Trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning Wednesday against Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels, the Baltimore Orioles appeared to be in an unlikely position to snap their 19-game losing streak.
“There was tension in our dugout. There was pressure,” Baltimore Manager Brandon Hyde said afterward. “Everybody was on the top step. Our guys just really wanted this one. We’re tired of hearing, tired of seeing it on TV. Everybody’s tired of it.”
Baltimore had gotten uncomfortably close to an unhappy American League record the franchise set with 21 consecutive losses to open the season in 1988. The MLB record is 26 straight, by the 1889 Louisville Colonels. In baseball’s post-1900 modern era, the longest losing streak was recorded by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 23 consecutive games.
On Wednesday, the Orioles had an uphill climb to avoid joining (per mlb.com) the 1906 Boston Americans, the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, 1943 Philadelphia Athletics and the 1969 Montreal Expos as losers of 20 straight. Not only were they riding a wave of failure in which they had been outscored 163-55, but in Ohtani, Baltimore was facing a pitcher who had notched a 1.58 ERA in his past six starts and had a 2.79 ERA for the season. Oh, and Ohtani came into the game leading the majors with 40 home runs.
Baltimore tagged the Japanese sensation, though, with two runs in the first and then two more in the fourth. Ohtani was lifted from the game after striking out in the top of the sixth, and after Baltimore scored a run in the seventh, it erupted against the Angels’ bullpen with five runs in the eighth. The Orioles took a 7-6 lead when Ramón Urías and Kelvin Gutierrez drew bases-loaded walks, and then pinch hitter Austin Hays smacked a two-run double.
Shaking and crying a little. pic.twitter.com/bf1HQX8Z4v— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 26, 2021
As it turned out, what ailed the Orioles during their skid simply required some herbal medication. At least that’s what those so inclined might infer from the fact, learned after Wednesday’s win, that Baltimore’s Trey Mancini burned sage before the game at Camden Yards to create a different atmosphere.
3:45 PM - @TreyMancini and @AustinWynns cleanse the dugout energy with sage.— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 26, 2021
10:26 PM - O’s extend the winning streak to one.
Hyde said that when he encountered the odor, he wondered at first whether one of his players was smoking an odd form of cigarette. Following the long-awaited victory — and in the grand tradition of baseball superstition — the manager ordered, “Sage tomorrow.”
For his part, Mancini was eager to give some credit to the fans at the park.
“They were great, start to finish. … We are so thankful they are still so supportive of us,” said the 29-year-old, who first reached the majors with Baltimore in 2016.
Orioles reliever Tanner Scott (5-4) got the win after recording the final two outs of the eighth inning. Chris Ellis started the game for Baltimore and pitched into the fourth, giving up three earned runs. After he allowed a home run to Jared Walsh, Ellis was replaced by Marcos Diplán, who allowed three more runs on a homer by the Angels’ Brandon Marsh.
Earlier in the game, Baltimore center fielder Cedric Mullins greeted Ohtani by homering on his first pitch. Three batters later, right fielder Anthony Santander also took Ohtani deep, as did left fielder DJ Stewart in the fourth.
Angels reliever Jake Petricka (0-1) got the loss and was also charged with a blown save. Ohtani struck out three times and grounded out in his four at-bats.
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