Shintaro Fujinami hadn’t been trusted to launch high leverage situations for over two weeks.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde had no choice Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
After using six arms out of his bullpen that lost two late leads, Hyde was forced to call on the volatile reliever with a one-point advantage. in the 10th inning, as Stars Félix Bautista and Yennier Cano were unavailable – the former due to injury, the latter due to workload.
The Japanese right-hander blocked the auto-runner, striking out Nolan Schanuel to end the game and give Baltimore a 5-4 win.
“Our man, Fuji. That’s what we’re looking for here,” Hyde said. “Hopefully that can get him a little bit ahead, because it was amazing to pitch there in the 10th inning.”
Fujinami, acquired from the Oakland Athletics in July, was lucky enough to register his second save of the season thanks to Jordan Westburg, whose RBI groundout tagged zombie runner Austin Hays in the first half of the 10th.
An inning earlier, hitters Adam Frazier and Ryan O’Hearn teamed up to tie the game with a one-out double and an RBI single, respectively. Ryan Mountcastle’s single in the ninth (one for which second baseman Brandon Drury didn’t even move) was erased in the bottom half when Mickey Moniak tied the game and sent it to the extras with a single against DL Hall, who was one strike away from his second career save.
It’s the Orioles’ fourth straight win and 44th in comeback mode from behind this season, maintaining a 3 1/2 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the best record in the American League. It’s their first victory this year in which they trailed in the ninth inning on 42 tries.
After going 18-9 in August, Baltimore is 4-1 to enter a critical September that will determine whether it can win the AL East for the first time since 2014. At 87-51, the Orioles are on course to win 102 games for the first time since 1979.
“It was funny. I don’t think anyone cares about the month,” O’Hearn said. “You try not to focus on how many games are left or what the Rays are doing or what others do. We only focus on ourselves.
Fujinami’s first pitch was far from the strike zone – an insignificant setback for most pitchers, but sometimes a sign of more erratic deals to come for Fujinami. But he only needed nine more pitches, eight of which were hits, to strike out the three left-handed hitters he faced in order.
“Every time he comes out and makes it a good or a clean, it definitely builds confidence for him and for us as well,” said starter Dean Kremer, who pitched 4 2/3 innings scoreless.
He grounded Eduardo Escobar on a 98.7 mph fastball, threw four consecutive 100 mph heat-ups before pulling Trey Cabbage out on a 99.9 mph fastball, then retired Schanuel on three pitches, slamming the door with a 93.8 mph splitter below the zone.
“He’s got electric stuff,” O’Hearn said. “He has the stuff and the ability to be an important element for us down the stretch. I think tonight only gave him some confidence. We need Fuji to be bad, and he was tonight. And it was great.
“The stuff is there,” Hyde said. “He throws 101 [mph], and this last split, the punchout to end the game, it’s not normal. It’s the next level.
The 29-year-old had to stand out though, as the other members of the bullpen didn’t. Since Bautista’s injury on Aug. 25, the Orioles relievers have been doing just fine, posting the fifth-best bullpen ERA in the majors at 3.03 on Tuesday.
However, replacing a closer – as dominant as Bautista, no less – is never easy. It’s not just the ninth inning that’s affected, but rather the entire bullpen, adding even more stress and pushing the relievers into unfamiliar situations.
After Cionel Pérez pitched a scoreless inning to follow Kremer, the next four relievers combined to allow four runs, giving up a 2-0 lead in the seventh and a 4-3 advantage in the ninth. Jorge López, the club’s newest addition, won the final in the sixth but allowed two runs in the seventh – the first by himself on a Drury double, the second by Danny Coulombe on a Mike Moustakas single.
Former Angel Jacob Webb then gave a single to Cabbage in the eighth before Hall explodes, save the next round.
“Our bullpen, we’re going to have nights where we’re not perfect,” Hyde said.
But Fujinami was there in the 10th to pick up the pieces.
“It’s obviously very difficult not to have Bautista right now, but everyone is stepping up and doing our job,” Fujinami said through interpreter Issei Kamada.
“Obviously we also have Cano and other guys. Everyone is a good pitcher, but today I pitched in the 10th inning, a stoppage situation. If I have to throw, I will do my job, but everyone can do the same job.
A few hours before Fujinami arrives in the extras, Jorge Mateo’s speed sparked the Orioles’ third inning two-run. Starting at shortstop with left-hander Reid Detmers on the mound for the Angels (64-75), Mateo hit a one-out single, stole second with ease for his 27th shot of the season and sprinted to home on Adley Rutschman’s single for the match. first run. Mountcastle then hit Rutschman on a single to double the Orioles advantage.
Kremer wasn’t as sharp as he has been recently, ending his streak of quality starts at four against an Angels roster without injured stars Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout. He scattered four hits and three walks — only the fourth time he’s given three or more free passes in 28 starts — while striking out five to lower his ERA to 4.07.
With a left-hander starting for Los Angeles, O’Hearn and Frazier spent most of the game in the batting cage preparing for potential hitting opportunities against right-handed relievers. It wasn’t the first time this season they had come off the bench to contribute, and O’Hearn said they were preparing as if it wouldn’t be the last either.
“We care a lot about it,” he said. “We want to win. We want to win the division. We love ourselves. We play for each other. We trust each other. It’s not just me there training and trying to prepare for every round. It’s all the guys on the bench, the four guys on the bench there, getting ready to hit to potentially impact the game.
around the horn
- Right-hander Austin Voth cleared the waivers and accepted his assignment to Triple-A Norfolk, the Orioles said. Voth was slated for a mission on Sunday to make room on the 28-man roster for Jorge López. Voth has a 5.19 ERA in 34 2/3 innings out of the Baltimore bullpen this season after excelling in 2022 as a starter.
- Logan Gillaspie, a right-hander the Orioles named on Saturday to make room for López on the 40-man roster, was claimed off waivers Monday by the Boston Red Sox. Gillaspie had a 6.00 ERA in nine innings as a reliever who often shuttled from Norfolk to Baltimore.
- Tyler Wells pitched Tuesday for the first time since Aug. 25. In relief for the Tides, the right-hander allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning, allowing one hit and walking two. He averaged 94.8 mph on his fastball – hitting 95.7 mph – for a speed closer to what he had as a reliever in 2021.
- Jackson Holliday made his Triple-A debut on Tuesday. The 19-year-old went 1-for-4 with a double, a run and a walk in the 9-4 loss to the Tides. Norfolk’s roster included Orioles No. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 11 prospects in Holliday, Colton Cowser, Coby Mayo, Heston Kjerstad and Connor Norby.
Orioles at the Angels
Wednesday, 9:38 p.m.
Radio: 97.9FM, 101.5FM, 1090AM