“Oh my Lord, how do the Orioles find ways to do this?”
Even the guys in the booth are left wondering how this team keeps finding ways to lose games. The quote belongs to MASN broadcaster Gary Thorne, and sometimes it feels like the candid comments from Thorne and Jim Palmer are the only reason to watch an Orioles game.
Thorne asked the question after the Orioles were briefly gifted an extra out in a one-run ball game. With two on and one out in the bottom of the sixth, Stevie Wilkerson bounced into a force out at third base. Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier tagged the bag and then quickly fired the ball to first, but it skipped past the first baseman. Baserunners Renato Núñez and Wilkerson began to advance, but found themselves caught in a run down. Eventually, Núñez was tagged out in between third and home, and the inning was over.
The play served as an omen. Think Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez hitting the cover off the ball, but a lot uglier. What followed wasn’t a bunch of kids battling an over-sized dog for an autographed baseball, instead it was a pair of solo home runs. In the top of the seventh, the Royals took Gabriel Ynoa’s first two pitches and blasted them over the fence. The Royals suddenly held a three run lead after Nicky Lopez and Nick Dini went deep. It was all Kansas City would need.
The Orioles battled back, as they have in several games of late, just to come up short once again. Trailing by two entering the ninth, Rio Ruiz cut the deficit in half with a solo shot onto the flag court. Jonathan Villar followed with a single that brought the winning run to the plate, but Trey Mancini popped out to center field to end the game. Kansas City squeezed out a 5-4 victory in the first of the three game set.
The one-run ball game puts a microscope on the Orioles mental and physical errors, and they weren’t only on the base paths. If just one out of a few plays went a different way, the Orioles could have been celebrating tonight.
John Means started for Baltimore and was absolutely terrific through five innings. In fact, he did not allow a hit through the first five frames. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off in the sixth inning.
Lopez broke through with a single to left field that ended any thoughts of a magical night. Means nearly erased the base runner, as he forced Dini to bounce a ball up the middle. Jonathan Villar made a nice running stop and flipped the ball with his glove to second base, but Hanser Alberto failed to catch the ball at second base. You can’t assume a double play, but instead the Royals had runners at first and third with nobody out. Whit Merrifield singled to bring home Lopez and get the Royals on the board.
Alex Gordon followed with a single that loaded the bases, and Hunter Dozier ripped a shallow ball to left field. The ball bounced out of Jace Peterson’s outstretched glove, and Dini trotted home. Peterson fired a strike to the plate in an attempt to catch Merrifield, but Pedro Severino was not in the best position to apply the tag and Merrifield’s toe snuck in safely for a 3-1 lead.
If Peterson can make the catch, only one run scores. If Severino makes a better tag, only one run scores. There are plenty of other reasons why manager Brandon Hyde may have trouble sleeping at night, but either of those two could be one of them.
Gabriel Ynoa entered to relieve Means, and actually came up with a few big pitches. He retired three consecutive batters with the bases loaded to prevent any further damage and keep the O’s in the game. Unfortunately, the momentum did not carry over into the seventh.
DJ Stewart drove in the Birds first run with a double in the second, and Jonathan Villar blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth. Stewart and Villar, both 2-4, were the only Baltimore players with more than one hit in the contest.
Stewart brought in another run with a single in the seventh, and the Orioles threatened to knot the game right there. After a double by Alberto and the Stewart single, Rio Ruiz and Mancini both walked to load the bases. Severino and Villar both swung and missed badly at balls outside of the strike zone to produce the first two outs, and Anthony Santander left the bases full with a fly out to center field.
The Orioles brief rally in the ninth fell short, and they dropped the season opener. Even against another bad team, Baltimore needs to limit its mistakes if they want to win ball games. They couldn’t do that tonight.
Means final line read 5 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs (2 ER), 4 K, 2 BB—A far cry from a no-hitter. He took the loss and fell below .500 on the season (8-9). Still, he had his stuff working for a majority of the game.
Miguel Castro pitched two scoreless innings to keep Baltimore in the contest. The Orioles struggled early against Royals starter Jorge López, but actually outhit Kansas City 7-6.
Dylan Bundy will take on Brad Keller Tuesday at 7:05.
On a brighter note, Adley Rutschman finished 5-5 with 4 RBIs for Aberdeen Monday night. He hit his first home run as an IronBird, and cleared the bases with an 3-run triple in the eighth inning. Dream of the future tonight, folks.