The thought of a moral baseball victory offers little solace to the losing club, but there is still something to take away from the Orioles’ loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night. Baltimore had faced a five-point deficit and came back to tie the game, the kind of effort that could be wasted on some losing teams.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the plate and an automatic runner second in the 10th inning, the task ahead of right-hander Félix Bautista was big. It proved too great, in the end, with Guerrero’s single into left field on Bautista’s second offering sealing the Blue Jays’ 7-6 win.
With the first base open, manager Brandon Hyde considered the possibility of walking Guerrero. But Bautista is not a ground ball thrower, which reduces the possibility of a double play ball. And there are no leftovers after Guerrero, with Alejandro Kirk and Teoscar Hernández who will be next.
So Hyde played with Bautista’s 100mph fastball and can live with coming out the wrong side.
“Give Vladdy credit,” Hyde said. “He reached the top 100.”
There were other moments, however, that shone brighter than the final score, including rookie receiver Adley Rutschman’s first career home run. It came in a losing effort, but the game was no wash for Baltimore.
The big North
Ryan Mountcastle swears he has nothing against the Blue Jays, even though the results suggest otherwise. The Orioles first baseman has come up against the American League East rival so often that it’s almost expected, which is inevitable when he shows up at home plate. Wednesday was just another example.
After six runs scored against southpaw Bruce Zimmermann in the first five innings, a Mountcastle-led home run barrage — featuring the first of Rutschman’s career — brought the Orioles back (27-37). Mountcastle made a habit of producing against the Blue Jays; with two more home runs on Wednesday, he has 12 in 28 games against Toronto.
“Mounty sees a beach ball up there right now,” Zimmermann said.
Rutschman’s fourth-inning homer broke an incipient no-hitter bid from right-hander José Berríos. Mountcastle’s first home run in the seventh crashed into the front of the upper deck before his two-run shot in the eighth tied the game – a pair of explosions that sum up how hot he is at home plate .
After Rutschman broke through against Berríos with a two-run homer, the Mountcastle homer scored the final run against the Blue Jays starter. Berríos allowed three runs on three hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings, a strong showing that built on his previous two starts deep.
But right-hander Yimi Garcia came in and got in trouble, allowing back-to-back doubles for Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays before Mountcastle’s second homer.
“Mounty is seeing the ball extremely well right now and is taking great shots,” Hyde said, “and got two huge home runs for us.”
A difficult journey, once again
In Zimmermann’s last 36 1/3 innings, he struck out 16 batters and allowed 17 homers. It’s a dismal run that continued Wednesday, when he allowed six runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
The problem was largely with the placement of his off-speed pitches, and he struck again with Teoscar Hernández at the plate in the third. Zimmermann left a thigh-high lead in the middle of the area, and Hernández leveled the field at around 461 feet. Two batters later, Matt Chapman smashed a slider left low in the zone for another two-point bomb.
Both shots were preceded by simple singles, the kind of bloop-and-blast situation that can derail even the best of pitchers. Zimmermann has started the season in fine form, but his last seven outings have featured a slew of long balls against him with no end in sight.
He tinkered with his set and his windup, hoping that a change to where his hands start will reduce the risk of tipping while also leading to a return of some control. But he returned to his previous liquidation and he felt more comfortable despite the long balls against him. His change drew six puffs – the best it had seemed in some time.
“The last two rides, it was kind of a washout with the mechanical changes we were tinkering with,” Zimmermann said. “I didn’t feel so comfortable on the mound. But today I felt a lot more comfortable with a lot of my stuff. I just had bad luck at those spots, and like I said, I probably should have gone back to my change, that was my best pitch and trusted him at those spots.
Zimmermann avoided a loss on his record due to the late-inning burst of the Baltimore offense and strong showing from the bullpen behind him. For the Orioles, however, it’s another ominous outing from a starter, the kind of offbeat display that’s become all too common lately.
“It’s a tough game and a tough league, and this division doesn’t give you any breaks,” Zimmermann said. “There are no excuses or anything like that. You have to go and you have to perform.
around the horn
>> The Orioles named left-hander Zac Lowther for assignment Wednesday and claimed infielder Jonathan Araúz off waivers from the Boston Red Sox before moving him to Triple-A Norfolk. With this move, Baltimore gained a medium depth in the field.
>> Right-hander Joey Krehbiel kicked the mound Wednesday for the second time since being named to the disabled list for a shoulder inflammation. On Monday, he threw 15 fastballs. On Wednesday, he upped the count into the 20s and threw all of his pitches. He felt the “looseest” of the whole year and should be activated on Saturday.
>> First baseman Trey Mancini’s swelling has gone down in his hand and he could be available on the bench Thursday.
Thursday, 3:07 p.m.
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