On the eve of October, the standing-room-only crowd at Camden Yards on Saturday night gave a glimpse of what this ballpark could look like — and sound like — in the very near future.
They rooted on relish in the condiment race. They praised right-hander Kyle Gibson for navigating traffic throughout his five scoreless innings. They begged for offense and erupted when it came in the form of Ryan Mountcastle’s run-scoring double with two outs in the seventh inning.
In the end, the energy from the 43,150 fans — the fourth-largest home crowd for an Orioles game this season — was enough to prod Baltimore to a 5-2 victory against the Boston Red Sox in the penultimate game of the year.
“It was loud. They were into it. It was great to see the ovation for our guys pregame and when the game started,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Our players deserve it.”
The Orioles have already accomplished all there is to achieve in the regular season. They secured a playoff berth for the first time since 2016 and then wrapped up an American League East championship on Thursday for the first time since 2014. Saturday, then, was for the joy of the game, and as Orioles chants broke out each half inning, that joy was evident.
With the victory, the Orioles (101-60) won the season series against each of their AL East foes for the first time since 2014. And the 101 wins are the franchise’s most since 1979.
“It’s rare,” said Gibson, who also helped the Minnesota Twins win 101 games in 2019. “It doesn’t happen that often. Maybe two teams a year sometimes, so it’s special for these young guys to experience it early on and know the work that goes into it.”
The second run Baltimore scratched across in the seventh allowed for another burst of screams. Heston Kjerstad drove a sharply hit ground ball up the middle, and while second baseman Pablo Reyes reached it, the ball squirted out of his grasp and Mountcastle scored from second.
Gunnar Henderson, on the day he earned the Most Valuable Oriole award, added more offense in the eighth when he drove his 66th extra-base hit of the year — breaking Cal Ripken Jr.’s Orioles rookie record. That set up an inning in which Baltimore added three insurance runs, with Anthony Santander’s two-run single the major swing.
On the whole, there has been a hangover effect — perhaps literally — for the offense since Thursday’s clinch celebration. Baltimore went scoreless in a loss Friday and was held without a run through six innings Saturday.
Still, the runs came at last to carry the Orioles over the Red Sox, even as Boston harried Gibson during his final start of the regular season. Gibson allowed seven hits and one walk but stranded them all in his five frames. He took a comebacker off the right calf, stayed in to finish the fifth and then was replaced by left-hander Bruce Zimmermann.
“Adley [Rutschman] and I had a good plan, just working together and trying to keep on a good roll,” Gibson said. “For the most part, felt like I’ve executed pitches a lot better in September. Just tried to do that again tonight.”
Zimmermann, who was recalled Saturday when right-hander Jorge López was designated for assignment, completed two scoreless innings. And right-hander Jack Flaherty, a starter acquired at the trade deadline who has since transitioned to the bullpen, allowed a two-out RBI single from Trevor Story in the top of the eighth.
Flaherty went on to strand runners on the corners, avoiding a major breakdown from a pitching staff that had largely handled Boston. And, with the late offensive breakthroughs, a packed house on the cusp of October roared its approval.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” Mountcastle said. “Great energy. Packed crowd. Super excited to see that in October, too.”