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Lyles struggles in debut as O’s lose 5-3, remain winless

It was not a dream outing for the Orioles’ new starter, but at least Keegan Akin impressed, and Ryan Mountcastle went deep.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles remain winless on the season, dropping game two to the Rays 5-3 on Saturday afternoon in Tampa.

Jordan Lyles’ debut in the orange and black went about as well as anyone expected. Tampa’s offense was powerful and efficient a season ago. That was much the same here.

Baltimore’s starter lasted five innings and gave up just as many runs. That is the sort of length Brandon Hyde will be hoping for each time through the rotation, and that has value of sorts. But it would be entirely negated by performances like this.

Francisco Mejía got the Rays on the board in the bottom of the second inning, driving in Josh Lowe, who had tripled to open the frame. The bases were then loaded by a Kevin Kiermeier double and a Taylor Walls walk. That allowed a run to score on a Brett Phillips ground out, and then another on a Wander Franco sacrifice fly.

The O’s drew within a run in the top of third inning thanks to Ryan Mountcastle’s first dong of the season. That drove in Jorge Mateo, who had reached base via a walk earlier.

Tampa took those two runs right back in their half as Mejía smacked his own round tripper to score Lowe and go up 5-2.

To the credit of Lyles, he did battle and kept Tampa off the board in the fourth and fifth innings as he faced the lineup a third time. That’s notable given how often Oriole pitchers struggled at that juncture of the game throughout 2021.

In fact, both lineups went quiet until the Orioles made a modest comeback attempt in the ninth inning. Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo both hit ground rule doubles to score the team’s third run of the day, but that is where it ended, with the Orioles securing their first series loss of the season.

The Orioles only needed to use two pitchers in the game, though, as Keegan Akin turned in a standout performance from the bullpen. Over three innings he allowed just one hit and struck out three without allowing a run. Akin figures to be a swingman of sorts throughout the year, a role that could be pivotal on a squad that will be hungry for arms all summer.

Baltimore’s bats were a bit more potent than on Opening Day. But the cold start continues for Cedric Mullins as he struck out twice more. But Mountcastle, Urías, and Anthony Santander recorded two more hits. The unit should improve and give the pitching a bit more room for error as the season goes.

The O’s have a chance to salvage something from the series on Sunday as they send Tyler Wells to the mound. First pitch is set for 1:10 from the Trop.