The no-hitter warning was in early effect against the Rays tonight. Of course, considering Cobb’s struggles this year, even the most die-hard Oriole fan would not have suspected that Cobb would go the distance against even a team like the Royals. Still, it’s always disconcerting to check into the game after three innings and see a big ol’ goose egg in the “hits” column. That box score did deceive, as a couple hard hit Rays balls found their ways into the mitts of O’s fielders. But still.
Opener Hunter Wood pitched fine in his inning of work, eventually ceding control of the game to Ryan Yarbrough. Yarbrough got himself out of the little jam that Wood created, keeping the game scoreless.
Mallex Smith drew a walk in the third (no more perfecto!) but was caught stealing on the first pitch to Kevin Kiermaier. As it turned out, this would be a good thing for the Rays. In the fourth inning, the jilted Kevin Kiermaier laced a hard-hit double to center field. 5 WAR Jake Bauers drove him in on a single a couple of batters later. 6 WAR Ji-Man Choi brought Baby Bauers home to make the score 2-0. This wouldn’t be the last exciting thing Choi would do tonight. He would singlehandedly be the catalyst for a complete overhaul of the replay system in Major League Baseball, with Manfred enacting the so-called “Choi Rule” a mere two hours later.
...that is what happened, right?
Let’s play a quick game. Picture yourself in the body of this man:
Maybe you’ve got a kid, or even a large adult son. You take them to the ballgame, and all of a sudden it’s finally happening: a home run ball is heading your way. You can finally bring a treasure home to your child, who has been wanting something like this their entire li-OH NO WHAT IS HAPPENING
The ball goes straight through your hands, smacking you and bouncing back into the field of play. You hope that no one saw it, but of course everyone did because it is being broadcast on live national television. You shrink back to your seat, furious that you missed your home run ball.
Turns out this guy was nearly the MVP of the game for the Orioles. By missing the ball so badly, it made it look like the ball never once touched him. Although you can clearly see the baseball slip between his hands (placing it outside the field of play), his mega-whiff was so precise and so uncoordinated that umpires in New York thought that this ball never touched anyone outside the field of play, bouncing off the top of the wall for a ground rule double. In essence, this man was the best fielder in the game tonight: he turned a four-base play into a mere two-base one. As a result, Baseball Reference credited him with 1.5 DRS, immediately placing him (checks notes) in 4th place on the 2018 Baltimore Orioles squad.
Look, Choi eventually made it home on a Hechavarria single, but that’s not my point. The Rays would score another run on an error but again, that is still not the point. The point is: come to 2018 Orioles games, and you just might be a part of the action.
Jonathan Schoop had tied the game up on a two-run blast, but the two-run seventh allowed the Rays to take the lead and hold onto it. Chris Davis (no, not Khris Davis) hit a monster of a blast off of Sergio Romo in the eighth inning to close the deficit to one run, but that was all she wrote. Austin Pruitt entered and collected four outs (three by the strikeout) to save the game. Rays win 4-3 on a game that maybe shouldn’t have been as close as it was. But once again, I’m not complaining.