It’s happening, people. It’s all happening.
The unstoppable Orioles extended their winning streak to nine straight games, and completed their miraculous climb back to the .500 mark, with a 4-2 victory over the Cubs to open a two-game interleague series at Wrigley Field. Jordan Lyles gutted out a stellar seven-inning performance, Ramon Urías crushed a go-ahead two-run homer that nearly cleared the bleachers, and the shutdown bullpen locked things down in front of a huge contingent of Orioles fans at the Friendly Confines.
Holy smokes, this is fun.
There’s a whole generation of O’s fans who have never seen the team on a hotter tear. The Orioles’ nine-game streak is their longest in 23 years. Party like it’s 1999, indeed.
And the .500 mark! My stars, never has a perfectly average record been a more welcome surprise. The last time the Orioles had a .500 record was in April 2021, when they were 4-4. It’s been five years since they reached the mark this late into a season. In recent seasons, even sniffing a .500 record was completely beyond the realm of imagination. Or, as our Mark Brown noted on Twitter:
The Orioles are now 44-44.
The 2021 Orioles were 44-93.
— Camden Chat (@CamdenChat) July 13, 2022
I don’t know how long this is going to last, or what the rest of the 2022 season will bring. But let’s enjoy every minute of it.
Everything is coming up Orioles these days. Lyles, for his second straight start, didn’t seem to have his best stuff but admirably battled through it. Ian Happ got the scoring started for the Cubs with a solo home run in the first inning, and they tallied another in the second when Nico Hoerner doubled, stole third base on a snoozing Lyles, and scored on an Alfonso Rivas single past the drawn-in infield. For the second consecutive game, the Orioles found themselves in a 2-0 hole before their bats came alive.
But fret not: come alive they did. Journeyman righty Adrian Sampson, after starting the game with two scoreless innings, ran into trouble in the third. With one out, Cedric Mullins singled and advanced to second when Sampson apparently balked. I don’t know what made it a balk, exactly…but I never do, unless the pitcher literally falls over while in his windup. Anyway, Mullins scored on an Anthony Santander single with two outs.
Manufacturing runs is nice and all, but sometimes it’s nice to just crush a ball to smithereens. That’s precisely what Urías did in the fourth when he walloped a 417-foot blast into the last row of the Wrigley Field bleachers with a man aboard. With one mighty swing, the Orioles’ 2-1 deficit turned into a 3-2 lead.
Staked to a lead for the first time, Lyles held the line, though it wasn’t easy. The Cubs put a runner in scoring position in both the third and fourth innings before Lyles left both stranded. David Bote began the fifth with a single, only to be erased on a sharply hit double play grounder to second.
Lyles’ most impressive escape came in the sixth. With one out, Seiya Suzuki chopped a slow roller to third. The third baseman Urías should have just put the ball in his pocket with the speedy Suzuki running, but he forced an off-balance throw to first that sailed wildly, giving Seiya second base. Lyles again forgot to check the runner at second, allowing Suzuki to easily steal third base. (Poor Adley Rutschman has caught just two of 15 attempted base stealers in the bigs, but Lyles gave him no chance on the Cubs’ two steals today.) A Patrick Wisdom walk put runners at the corners with one down, but in a big spot, Urías redeemed himself for his earlier error by spearing a Hoerner line drive and stepping on third base to double off Suzuki. Inning over, with the Orioles still clinging to a 3-2 advantage.
Quick as a wink, they boosted that lead. Jorge Mateo led off the seventh with a booming home run off reliever Brandon Hughes, a 393-foot blast. For a guy who can’t really hit, Mateo sure can give one a ride every once in a while.
Surprisingly — to me, at least — Lyles returned to the mound in the seventh, even though he’d thrown 89 pitches and had allowed several hard-hit balls. Proving once again that I know absolutely nothing, Lyles worked a brilliant inning, his best of the night. He retired the Cubs 1-2-3 for the first time, starting and ending the inning with strikeouts.
Goodness, what an impressive showing from Lyles. The noted innings-eater chomped up seven of them today, the fourth time this year he’s worked seven or more frames. He gave up seven hits but limited the Cubs to two runs, striking out five. You couldn’t ask for more out of Lyles than what he’s delivered to the Orioles this season. He’s been worth every bit of the $7 million contract he signed that I initially thought was an overpay. (As I said, I know absolutely nothing.)
Weirdly, Lyles didn’t earn a win in any of his three previous seven-plus inning starts. Would that change tonight? You bet! The Orioles’ bullpen, which was leaned on heavily during the Orioles’ seven-game homestand, came out firing after a much-needed day off on Monday. Cionel Pérez made quick work of the Cubs in the eighth, tossing just nine pitches to induce a groundout, flyout, and lineout. And newly minted All-Star Jorge López, making his first appearance since his selection to the team, proved once again why he belongs. He overpowered Chicago hitters in a perfect ninth inning, sealing the Orioles’ ninth straight win to the delight of the many O’s fans in the Wrigley crowd.
The Orioles are officially a .500 team again. Now let’s find out how much higher they can fly.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Tuesday, July 12?
Jordan Lyles (7 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, win)
Jorge Mateo (2-for-4, insurance HR)
Ramon Urías (3-for-4, go-ahead two-run HR)
516 votes total