They had plenty of base runners throughout, but the Orioles failed to come up clutch on Wednesday night. Baltimore lost 5-3 to the Pirates at PNC Park, giving the hosts a quick two-game sweep over their mid-Atlantic foes.
Gabriel Ynoa took the hill for the Birds as his extended audition for the 2018 rotation reached it’s final stop of the season. In short, he wasn’t very good. Buck Showalter only left him in for 57 pitches, but that was long enough for the righty to allow four runs on five hits, one walk and three strikeouts in just three innings.
Pittsburgh’s bats were active early and often. In the bottom of the first, a trio of singles from Adam Frazier, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Bell gave the Bucs a speedy 1-0 lead.
The O’s responded and then took the lead for themselves in the next half inning. Pedro Alvarez, on his first trip back to Pittsburgh since he left the club a few seasons ago, led off with a single. Trey Mancini followed with a single of his own and then Chance Sisco drove in El Toro with a double to the left-center gap. A J.J. Hardy ground out scored Mancini and then an Anthony Santander double to deep center field drove in Sisco. Just like that, the Birds had a 3-1 lead. Yaaaaaaaay...
A nice ovation for Pedro Álvarez in his return to PNC Park. pic.twitter.com/Pv5gxvNAdz— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 28, 2017
But that was really the end of significant offense for the visitors. From there, it was about missed opportunities for those in orange and timely hitting for the Buccos.
Gregory Polanco’s solo shot in the bottom of the second made it 3-2. On the scoreboard, it was just one run, but Polanco absolutely crushed that baseball. It got out of the park in a snap. In the third, Bell put the Pirates ahead 4-2 with a two-run bomb after a McCutchen walk.
Got all of that one!— Pirates (@Pirates) September 28, 2017
(also- nice catch, kid) pic.twitter.com/J4eC2CBxMN
Mike Wright provided a bright spot for the pitching staff. He was tasked with serving as the long man in this one. The right-handed reliever threw three innings and allowed a hit and a walk but struck out three and didn’t allow a run on 35 pitches. The ship has likely sailed on Wright starting consistently in the Bigs, but performances like this bode well for his future in the ‘pen, which is where he probably should have been all along.
Likely joining Wright in the 2018 Orioles bullpen will be Richard Bleier. The soft-tossing lefty is the unsung hero of this summer. He threw another scoreless eighth inning, lowering his season ERA to 2.04.
The final run of the evening came across the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning. With Mychal Givens pitching, Sean Rodriguez doubled off of the wall in right center field. Givens sat down the next two hitters before a broken-bat single from Starling Marte brought Rodriguez home. And that was all she wrote.
Baltimore had runners on base in all but two innings. They had 10 hits and walked once with eight strikeouts. On most nights, that leads to enough runs. But there were no home runs, and as we have learned the hard way, the Birds struggle to score without the help from the long ball.
Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop combined to go 0-for-8 in the middle of the order. That surely didn’t help. Uncharacteristically, they were the rally killers, leaving five men on base total. Hardy did have the RBI, but he left four men on base himself.
Of course, this was a B-squad lineup overall. Alvarez was hitting clean up for Pete’s sake. However, that’s OK. These games should be about learning what the O’s have in the hopper down on the farm, and they are doing just that.
Austin Hays went 1-for-4 in the lead off spot and sent a ball for a ride on the last out of the game. Mancini stayed consistent with a 2-for-4 night at the plate, extending his hitting streak to 16 games. Sisco was 1-for-3 with the double. And Santander was the standout of the night, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two doubles. The kids can play. Maybe 2018 won’t be so bad after all.
One play that should be highlighted was Hays getting thrown out at second base in the first inning when he tried to tag up from first base on a Schoop fly out to McCutchen in center field. The aggressiveness is appreciated, and those are the type of “sparkplug” things the young guys bring. But Austin, buddy, one of the best players in baseball was one deck. Unless McCutchen is on the ground with no chance of getting you, stay at first base and wait to be driven in. I like the hustle, just never do it again.
The O’s are off on Thursday before beginning their final series of the 2017 season. It’s a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays that begins on Friday at Tropicana Field. Wade Miley (8-14, 5.52 ERA) is slated to get what could be his last start in an Orioles uniform while the Rays have yet to announce a starter. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m.