The regular season has been shortened to 25 games. Six against the Blue Jays, who lead them by 4 1/2 in the wild-card race.
Whatever the Orioles do in these final four weeks is going to be an entertaining sight.
However, it’s about more than results on the field, who isn’t dying to know what happens? Baseball really matters in Baltimore as the Ravens prepare for their first game on Sunday. It hasn’t been like this in a long time.
It’s also fascinating how games and rosters are handled in the heat of a pennant race. How the organization reacts to venturing into an area that has been restricted since the teardown began.
Brandon Hyde got by with his hands tied in Monday’s doubleheader, unable to use veteran Jordan Lyles and looking for volunteers for Game 2. Mike Baumann’s first major league start was scheduled for the night cup, but he was promoted to Game 1. Keegan Akin ran into the bullpen heated up after Lyles was ruled out, and the short notice prevented Bruce Zimmermann from accepting the assignment.
Three lefties pitched in Game 2 against a team that feasts on them. Zimmermann was recalled after Game 1, an emergency arrival from Triple-A. Nick Vespi became the first reliever to pitch three straight days and allowed Bo Bichette’s three-run home run in the third inning.
Hyde didn’t have a full bullpen. He didn’t want to use high-influence late-entry relievers so early. He didn’t envision the biggest games of the season starting with his club at a disadvantage due to circumstances beyond his control.
I’ve seen reports that some Blue Jays were irritated by the late warning about Akin’s start, as if the Orioles were plotting strategy. They weren’t trying to fool anyone. It was too late for Hyde. Around the time of the lineup exchange at the plate.
Lyles pitched to the bullpen. He was not a decoy. He really tried to start.
Perhaps an exaggerated interpretation of the media. I did not venture to the visiting side. Otherwise, it’s ridiculous to think that the Orioles tried to cheat anyone by changing the starter.
Also, it didn’t work out for them, so it would have been a rotten plan.
Hyde was much more aggressive Tuesday night after the sweep. Players referred to him as a “must win” even with more than a couple dozen games remaining.
Dillon Tate in the fourth inning, Cionel Pérez the fifth. Felix Bautista called for his second six-out performance and his first six-out save. A true postseason atmosphere.
Maybe not do or die, but do or dive. The Orioles would have been 5 1/2 games out of the final wild card had they lost.
“I thought we needed to win the game,” Hyde said. “I was going to do everything I could to try and win the game.”
The mentality in September is not the same as earlier in the season.
“Especially when you’re in the position we’re in and you’re playing against the teams that are ahead of you in the race,” Hyde said. “These are big games, so a game in May is definitely different than now. You also have an expanded roster, so things are a little different.”
Tyler Wells’ insertion into the rotation last night felt like a nod to his status as a contender. He was perhaps the most reliable starter before his oblique injury, although he wobbled a bit towards the end.
More games pitched in the minors on a rehab assignment, with a stop this week at Bowie, won’t help the Orioles.
He was needed here and facing a team he limited to one run over six innings in June at the Rogers Center, his 12the consecutive start allowing three earned runs or less.
Grayson Rodriguez could make his major league debut later this month if he’s up for it. He sounds like a chance to “get their feet wet,” except the Orioles would probably go for it on his arm, seeking his help in their playoff push.
New relievers Jake Reed and Yennier Cano joined the bullpen Tuesday because the Orioles needed more righties against the Blue Jays. The matchups mattered more.
Gunnar Henderson is playing every day because the Orioles believe an offense that tends to go into rest mode can use his bat.
Hyde pinch-hit Adley Rutschman for Austin Hays on Friday night with the score tied in the eighth inning, a move that opened some eyes in the press box. It’s also good since we’re supposed to be watching.
Hays would normally hit, but he’s struggling and Rutschman looked like a good matchup with the bases loaded. The crowd went crazy.
He threw six pitches and walked.
Jorge Mateo singled on the next pitch to score two more runs as the Orioles won 5-2.
You manage differently in September. In a race.
The Blue Jays will be exposed to that six times more against the Orioles, and they’ve had trouble coexisting on the same field. Dugouts and bullpens keep pouring in on him.
They’re developing a rivalry the Orioles should take as a compliment.
It’s better to hear Duke fans sing “Not Our Rivals” on the Maryland basketball team. It’s epic.
“I think we played a lot of close games against these guys,” Hyde said. “A type of strange endings and a lot of offense. As we’ve gotten better, I think it becomes a better rivalry. As we acquire more talent and our games with them become more competitive, it becomes a better rivalry.
“I hope so, because I think they are two exciting young teams that have a bright future ahead of them.”