Back to Winning Ways (Red Sox-Orioles; 09.30.23)

Elliott Brown/ALOST


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

BALTIMORE — It has now been over a month that the Baltimore Orioles lost their All-Star closer, Félix Bautista, who arguably was the most important piece of the team’s magical run to a division title. They have gotten used to winning despite his absence, and with the announcement that any hope of his return during this postseason is completely gone, the team can focus on winning for their injured teammate, much like they did on Saturday night.

Ryan Mountcastle drove in the first run of the game in the seventh inning with a run-scoring double as the Orioles scored five runs during their last two turns at-bat in their 5-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Saturday evening. Kyle Gibson pitched five shutout innings while striking out four in his last start of the regular season, a showcase that announces him ready to take on whatever role that is needed for the American League East division champions, whether as a start or in relief.

Before the start of the game, Orioles general manager Mike Elias announced before today’s game that Bautista, who partially tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on August 23, will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2023 and likely forcing him to miss the entire 2024 season as well. There was hope that Bautista might come back this season, especially when he threw a couple of bullpen sessions and had a simulated practice against live hitting a few days ago, but the front office decided against putting a compromised Bautista in high-leverage situations in the postseason after the time away and the injury sustained, and thinking of the longterm instead.

While most feared the worst about the team after losing Bautista, who ws leading the American League in saves (33) and strikeouts as a reliever at the time of his injury, the Orioles have now gone 21-12 since he went down, and tonight gave another chance for the bullpen to show its stuff in a tight late-game situation. The three relievers who took the mound after Gibson — Bruce Zimmerman, former starer Jack Flaherty and Jacob Webb — each allowed at least two hits, with Flaherty giving up a run in the eighth inning that reduced Baltimore’s lead to 2-1. Flaherty did come back to strike out Ceddanne Rafaela with the tying run at third to end the inning, and the Orioles tacked on three runs in the bottom of the frame to pad their lead.

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