A quick two-game interleague series in Pittsburgh ended with a pair of quick losses to continue this team’s September swoon.
The Orioles (75-84), who have lost 16 of their past 20 games with three games remaining in the season.
”Well, obviously we’re not winning,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “At the end of the day, we’re judged by are we scoring more runs than the other team at the end of nine innings? That’s been a challenge for us. We’re getting some looks at guys, but we’d like to win games.”
With an opportunity to end his audition for rotation consideration next spring on a high note, right-hander Gabriel Ynoa lasted just three innings, allowing a pair of home runs that led to his early exit. He couldn’t carry over the success he saw in his last start, an impressive eight-inning, one-run outing last Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“A little flat, not much crispness to his stuff,” Showalter said. “He was pretty flat, everything. Breaking ball was a little sloppy. That’s not going to work. Basically, he was a two-pitch pitcher last time out and pitched well. Tonight, he threw a few changeups, but nothing that they had to put into the memory bank. I thought he wasn’t getting down the hill, wasn’t much real urgency moving down the hill. And didn’t really seem to get after it.”
An Orioles lineup that included five starters who were in the minor leagues last month showed fight, especially in a three-run second inning fueled by run-scoring doubles by Chance Sisco and Anthony Santander.
But Ynoa couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead, allowing a leadoff homer to Gregory Polanco in the second inning and a two-run homer to Josh Bell in the third.
“I was trying to attack the hitters, the same as the last outing,” Ynoa said through interpreter Ramon Alarcon. “It didn’t work out for me today.”
Bell’s blast was the gut punch because it came after Ynoa issued a two-out walk to Andrew McCutchen before hanging a 2-1 slider to Bell.
“Unfortunately, I was missing with my fastball,” Ynoa said. “The hitters took advantage of that. I was just trying to compete.”
The Orioles had opportunities to get back into the game but were just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
They put runners at the corners with two outs in the fourth, but Pirates starter Chad Kuhl struck out pinch hitter Mark Trumbo to end the threat. They put their first two hitters in the sixth on base with back-to-back singles by Pedro Álvarez and Trey Mancini, but the next three batters were retired on just five pitches as Sisco and J.J. Hardy flied out and Santander grounded out.
The Pirates (73-85) added a run in the eighth on Starling Marte’s broken-bat infield single off Mychal Givens, who yielded a leadoff double to Sean Rodriguez.
One of the lone bright spots for the Orioles was right-hander Mike Wright’s three scoreless innings in relief of Ynoa.
The Orioles must decide Wright’s path next spring — when he will be out of minor league options — and Wednesday’s outing marked one of his best relief outings of the season.
Wright allowed just one single and a walk, retiring nine of the 11 batters he faced.
Wright worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth after Marte’s single and a walk to McCutchen, but escaped by striking out Bell looking on an 0-2 slider. Two of Wright’s three strikes came on sliders.
“I thought he was crisp,” Showalter said. “He commanded the fastball and had some secondary pitches. Once he got the first hitter or two out of the way, he settled in and gave us a chance to win.”
Big night for Santander
Santander’s adjustment to the majors has taken time, but he’s beginning to show he can handle big league pitching.
In his fourth big league start in right field Wednesday, the Rule 5 draft pick had his first multihit game with three hits.
“It’s as much for us as it is for him,” Showalter said. “He was impressive tonight.”
Santander hit an RBI double in the second inning to put the Orioles up 3-1, added a fourth-inning two-out single and ended his night with a one-out double to right-center in the ninth.
After starting his big league career 2-for-16, Santander is 4-for-8 over his past three games, including back-to-back starts.
While Showalter took note of Santander at the plate, he said his defense in right field will determine how significant a role he plays moving forward.
“Almost ran down one ball, had a good break on another one,” Showalter said. “More about how he’s going to fit in defensively, too. It’s good to see him. Just like Austin [Hays] and even Trey, learning to play this time of year. I talked to Trey the other day. The biggest challenge is, usually you’re at home now. It’s late September and you’re still playing baseball, so those are good experiences for them.”