Bird’s Eye View: Five Quick Takes from Orioles’ Playoff Opening Loss

Bradish provides solid start, but with offense flummoxed by Rangers’ pitching, O's fall 3-2.

There was a lot of emotion in the ballpark at Camden Yards Saturday afternoon. At times—with the sold-out, boisterous Baltimore crowd on its feet, hanging on every pitch, waving orange towels, and chanting, “Let’s go, O’s!”—it felt like Baltimore fans were trying to will just one more come-from-behind victory from the team that finished tied for the most come-from-behind wins in baseball this year.

Sadly, it just wasn’t enough to pull the normally resilient Orioles over the top. The O’s lost 3-2 in Game 1 of American League Division Series to the suddenly hot Texas Rangers.

Coming in off of a two-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Series, the Rangers possess the third-best offense in baseball—four spots up from the Orioles—but a pitching duel prevailed Saturday.

The O’s fought back after falling behind early, with a 420-foot homer from Anthony Santander putting the Birds on the board. But ultimately they went down quietly after Gunnar Henderson was picked off trying to steal second—apparently misinterpreting a sign—with no outs in the bottom of the ninth.

“I think they pitched well. I think we did, too,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde said after the game. “I think we responded [to the additional playoff pressure] fine today. We need to get some early runs. The last week of the season, we struggled to score early and it just puts a lot of pressure on everybody.

“I think it was really loud,” Hyde added, of the Camden Yards atmosphere afterward. “It was a special environment for our guys to play in.”

If you happened to miss it, here are a few quick takeaways:

Double-plays and ducks on the pond. The bottom line from Saturday’s loss is that the O’s only managed four hits against a team whose strength is its hitting—not its pitching, and especially not its bullpen. That said, the Orioles did manage to work five walks. They hit into two key double plays, however, and they were 0-for-4 hitting with runners in scoring position—a stat they led the MLB in this season. The Rangers were 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Pitchers battle early: Starting Orioles pitcher Kyle Bradish dominated the first time through the Texas lineup, striking out five and allowing one hit over the first three innings on 45 pitches. Unfortunately, he was matched by Rangers’ lefthander Andrew Heaney, who flummoxed the O’s batters with a mix of pitches.

Bradish the bulldog: The Rangers strung five hits together in the top of the fourth inning. Only one, a double by Addis Garcia ripped down the leftfield line, was barreled up, but Texas jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Ever the bulldog, Bradish struck out Ranger star Marcus Semien to end the inning and limit the damage to big applause from the hometown faithful. Bradish’s final line: two runs allowed over 4.2 innings, with nine strikeouts. A solid outing against a potent offense, but the question may be: was he pulled too quick after just 84 pitches?

Quiet Day in the Splash Zone: The Orioles offense—diverse, deep, and productive all season, if not overpowering—averaged just 2.85 runs per game throughout the last seven games of the regular season. Other than Anthony Santander (a.k.a. Tony Taters)—who walked, singled, and a crushed a mammoth HR in the bottom of the sixth inning to bring the O’s within a run at 3-2—the Birds did not make a lot of hard contact.

Wild, sold-out Camden Yards crowd: An hour drizzle delay did nothing to dampen the raucous crowd’s enthusiasm. Seemingly all of the 46,450 fans arrived early, packing Eutaw Street and the ballpark’s roof top deck, as well as placing flowers and taking photos in front of the statue of Brooks Robinson behind the centerfield wall.

Lifelong super fan Joan Jett sang the National Anthem and beloved former O’s centerfielder Adam Jones threw out the first pitch—a perfect start to the O’s first return to the playoffs since 2016. We noticed O’s manager Brandon Hyde, in particular, turned around from his position along the first base line to check the rock star’s rendition—highlighted, of course, by probably the loudest “O” ever.