The Mariners honored King Félix on Saturday. The Orioles showed a new reign has begun.
After Seattle inducted Félix Hernández into their hall of fame, Baltimore beat the Mariners, 1-0, in 10 innings, with Ryan Mountcastle singling in automatic runner Cedric Mullins in the top half of the extra frame before closer Félix Bautista stranded Seattle’s free runner in the bottom half with three strikeouts in his second inning.
It marked the fourth time manager Brandon Hyde has tasked his All-Star reliever with pitching both the ninth and 10th innings. In those appearances, Bautista has pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing four base runners with 15 strikeouts. He has retired all 12 batters he has faced in those 10th innings with nine strikeouts.
“What he’s done this entire season is unbelievable,” Hyde said. “There’s no other closers that are doing that.”
Mariners fans booed when Bautista entered for the bottom of the ninth; although his 6-foot-8 stature has earned him the nickname “The Mountain,” Bautista’s performance has drawn a repeat of the royal moniker bestowed upon Hernández, the 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner. Hernández spent 2021 spring training with the Orioles, but a right elbow injury ended his career, which meant all of his regular-season outings came with Seattle.
Orioles starter Cole Irvin, who pitched five scoreless innings in his first start in more than a month, grew up in southern California and often watched Hernández face the Los Angeles Angels in AL West matchups, saying he wanted to honor Hernández on Saturday by throwing a good changeup. He might enjoy watching Bautista pitch more.
“Our Felix has been incredible,” Irvin said. “Night in, night out, you can rely on him to close out a game.”
Dominant throughout the season, Bautista wavered in the Orioles’ series loss to Houston, blowing a three-run lead by giving up a grand slam in the series opener and hanging on for a sweep-avoiding victory in the finale. In ending the Mariners’ eight-game winning streak Saturday, he got back to his typical self, leaving him with a 1.60 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings.
Bautista’s outing finished off an impressive pitching night from both teams. Mountcastle’s go-ahead knock was his second hit of the night, giving him half of Baltimore’s total. The Orioles (72-45) failed to get in a runner in scoring position in second-year Seattle starter George Kirby’s first eight innings. They finally managed one in the ninth when Jordan Westburg singled and stole second, but Kirby retired the next two batters, spiking the ball after catching Mullins’ foul popup to end the inning and close an outing Hyde called “the best-pitched game against us all season.”
Mullins began the top of the 10th at second base after a scoreless bottom of the ninth from Bautista, a 13-pitch frame that ended on a caught stealing overturned on video review. Mullins stole third off Seattle’s Andrés Muñoz and scored on Mountcastle’s single up the middle. Mountcastle’s second-inning single gave him 19 straight games on base, a season high for the Orioles.
The entrant into Baltimore’s rotation when it expanded to six, Irvin has endured a season of fluctuation. Acquired from the Oakland Athletics this offseason for infield prospect Darell Hernaiz, he opened the year as Baltimore’s third starter but was optioned to Triple-A after three starts. He has since had three separate stints in the Orioles’ bullpen interspersed with another return to the minors and, now, six major league starts in which he posted a 2.20 ERA.
“He’s been such a team guy,” Hyde said Friday. “He’s really genuine. He just wants to do anything he can to help the club, and that’s a common phrase, but that’s true when he says it, honestly. He wants to be up here, whether it’s middle relief, whether I use him in the seventh to the eighth inning like I did a few nights ago, or start. He wants to do anything he can to contribute.”
Added Irvin: “It’s been a lot of ups and downs. But smooth seas didn’t make a skillful sailor.”
With Oakland, Irvin was an average but dependable starter the past two years, making at least 30 starts and pitching about 180 innings both seasons. Saturday’s start left him with 53 frames with Baltimore this year, but with many of the Orioles’ young starters approaching or surpassing their career highs for innings, Irvin’s return to an expanded rotation affords them more rest.
Working on a limited pitch count in his first start since holding the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins to one run in 6 1/3 innings July 7, Irvin pounded the zone, a trait he was known for with Oakland. He threw a first-pitch strike to the first 10 Mariners, retiring nine of them.
A strenuous fourth inning upped his pitch count, but a quick fifth left Irvin at 67, more than he threw in his previous three appearances in August combined, with Hyde describing the outing as “best-case scenario.” He finished 16-for-18 on first-pitch strikes.
The outing was by far the most effective of his career against the Mariners, as he entered 0-6 with an 8.42 ERA in six career appearances facing Seattle. Like Bautista, he was not popular with the sold-out crowd at T-Mobile Park, having said after a 2021 start against Seattle, “A team like that should not be putting up 10 hits against me or anyone.”
The Mariners managed only two hits off Irvin on Saturday, and although they put runners on in the sixth, seventh and eighth, they entered the ninth 0-for-7 for runners in scoring position. With a runner placed there automatically in the 10th, Bautista pushed them to 0-for-10.
With the victory, the Orioles’ lead in the AL East remained at two games. They also guaranteed themselves a 77th straight multi-game series without being swept, extending the longest streak in the majors since 1944.
“It is crazy,” said Mountcastle, a superstitious player who grimaced when asked about the streak. “We’re a good team, and that’s just what happens with being good.”
Around the horn
- In his second start since being optioned to Double-A Bowie, right-hander Tyler Wells allowed a run in 3 1/3 innings, matching his line from his first outing. Wells, who threw 60 pitches Saturday, is throwing shorter outings with more rest between after struggling in three second-half starts for Baltimore. His 120 1/3 innings between the majors and minors are a career high.
- After going 1-for-4 as Triple-A Norfolk’s designated hitter Friday, Aaron Hicks (left hamstring strain) went 0-for-4 and played right field for the Tides in the second game of his rehabilitation assignment. In the fifth outing of his latest rehab assignment, right-handed reliever Mychal Givens (right shoulder inflammation) gave up three runs while recording one out, his second straight appearance surrendering three runs.
Orioles at Mariners
Sunday, 4:10 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM