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Watkins squeezed, O’s squander early lead in 6-2 loss

Spenser Watkins retired 14-straight after a difficult first inning, but Baltimore’s bats failed to pick up the rookie in a 6-2 defeat.

Baltimore Orioles v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Spenser Watkins wanted this one. Watkins, pitching against the team that selected him in the 30th-round of the 2014 draft, appeared especially invested in today’s matchup against the Tigers. He retired 14 consecutive batters after a difficult first, but came an out short of completing six innings.

Watkins allowed four runs after a few bad breaks, and the Orioles fell 6-2 in the fourth and final game of the series in Detroit.

Watkins retired the first two batters he faced with just four pitches. After a pair of ground outs, Robbie Grossman worked a full count before taking a pitch that appeared to be over the plate. I chose the word “appeared” because home plate umpire Marvin Hudson did not agree. Hudson granted Grossman first base.

Watkins appeared to work around Miguel Cabrera, and the future hall-of-famer worked a walk of his own. Jeimer Candelario followed with a bouncer that hit Trey Mancini’s glove before getting by the first baseman. Candelario received credit for the hit, but the play marked the second time that Watkins could have escaped the inning without allowing a run.

After the RBI “single,” Eric Haase blasted a two-run double to deep center field. The Tigers posted a three on the scoreboard before Watkins struck out Harold Castro to end the inning.

The inning served as a textbook example of how an inning can spiral— especially on a young pitcher. Hudson or Mancini did not serve up the middle-middle 3-1 fastball to Haase, but Watkins never needed to be in that situation.

The three runs allowed were particularly disappointing because Watkins entered the bottom of the first with a two-run cushion. Austin Hays kicked off the game with a double down the right field line. Mancini followed with a loud out to right field, but Ryan Mountcastle scored Hays with a double of his own.

Anthony Santander stepped in and replaced Mountcastle with the third double of the inning. The Birds held an early two-run lead, and Tigers’ starter Tyler Alexander did not appear to be fooling anyone. Baltimore’s first four batters made contact and sent balls into play over 100 MPH.

Both teams cooled off in a hurry after an eventful first inning. After needing 29 pitches to complete the first, Watkins used just 13 in the second and third innings. The 28-year-old need only eight pitches in the fourth, and shut the Tigers down with 14 pitches in the fifth inning.

Watkins had retired 14 straight before Grossman laced a one-out triple with an 0-2 count in the sixth inning. Watkins appeared to be pitching around Cabrera again, but Miggy muscled an outside pitch into right field for a sacrifice fly. Detroit extended its lead to two, and Brandon Hyde summoned Connor Greene from the bullpen.

The MASN broadcast showed Watkins biting and screaming into a white towel in the Orioles dugout. The rookie displayed plenty of talent once again, but still took the loss. That’s the big leagues...

Greene finished the sixth inning, but Detroit broke things open in the seventh. Castro ledoff with a double, and Grayson Greiner followed with a single to left. Greene picked up a crucial strikeout for the first out, but Hyde went to the bullpen again with Keegan Akin already warm.

Akin immediately coughed up an RBI-single to Akil Baddoo. Jonathan Schoop followed with a bloop single that loaded the bases. Grossman popped a shallow fly ball to right field, but Greiner raced home and beat a ball that trickled to the plate. It was not the first weak throw from Anthony Santander in the contest.

Shaun Anderson came in and did not allow a hit in the final 1.1 innings, but he did walk two. Hyde decided against using his “high-leverage relievers,” but the Orioles’ offense did little to make him regret that decision.

Cedric Mullins received a full day of rest today. Ramón Urías, Baltimore’s new “everyday shortstop,” also took a breather. Some may have referenced the old “forfeit lineup” with Pat Valaika at short, Domingo Leyba at second and Austin Wynns behind the plate. Baltimore presented a glimmer of hope with their early start, but the offense fell into its role fairly quickly.

Mountcastle and Santander combined for four of the teams five hits with Hays adding the other. Wynns and Ryan McKenna both worked a walk.

The loss resulted in a series split in Detroit. Baltimore will start a three-game set at Yankee Stadium with Jorge López on the mound tomorrow night.