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What the hail? Weather delay throws O’s for loop in 5-2 loss

The O’s held a fifth-inning lead before an untimely hailstorm ruined their pitching plans and allowed for a Yankee comeback.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, baseball simply isn’t fair. The Orioles are already a bad team with so much going against them. A threadbare roster. A bottom-of-the-barrel payroll. A division full of talented behemoths.

And now even the weather is sabotaging their chances to win? Come on, baseball gods. Enough is enough.

Tonight’s loss, which dropped the Orioles to 2-6 on the season, could have gone a very different way. The O’s entered the fifth inning with a modest 2-0 lead after four scoreless innings from starter Tyler Wells. Bulk reliever Mike Baumann relieved Wells, ready to work two or maybe three innings to bridge the gap to the back of the bullpen.

And that’s when everything went haywire.

Baumann faced only two batters — making a nice defensive play to retire the first, then walking the second — before the Baltimore skies opened up and doused Camden Yards not with rain, but with hail. Just big ol’ chunks of hail, pelting the field, as players fled for cover and the grounds crew scrambled to get the tarp on.

The hail soon gave way to regular old rain, which kept the game on hiatus for 49 minutes. Brandon Hyde, not wanting to take any chances with Baumann’s 26-year-old arm, didn’t bring him back after the extended delay, forcing the skipper into scramble mode with his bullpen. He turned instead to Travis Lakins Sr., making his season debut after the O’s called him up yesterday.

Remember how awesome the Orioles’ bullpen has been this year? Well, Lakins just had to show up and ruin it for everyone. Despite getting to a two-strike count on three consecutive batters, Lakins had absolutely no putaway pitch, and the Yankees hammered him all over the field. First, Aaron Judge worked a nine-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2, and Anthony Rizzo then laced a single to plate a run.

Giancarlo Stanton followed with a scorcher to the wall in left-center that brought home Judge with the tying run and — for a few moments — appeared to give the Yankees the lead, as Rizzo also rounded the bases and was called safe at the plate. But upon review, Rizzo was ruled out, tagged by catcher Anthony Bemboom after a strong relay throw from Jorge Mateo. Lakins was momentarily granted a reprieve...

...and immediately blew it, coughing up a two-run homer to Josh Donaldson just two pitches later. The Yankees officially had the lead this time, 4-2. And you can’t help but wonder how the inning — and the rest of the game — would have played out if that freak hail storm hadn’t forced Baumann out of the game. Granted, there’s no guarantee that Baumann (or any subsequent relievers) would have held the lead, but it’s hard to imagine they could have been worse than Lakins. The guy was throwing batting practice.

Before all that happened, though, things were looking good for the Orioles. Wells’ second major league start was much more successful than his first, though not without the 6-for-8 right-hander having to sweat his way through a bunch of Yankees threats.

After a 30-minute rain delay pushed back the start of the game, a pair of Aarons (pAarons?), Hicks and Judge, each singled to get things started. But Hicks TOOTBLAN’d the Yankees out of the rally, breaking too early for third base and getting picked off by Wells. A groundout and a deep flyout got the O’s out of the inning unscathed.

The Yankees stranded a runner in scoring position in the second, then wasted another opportunity in the third. The inning featured a single, a hit batsman, and a walk, and the damage could’ve been worse had Anthony Santander not been able to haul in a Judge blast to the out-of-town scoreboard in right. But with the bases loaded, after a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Holt, Wells needed just one pitch to dispatch Donaldson on a harmless groundout to strand three.

With Wells at 50 pitches and in constant danger all night, I thought that might be the end of the line for him, but Hyde trusted him with a fourth inning of work. It was a great call. Wells had his best inning yet, setting down the side in order with two strikeouts to exit on a high note. All told, he threw four scoreless innings, with three hits, two walks, and three Ks. A nice improvement over his first outing, and a good springboard into his next.

Meanwhile, the Orioles grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third on one mighty swing of the bat by Cedric Mullins, who redeemed himself nicely from his 0-for-5, three-strikeout performance in the series opener. With a man aboard, Hyde gave Mullins the green light on a 3-0 pitch from Yankee starter Jameson Taillon, and again — great call. Mullins hacked at a middle-middle offering and launched it deep into the center field bleachers, a 433-foot blast that put the Birds ahead. Mullins has now hit half of the Orioles’ four home runs this year.

That’s how the Orioles took a lead into the middle innings, before Lakins — and the hail — blew it. From there, the O’s trudged onward to their inevitable defeat.

Hyde, desperate to rest his most-used relievers, let Lakins stay in the game for the sixth in a 4-2 deficit. That was...not such a great call. The Yankees continued to blister him, registering a single and a double, and a run scored on a Paul Fry wild pitch that immediately followed an Anthony Bemboom catcher’s interference on Judge. It was that kind of night, folks.

In true Orioles fashion, they had to infuriate fans everywhere by squandering numerous chances to get back into the game. They chased Taillon in the fifth inning, but Friday’s hero Ramon Urias flied out to deep right with the bases juiced. The Birds also left ’em loaded the very next inning, as reliever Michael King whiffed Mateo to snuff a promising scoring opportunity.

The O’s had one more chance in the eighth, putting two runners aboard with one out to bring the possible tying run to the plate, but Rougned Odor took a called strike three and Austin Hays grounded out. With their 1-for-7 performance tonight, the Orioles are 7-for-77 this season with runners in scoring position, a hefty .091 average. That doesn’t even seem mathematically possible, but here we are.

Right-hander Clay Holmes finished things off with a seven-pitch bottom of the ninth against a demoralized O’s crew. Nearly five hours after the game began, the Orioles were back in a familiar spot — the loss column.