The Orioles were two outs away from a season-high third straight road win Thursday night, but all the good vibes built through 8½ innings against the Toronto Blue Jays came crashing down in the bottom of the ninth at Rogers Centre.
Rookie David Hess posted a quality start for the fourth time in five major league outings. Rookie Austin Wynns put him in line for the win with his first career big league homer, one of three homers on the night for the Orioles, a storybook script that played out until the bottom of the ninth.
That’s when right-handed reliever Brad Brach — used for the third straight day for just the second time this season — failed to hold a three-run lead.
And in the following inning, the Orioles had to watch the Blue Jays celebrate a 5-4 walk-off win on the field on Aledmys Díaz’s game-winning single to left off right-hander Miguel Castro, handing the Orioles (19-42) one of their worst losses of a defeat-filled season.
“Brad got the first out, looked like it was set up pretty good, but that’s why you play the game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We scored four; we needed five.”
Brach, who had converted back-to-back save opportunities Tuesday night and Wednesday at Citi Field in New York, didn’t make it out of the ninth Thursday, blowing a save opportunity for the first time since Opening Day. While both of those saves against the Mets were wobbly, Brach was able to hold a one-run lead both times. But on Thursday, he couldn’t overcome the trouble he created, allowing five straight batters reach base after retiring the first hitter of the ninth.
Castro, who was warming up beside Brach in the ninth and would have entered had there not been a save situation, needed a 4-6-3 double-play ball just to send the game to extra innings, nearly escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the 10th before Díaz hooked a ball into left and past Joey Rickard.
Brach entered the night having not allowed an earned run in his past 11 outings, even though he put 14 base runners on — nine hits and five walks — in that stretch spanning 12 innings. In each of Brach’s 10 converted saves, he has allowed at least one base runner.
After retiring Kendrys Morales to open the ninth, Brach walked Luke Maile, then allowed a double to left by Díaz.
Randal Grichuk drove in both runners on a double to right, and after pinch hitter Devon Travis walked, Kevin Pillar singled home Grichuk to tie the game.
“I just didn’t execute,” Brach said. “Yeah, I mean balls over the heart of the plate and they put good swings on it. Got me in trouble there when Díaz jumped on that one fastball and it was second and third there. I had Grichuk right where I wanted him and I didn’t execute a pitch. They put some good swings on it and just bad execution tonight.”
In the bottom of the 10th, Teoscar Hernández hit a ball to left that took a high hop off the turf to Rickard and Hernández, speeding out of the box, extended a likely single into a double.
“It’s a good base-running play by him,” Showalter said. “He runs well. The good lord blessed him with good skills and he took advantage of them. A ball in the gap that bounces off the turf and into the air it forced Joey to make a perfect throw and we weren’t able to do it.”
Justin Smoak was walked intentionally to create a force play, and Castro struck out Morales and Maile before allowing Díaz’ game-winning hit.
Showalter had used Brach three straight days only one previous time — April 4, 5 and 6. — but noted that Brach had six days off before Tuesday’s save, so he was well-rested.
“We’ve done it a lot in the past,” Showalter said of Brach working three straight days.
Brach didn’t want to use that as an excuse either.
“No, actually I felt really good tonight,” Brach said. “Just couldn’t locate the fastball and threw a couple that cut to Maile and then I couldn’t keep it on the plate. When I tried to throw it over the plate, it just kind of stayed straight and true. Just need to execute down and away and I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”
Looking back at the inning, it was the five-pitch walk to Maile that Brach said he wished he had back.
“I thought that the was the worst one,” he said. “It’s a three-run lead and if he hits a home run, he hits a home run. You just don’t want to give them any momentum there with a walk. That was definitely one I wish I could have back.”
Before that ninth-inning implosion, Hess held the Blue Jays to one run over six innings. He has allowed one run or none in each of his past three starts, owning a 0.96 ERA over that stretch.
Wynns’ first major league home run came in the seventh, a towering solo shot to left field off reliever Tyler Clippard to break a 1-1 tie.
After the Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Manny Machado’s sacrifice fly, Hess allowed a home run to the first batter he faced, losing a nine-pitch at bat to Curtis Granderson with a full-count four-seam fastball that the veteran hit over the right-field fence. Hess allowed just four hits after that.
In the top of the seventh, Wynns got just enough of a 1-1 changeup from Clippard to clear the left-field wall, a high fly that had an estimated distance of 345 feet and a hit probability of just 16 percent.
Hess allowed a leadoff single in the seventh, his final batter before Showalter pulled him in favor of right-hander Mychal Givens, who held the lead.
Valencia, making just his second start in the cleanup spot in the batting order, reached base three times in four plate appearances, adding a single and walk to his home run. Trumbo’s homer, his third of the season, was his first since May 21.
Chris Davis was hitless in four at-bats, striking out three times, lowering his average to .152, leaving the bases loaded in the sixth inning with the game tied and stranding two runners in the fourth.