Saturday night got weird at Camden Yards.
By the 11th inning, the Orioles had used six pitchers, had catcher Bryan Holaday playing first base, Rio Ruiz - who had never played the outfield - in left field and had already executed Major League Baseball's first ever inning-starting double play.
And then Pat Valaika, who had just 10 at-bats entering Saturday's game, hit a single to right field to give the Orioles a 5-4 win, as well as a series win, over the Rays. They're now 4-3 on the season.
"It was exciting," starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc said. "I can say that because we came out on top, but I think I would feel the same way even if it went the other direction. Me, personally, anything that can keep a game from going 19 innings, I'm all for it."
The Orioles, of course, had to celebrate Valaika's hit in a bit of unique fashion with social distancing protocols in place throughout the league.
Instead of a water-cooler shower and hugs and high-fives all around Valaika, the Orioles ran onto the field and chased him around - socially distanced, of course - and pumped their arms in the air, all running around the infield.
We can't stop watching this. pic.twitter.com/VSQScecIKH— Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) August 2, 2020
Walkoff celebrations in 2020 🙌 pic.twitter.com/TTwkYIVrdt— Baltimore Orioles 😷 (@Orioles) August 2, 2020
It was just another weird storyline in the 2020 season. Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game:
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Extra Inning Madness
The Orioles' extra inning win was, for obvious reasons, wild.
It was the team's, and manager Brandon Hyde's, first time with the new extra inning rule that allows for a runner on second base to start the 10th inning. The Orioles promptly followed that up with a double play, the first to start an inning in major league history.
"I've never done it before," Hyde said of the extra inning rule. "I'm glad to get that one under my belt. It's definitely different, but I did enjoy it. There's a lot that goes into it. I'm glad we came out with a win. It makes it exciting for sure, it's exciting for the fans, it's pretty nerve-wracking in the dugout. But we got two double plays out of it defensively."
Hyde added that he thought teams could be more aggressive in extra innings, specifically teams that are on the road. That aggressiveness, however, led to a double play at the start of the 10th, which put the Orioles in the record book.
"So, make sure we write that down," Hyde said with a big smile.'
Bullpen slowly settling in? Not quite, just yet
The Orioles' bullpen is still in a bit of a flux, especially considering the midnight trade of Richard Bleier after Friday's win over the Rays.
Evan Phillips relieved LeBlanc and pitched one of his better outings as a pro. He went 1 ⅔ innings, allowed one hit and struck out two with zero walks. It was a sign of life from the Orioles' bullpen.
But what followed wasn't very inspiring.
Shawn Armstrong committed a throwing error to second base, which put runners on first and second with no out. He allowed a hit, two runs and a walk as the Rays cut the lead to 4-2 in the eighth inning. Armstrong left with the bases loaded. Miguel Castro followed, but the Rays tied the score.
The bullpen held from there, as they worked through the Rays lineup without fail through the rest of the night. It was the third night in the row the bullpen had to work five or more innings.
Still, despite the rough eighth inning, there were still some bright spots for the Orioles in the bullpen, which is still taking shape.
"Bullpen is really fresh, just let the Rays know it's super fresh for tomorrow," Hyde quipped. "I think we're OK. We've got a couple guys that can give us some length (on Sunday) with Eshelman here and Hess here."
What does the future hold past Sunday?
Well, no one really knows.
The Orioles are set to host the Rays once more on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards, where they'll go for a series sweep over their division rivals. Aside from that, the Orioles' future is now very much in the air.
They'll have Monday off before the Marlins come to Camden Yards for four games scheduled in three days from Tuesday through Thursday. And, to the shock of no one, they'll have another obstacle to work through. Rain is in the forecast on Tuesday, which could even further complicate the schedule general manager Mike Elias said is "on wheels."
Not only that, reports surfaced that the season could shut down by Monday, if the league doesn't have a grip on coronavirus by then. MLB has already postponed the Cardinals-Brewers doubleheader, which was scheduled for Sunday.
ESPN's Jeff Passan said the Cardinals were, "the most important team in baseball right now," as it related to the future of the major league season. If numbers continue to go up, the season could be in peril.
If numbers go down, they'll likely be able to play on.
While the Cardinals don't affect the Orioles directly, they could hold the key to the Orioles playing baseball games next week.
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MORE ORIOLES NEWS:
- GM Mike Elias: 'This week has been a scare'
- Marlins: Failed to follow protocol
- Means to an end: Pitcher shows improved stuff
WATCH: Orioles win in extra innings, celebrate social distance style originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington