Bird’s Eye View: Orioles Drop Second Straight Game to Rangers

O’s offense finally awakens, but it’s not enough to overcome walks and Texas attack.

Why can’t we have nice things? Well, because of turnovers and walks.

It was a rough Sunday for Baltimore sports fans. First, the Ravens lose a game they were winning against the Steelers, and then the Orioles drop a second straight ALDS playoff game to the Rangers, this time, 11-8, and are suddenly on the verge of elimination. 

The hopes that the O’s would tie up the series—in front of another consecutive sell-out crowd at Camden Yards—got a boost when the Birds jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. That enthusiasm was short-lived, however. Texas, which has now won four straight playoff games, responded immediately, with three runs in the second for a 3-2 lead. They never looked back. (Well, except maybe for a moment in the bottom of the ninth, when Aaron Hicks hit a three-run blast to cut an 11-5 lead to 11-8.) 

After starting pitcher Grayson Rodriquez was pulled, and Danny Coulombe was lifted, Brian Baker promptly walked three batters in the third, setting up the game’s decisive blow—a grand slam by Rangers designated hitter Mitch Garver off Jacob Webb. Down 9-2 early, the O’s tried to rally several times—Gunnar Henderson blasted a home run and then Aaron Hicks followed with another in the ninth inning—but ultimately went just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.  

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

Rodriquez Rocked Early: The O’s hard-throwing, highly touted rookie Grayson Rodriquez, plain and simple, did not have it Sunday. The righthander allowed six hits, handed out four free passes, and gave up five runs before being pulled in the second. Counting on a pitcher who didn’t make the major-league roster out of spring training—and then went down to the minors after a rough initial call-up—wasn’t an ideal situation, obviously. It highlights the lack of depth and experience in the O’s rotation—at the moment. There’s every reason to believe that Rodriquez, Dean Kremer, and D.L. Hall, who pitched well in relief in Game 1, will develop into a strong starting staff behind already established Kyle Bradish.  

Earl Weaver Hated a Lot of Things: But he especially hated walks. Ask Jim Palmer. Weaver, in particular, got frustrated with Mt. St. Joe’s grad Tom Phoebus—who pitched a no-hitter and won 14 or more games three times for the O’s—over his lack of control. Phoebus was eventually traded, which brings us back to Rodriguez and reliever Brian Baker. Baker walked three straight batters Sunday in the third, setting the table for Mitch Garver’s grand slam, which, for all intents and purposes, put the game out of reach. O’s pitchers walked 11 in total, an incredible figure for a major league staff. 

The Force Awakens: It’s a baseball cliché that hitting is contagious. But it’s also true that not hitting is contagious. The Orioles struggled to score runs early, and score runs at all, for two weeks before Sunday’s contest. With a lefthander starter, Jorge Mateo got the nod at shortstop—with some hope from manager Brandon Hyde that the speedster would jump start the O’s offense. That, he did. Mateo answered the call with two extra-base hits, four overall, and a run scored and a run batted in. It would seem he earned another start in Game 3. Overall, the Birds knocked out 14 hits. 

If the O’s offense hits the ball on Tuesday in Texas like they did Sunday—and expected Game 3 starter and veteran Kyle Gibson, who won 15 games this year—pitches well, the Birds should be back in this thing. 

Nobody Sweeps the O’s: Before Sunday’s game, manager Brandon Hyde talked about his team’s resiliency and his players’ ability to put losses behind them quickly. “It’s something we’ve done really well this year and the last couple of years.” The Orioles famously have not been swept in a series since All-Star catcher Adley Rutschman’s call-up in May 2022, nearly 90 consecutive series, the third-longest streak in baseball history. The first round of the playoffs would be an inopportune time for that streak to broken. Or, you could look at it another way: the Birds are near-lock to win a Game 3 win in Texas—the math is in their favor. 

Like Old Times: Fan favorite J.J. Hardy, who won three Gold Gloves during the last great O’s run, which included three playoff appearances under then manager Buck Showalter, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday. Hardy ranks third among Orioles shortstops in games played behind Cal Ripken, Jr. and Mark Belanger. He also ranks among the top 25 players in O’s history in hits, doubles, and home runs. Most memorably, after working a five-pitch walk, Hardy hustled all the way home from first—tagging the plate with his left hand—on Delmon Young’s game-winning double in Orioles’ 2014 ALDS Game 2 win over the Tigers, known since, of course, as Delmon Young Double Day.

If the O’s force a Game 5 and come back to Baltimore, it should be an occasion worthy of pulling out one of team’s big playoff heroes/good luck charms for ceremonial pitch duties. Maybe Eddie Murray, who hit two HR’s in clinching Game 5 of the ’83 World Series? Or ’83 World Series MVP Rick Dempsey? 

So, to sum up, all this said, we do have nice things. One of them this summer has been the Orioles, and their amazing turnaround season, which has included 101 wins and the O’s first AL East title since 2014. The sun is definitely shining in Birdland, with even more top prospects from the MLB’s top farm system on their way.