In the span of three pitches — practically nothing in a game that featured 365 of them and lasted nearly four hours — the Orioles broke step with the fault that has defined this losing road trip and pushed ahead for a 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox in the first half of Wednesday's doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field.
With the game tied at 4 entering the eighth inning, the Orioles had already left 11 runners on base, including five in scoring position, while managing three hits in 15 at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
So when Richie Martin, who doubled his career extra-base hit total with two Wednesday, tripled to open the eighth inning, it would not have been out-of-character for even the top of the Orioles lineup to leave him there.
But Jonathan Villar golfed the second pitch he saw into center field, deep enough to score Martin on a sacrifice fly, and the Orioles completed a comeback that rescued them from a miserable start to the game and ensured they wouldn't endure a winless road trip, with Andrew Cashner starting the second game Wednesday to try and win this three-game series in Chicago.
“We escaped there,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “A lot of times when you leave that many runners on base, and we don't score runners from third, get the lead and tack on runs, those sort of thing — if you don't drive those runs in, it's a recipe for disaster at times. We just had a couple innings defensively early that we have not had. That was disappointing. But I was happy with the way we came back and played well the rest of the game.”
The Orioles team that started this game looked nothing like one that might win. From their early offensive struggles — they left Villar in scoring position twice in the first three innings — to the three combined errors by third baseman Hanser Alberto, pitcher David Hess and first baseman Renato Núñez that made three of the four runs Hess allowed unearned, it was an uncharacteristic brand of bad from the Orioles.
“You're going to have days where things are going to look great, then days where you've got to pick up your guys a little bit,” said Hess, who lowered his ERA to 5.34. “To limit that to four runs, I think as a whole, we bounced back really well. That was a big team win for us.”
They clawed back using the small-ball ideals they’ve come to embody, when Dwight Smith Jr. scored on a wild pitch/throwing error combination; Stevie Wilkerson pushed across a run with a bases-loaded fielder's choice, then stole second and scored on a two-out double by Martin.
The Orioles tied the game on a double by Smith in the seventh inning, which came after he squared to bunt twice with two on and nobody out, failed to lay one down and swung away. Martin triple and scored an inning later.
In between, newcomer Shawn Armstrong, rookie Branden Kline and top reliever Mychal Givens gave the Orioles 14 outs of relief without a run. Even as the Orioles left two in scoring position in the ninth to drop to 3-for-17 with 13 runners stranded, the cushion was large enough for Givens in the ninth.
“I think it says a lot about our character,” Martin said. “I think we were down, what, four runs in the third? But we never give up. It's just a credit to all the guys on the team. We're never going to give up, no matter what the score is, or how bad things may get. We're just going to be pushing on.”
Martin doubles up
Martin entered the day batting .164 with two extra-base hits and one RBI, but doubled both totals with a career day Wednesday.
“A triple off a right-hander in the right-field corner, a big double off a left-hander,” Hyde said. “He was exciting today, and that was fun to watch.”
First win for Kline
Kline, with a pair of strikeouts in two scoreless innings, earned his first career major league win. For a pitcher who has been through several elbow procedures and didn’t pitch for three seasons before returning in 2018, it was an achievement the Orioles savored almost as much as the team win.
“You really can't put it into words,” Hess said. “I've know Kline for a long time, so to see just the excitement around the team for him, it's special. I can only imagine, really, how he feels, with just the journey that he's had. A real testament of perseverance and really just staying the course. It's special for him, and special to get to experience that with him.”