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Phillip Peters/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BALTIMORE — The fires put out by Baltimore Orioles relievers Cionel Pérez and Félix Bautista to close out Friday’s win were nothing too different than the stellar relief work they’ve produced all season. Performing in their new roles for the first time after one of the bullpen’s mainstays — and a 2022 MLB All-Star — was traded before the trade deadline earlier this week, the intensity of the heat upon the firemen tonight was a few degrees higher.

The high-powered bullpen tandem, now setup man and closer respectively after the trade of former closer Jorge López, shut the door on a 1-0 victory by the Orioles over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Camden Yards on Friday night. Dean Kramer started off Baltimore’s latest pitching gem by going 6 1/3 scoreless innings, while Ramón Urías’ RBI single in the sixth held up as the game-winning hit.

In trying to maintain its intentions for going for an improbable Wild Card spot while continuing its long-standing rebuilding project, Baltimore traded López to Minnesota on Tuesday in a move that, along with the trade of fan-favorite Trey Mancini to Houston, threatened to disrupt the feel-good dynamic the O’s have generated in their surprisingly good season. López’s transformation from below-average starter to All-Star closer was a key cog in the Orioles fielding one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, with their combined 3.04 ERA ranked third in the Majors.

Pérez and Bautista played just as much of a rule in the back end’s success as any others, and were the main reasons Baltimore was comfortable in unloading López. Tonight, in his new role as set-up man, Pérez came on after Ke’Bryan Hayes reached second on a one-out double off of Kramer. Pérez was able to strike out dynamic rookie Oneil Cruz, and after Hayes stole third base, induced a ground out from Kevin Newman to preserve the lead. A two-out single allowed by Pérez was his one blemish in that inning, but he struck out Tucupita Marcano to end the inning.

Then Bautista, who came into the game with three saves on the season, had his first turn as the newly-anointed closer, and that turn became a rocky one after he allowed a single to Ben Gamel and walked Hayes with one out. Bautista then showed the form that saw his average 12 strikeouts per nine innings this season, getting striking out Cruz swinging and Newman looking to complete the Orioles’ 10th shutout of the season.

Then Bautista, who came into the game with three saves on the season, had his first turn as the newly-anointed closer, and that turn became a rocky one after he allowed a single to Ben Gamel and walked Hayes with one out. Bautista then showed the form that saw his average 12 strikeouts per nine innings this season, getting striking out Cruz swinging and Newman looking to complete the Orioles’ 10th shutout of the season.

Not bad for a bullpen that was ranked dead last in 2021. Now one of the league’s best, the bullpen must continue to keep its stellar form, in a push for a playoff spot, without the closer who had helped get the staff to this point.

“They’re going to have to get both sides of the plate out now a little bit more,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “ … All those types of guys are going to have to step it up a little bit and take on a little bit bigger roles than they’ve taken on.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s contest, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Phillip Peters. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 27 pictures in total.

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Tags : Baltimore OriolesCionel PerezFélix BautistaMLBPittsburgh Pirates

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