The Orioles lost the rain-delayed opener of a four-game set against the Red Sox 4-1 on Friday night as the lineup failed to cash in on numerous opportunities, and Matt Harvey had one bad inning at Camden Yards.
There were reasons to be optimistic early on. Cedric Mullins opened the Orioles half of the first inning with a walk, and an Austin Hays single gave the home team two baserunners with no outs. Trey Mancini followed that with a hard line drive to right field, but it hung up long enough for Hunter Renfroe to make the catch. Unfortunately, Mullins had run on contact and was standing on third base when Renfroe retired Mancini. The Red Sox outfielder simply tossed the ball to second base for an easy double play, killing any potential rally.
Another opportunity cropped up in the third inning when Ramon Urias led off with a base hit. A few moment laters, Urias attempted to steal second base, but was called out. Brandon Hyde did ask for a review, and it was a close call, but ultimately it appeared that Urias was tagged on the backside as he neared second base.
All the while, O’s starter Matt Harvey was keeping the Boston bats silent until things went sideways in the fourth inning.
It started with a weird error that was charged to the pitcher but seemed at least as attributable to the Orioles first baseman of the day, Pat Valaika. The utilityman fielded a hopper off the bat of Rafael Devers, and Harvey ran to cover the bag, but the feed from Valaika came in at Harvey’s knees rather than leading him. The pitcher couldn’t make the snag, and Devers advanced to second base.
It seemed the misplay stuck in Harvey’s head. He allowed Devers to swipe third base with a running lead during the following at-bat. A single from Hunter Renfroe scored Devers, and then a Franchy Cordero walk set the stage for Bobby Dalbec to break out of his 0-for-27 slump with a three-run dong to deep left field. An inning that started as a scoreless tie concluded with the visitors up 4-0.
That would mark the conclusion of Harvey’s night. His first trip through the order was great, and he did manage to strike out J.D. Martinez. Plus, all four runs he allowed were unearned, so his season ERA actually decreased from 4.06 to 3.60. But the righty just didn’t seem quite as sharp as he had been in his recent run of good form.
The Orioles only runs of the night came on a Trey Mancini RBI single in the fifth inning, and a solo home run from Ryan Mountcastle in the sixth inning—only his second dong of the season.
It’s not as if the O’s couldn’t get base runners. Their 11 hits were four more than the Red Sox, and they added three walks and just five strikeouts. But they failed to do much of anything once they had runnings on base, stranding 10 and going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. It was a disaster and just the latest example of offensive ineptitude for this club.
While the O’s relievers were strong, in general, they did serve up a few insurance runs late. Dillon Tate allowed a run-scoring double to Christian Vazquez, and debutant Issac Mattson was welcomed to the big leagues with a walk and a Marwin Gonzalez two-bagger.
But let’s pull some positives out of the mountain of negatives. Mullins got another hit against a left-handed pitcher. Austin Hays and Mountcastle both had three-hit nights. Freddy Galvis added a pair of base knocks. And both Tyler Wells and Cole Sulser looked good out of the bullpen.
These two teams face off again on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Zac Lowther will make his first major league start, and he will be opposed by Garrett Richards (1-2, 4.40 ERA). Lowther may not stick in the big leagues for long as the Orioles continue to manage the inning-load of young starters, but it will be exciting to see what he can do in a longer audition than he got last month.