the Blue Rocks trailed by just one, 4-3. They still didn’t have a hit.
The next batter, Dennicher Carrasco, popped out to first base, leaving runners on second and third with two outs. Finally, Wilmington’s first hit came. Unfortunately for the Keys, it was all the Blue Rocks needed.
Cristian Perez hit a ground-rule double down the left-field line to drive in two runs, putting Wilmington, improbably, ahead 5-4.
All Frederick could muster in the bottom of the ninth was a walk. Ballgame.
The Keys’ official Twitter account was, umm, a little surprised.
Even the Associated Press recap of the game, written by Automated Insights, a company that uses data to generate a readable narrative, couldn’t properly summarize what just happened.
“Cristian Perez hit a two-run double in the ninth inning, leading the Wilmington Blue Rocks to a 5-4 win over the Frederick Keys on Tuesday,” the opening sentence reads.
“The double by Perez gave the Blue Rocks a 5-4 lead and capped a five-run inning for Wilmington.”
That’s putting it mildly.
Incredibly, just two weeks ago, another Orioles affiliate, the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds, completed perhaps a more stunning victory in similar fashion.
The Shorebirds were in danger of being no-hit as the Lakewood BlueClaws took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Instead, Jean Carlos Encarnacion hit a walk-off grand slam to give Delmarva a 7-5 win.
So if the Orioles’ rebuilding season is too hard to watch, consider attending a minor league game in Maryland. You just might see something you’ve never seen before.