ATLANTA — Despite dropping the series finale 7-3, the Orioles
Game 1 (10-7 BAL): It’s hard to describe just how crazy Friday night’s series opener was. The unusualness of the game came pretty early before culminating into an insane ninth inning. With Alex Cobb on the mound, many expected the O’s to be forced to dig themselves out of a hole early on. However, Cobb turned in a great outing and held the Braves to just one run through seven innings of work.
The unlikely scenarios didn’t stop with Cobb. Chris Davis returned to the starting lineup after being benched for eight games and put the O’s on the board in the fifth with a solo homer to left field. Davis’ struggles at the plate have been well documented this season so no one expected the big man to make this kind of splash in his return.
The game remained tied until the eighth inning. Tanner Scott gave up another pair of runs and the Braves took a 3-1 lead going into the ninth. What happened next was even more unexpected than Cobb’s quality outing or Davis’ flashy comeback. The O’s sent ten batters to the plate and came through with six hits to score six runs and take a 7-3 lead.
Adam Jones and Manny Machado led off the inning with a single and a walk respectively. Danny Valencia brought Jones in with an RBI single and Jonathan Schoop followed with a ground rule double to score Machado and tie the game. The Braves made a pitching change but it didn’t stop the next four batters from picking up RBI’s with either a hit or a sacrifice fly.
With this being a road interleague series for the O’s, a pinch hitter was needed when the bottom of the lineup came around late in the game. After making his major league debut on Wednesday, Steve Wilkerson got the opportunity to hit in the ninth in place of Brad Brach. The 26-year-old got a pitch he liked right away and hit a shallow line drive into right field for his first career hit and more importantly his first career RBI.
The game had already provided enough surprises but the Braves still had three outs to work with. Zach Britton came in to close out the final inning but encountered his first rough outing since returning from injury earlier this month. Britton quickly loaded the bases before recording an out, which certainly didn’t inspire much optimism, but he did have a four-run lead to work with.
Unfortunately, Britton never gained control in his appearance. The next three Braves batters all picked up RBI hits to tie the game up at once again. As fate would have it, former Oriole Nick Markakis was responsible for driving in the game-tying run with a double to right field. To make things even worse, only one out had been recorded and it seemed that the most heartbreaking loss imaginable was now unavoidable.
Darren O’Day came in after Britton’s implosion and was tasked with the seemingly impossible mission of keeping the game tied 7-7. However, with the winning run at third base, O’Day dialed in and picked up a crucial strikeout. He later finished off the nightmare inning two batters later by getting Dansby Swanson to fly out to right field.
The O’s were fortunate enough to survive the bottom of the ninth and force extra innings but there was a lot of baseball left to be played before the wild ride ended. It didn’t help that both offenses failed to keep their momentum going after scoring a combined ten runs in the ninth. Through the next five innings the Braves only managed to pick up three hits and the O’s only reached base once via walk.
The Orioles finally broke through in the 15th. Craig Gentry led off the inning and reached base after being hit by a pitch. Two at-bats later, Machado put the O’s back on top with a two-run homer down the left field line. Just like the ninth, the Orioles added an insurance run after taking the lead as Colby Rasmus picked up a hit and later came around to score on an RBI single by Schoop.
The O’s bullpen was locked in through all six extra innings. Miguel Castro pitched three hitless innings and Mike Wright finished off the game with two strong innings to earn his first win of the season.
Game 2 (7-5 BAL): It’s difficult to turn around and play the next day after going through a game like Friday night’s series opener. The important thing is the Orioles walked away with a win, but it took over five hours to get it with the final out being recorded around 1:00 am on Saturday.
The quick turnaround didn’t have an effect on the Orioles lineup. In the first inning, the top of the lineup loaded the bases very quickly for Mark Trumbo. The O’s cleanup hitter fell behind in the count but still managed to blast a grand slam to center field and put the Orioles up 4-0 right away.
The Braves got one back in the bottom half of the inning but Dylan Bundy held the Atlanta lineup down for most of his 6.1 innings of work. A second run was manufactured by the Braves in the fifth, but the O’s offense had already scored three more in the top half of the inning, so the score remained comfortable in Baltimore’s favor.
Atlanta did manage to make it a closer game after Bundy exited. Most of the reliable bullpen arms had already been used the night before so Donnie Hart was called upon to pick up where Bundy left off. Hart was making just his seventh relief appearance of the season and couldn’t quite get into a rhythm. The Braves loaded the bases and then Markakis brought two home with an RBI double to make it 7-4 game. Buck Showalter was quick to pull Hart and replace him with Mychal Givens who finished off the inning with just nine pitches.
Givens and Britton combined to close out the final two innings. Britton’s ninth inning appearance was strange considering how bad he performed with a bigger lead the night before. However, Britton rebounded and earned his first save since Sept. 17 of last year.
Game 3 (7-3 ATL): The Orioles had already secured a rare road series win but a sweep was still on the table Sunday afternoon. David Hess got the start for the Orioles and turned in another rough outing. It marked the third straight start where Hess gave up five runs in less than five innings of work.
It started right away in the first inning when Freddie Freeman drove in two runs with an RBI single. The next three came in the third inning on a pair of doubles by Markakis and Charlie Culberson. Markakis had a great series against his former team by going 6-for-14 at the plate with four doubles and five RBI.
Trumbo also had a standout weekend despite not being in the starting lineup on Sunday. Buck Showalter still found a way to get Trumbo’s bat into the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth and the right fielder came up big with a two-run homer to make it a 5-3 game. It marked Trumbo’s fifth home run in the last seven games and gave him his sixth RBI of the series.
That would be the end of the afternoon for the Orioles offense as they only picked up one hit through the final four innings. The Braves padded their lead in the eighth with a two-run homer by Swanson and went on to close out a 7-3 win. By salvaging a win on Sunday, the Braves avoided what could have been just their second sweep of the season.
Up next: The Orioles will return home this week to open up a seven-game home stand against two west coast teams. It starts with a four game set against Seattle and then a weekend series against the Angels will follow.
Image credit: Daniel Shirey / Getty Images