John Means Day was ruined for the third straight time as the lefty’s solid outing and late-inning heroics from DJ Stewart were dashed by yet another bullpen implosion. Ultimately, the Orioles fell to the Twins 8-3 in the series opener.
The Orioles had no problem making contact against the Twins’ pitching staff in this one. In fact, they were fortunate enough to have their lead-off hitter reach base on five occasions and went down in order just twice. The trouble came when the lineup had to try and move those runners around the bases and across home plate. After all, that is the objective of this whole game.
Early on it didn’t seem like that would prove to be such a tall task. Cedric Mullins began the game with a walk, moved to second on a stolen base, and then scored on an Anthony Santander double off the wall in right-center field. But that was all the Baltimore bats could muster for quite a while.
There were other promising moments, of course. The O’s had runners on first and second with one out in the third inning, but went no further. And Santander started the sixth inning with a double, but would make it only as far as third before the end of the frame.
One of the O’s best chances at additional run support came in the seventh inning. With Mullins on first base and two outs, Freddy Galvis laced a line drive into the right field corner. Mullins took off on the crack of the bat, aiming to score on the play. The ball short-hopped the wall and took a high bounce above right fielder Kyle Garlick, who eventually collected the two-base hit and fired into his cut-off man Nick Gordon, who in turn made the relay throw home, nabbing Mullins by about 10 feet.
O’s manager Brandon Hyde challenged the out call, because why not. There seemed to be some level of belief that the catcher’s tag was high, and Mullins snuck a hand over the dish. But that claim was unsupported by the video evidence. The call was upheld, and the Orioles’ chances at a tie thwarted.
Despite their difficulties scoring, the Orioles found themselves in a tie game late because John Means was brilliant yet again. Unfortunately, his two mistakes were both elevated and blasted over the outfield wall for a pair of solo home runs.
Trevor Larnach’s home run was especially prodigious. It came off that bat at 112 mph and traveled approximately 461 feet, beyond the Target Field batter’s eye. It was the sort of bomb that was just as disappointing as it was impressive from the view of an opposing fan.
Garlick was the other Twins hitter to hit a round-tripper against Means. His was less majestic, a sixth-inning line drive that made its way into the stands in an instant.
The O’s could not have asked for much more from their starter. His season ERA did rise from 1.70 to 1.79 in this game, but Means delivered seven more impressive innings, allowing just those two runs on five hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. He continues to be the front-runner for the American League Cy Young.
It took some late-game heroics from D.J. Stewart to saddle Means with a no-decision and avoid his first loss of the year. Following a 45-minute rain delay in the middle of the Orioles’ eighth-inning at-bat, Stewart crushed a 1-0 fastball deep into the Minneapolis night and accentuated it with an emphatic bat toss. For a brief, but glorious, moment the Orioles were back ahead 3-2 and perhaps en route for an impressive come-from-behind win.
But what came in the Twins’s half of the eighth inning has become all too familiar for the Orioles as of late. Tanner Scott had trouble with his location and could only record one out. Then Cesar Valdez got hit around a bunch and also recorded just one out. And finally Tyler Wells was brought in as a sacrificial lamb to the baseball gods and simply looked bad. In total the trio gave up six runs on seven hits, two walks, and two strikeouts. They put the O’s behind 8-3, and the game was lost. Alex Colomé came in for the ninth inning and shut the door behind him.
The Orioles have now lost seven in a row and have just wasted a John Means start. Things are not going well for Brandon Hyde and his crew.
These two teams will meet again on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 7:40 as Dean Kremer and José Berríos face-off on the mound. That match-up does not look good on paper for the Birds, but let’s all just hope for the best.