If these are the times that try a manager’s soul, Brandon Hyde is trying not to show it.
In the first month of his first regular season as Orioles manager, his pitching staff has given up home runs at a rate never before seen in the history of a sport that is celebrating it’s sesquicentennial anniversary.
Yes, that’s what the 150 stands for on every big leaguer’s sleeve. And over those 150 years, no team has given up as many homers before the end of April as the rebuilding O’s.
In fact, the only team to come at all close was the 1996 Detroit Tigers who — until Saturday — held the record for home runs before May 1 with 50. The Orioles shattered it with the willing help of the Minnesota Twins, who hit 11 homers on the way to a resounding sweep of a rain-makeup doubleheader at Camden Yards that dropped the O’s into last place in the American League East.
The Orioles have now given up 57 and, as you probably have noticed, there are still ten days left in April, but Hyde has never lost his game face...or his temper. He has yet to let anyone see him sweat.
“I’ve never seen home runs given up like we do and it’s something that we obviously have to improve on,’’ he said. “I’m going to give it to our position players and our hitters. It’s the second game of a doubleheader. We’re down two touchdowns in the third or the fourth and to continue to take good ABs through nine innings says a lot about our guys.”
If that sounded almost upbeat, it was, and the day wasn’t all bad. The Orioles gave up three homers in a tight 6-5 loss in the first game to move to within one homer of tying this particularly dubious record, but the hitters did hang tough and made a game of it.
The Twins hit eight more on the way to a crazy 16-7 victory in the nightcap, which featured an early-inning meltdown by Alex Cobb in his first start back from a stay on the injured list with back soreness and a ninth-inning relief appearance by first baseman Chris Davis.
Former Oriole Nelson Cruz and catcher Mitch Garver hit two home runs in the second game. Left fielder Eddie Rosario hit two homers in the first game and another in the night cap. Jonathan Schoop welcomed himself back to town with two homers and two doubles in the two games.
Obviously, the conditions were right for an unscheduled baseball giveaway in the left field bleachers. There was a nice breeze blowing from right field to left and the weather is just starting to warm up.
The Orioles took advantage of their cozy ballpark, too, hitting three homers in the first game and three more in the second. Designated hitter Renato Nunez hit one in the first game and two more in the nightcap.
Turned out, the record the O’s set for home runs allowed before May 1 wasn’t the only major league record that fell on Saturday. The two-team total of 17 home runs was the most ever hit in a doubleheader.
The opposing tater total for the first 3 ½ weeks of the season is bad enough, but the number of balls hit out of Oriole Park this season is even more striking, if you’ll pardon the unintentional play on words, Orioles pitchers have given up 39 home runs here, or an average of 4.3 homers in just nine home games.
The first game of the doubleheader was tolerable. The Orioles were in it right to the end and camp up an eighth-inning hit short of what would have been a satisfying comeback victory.
“Yeah, I thought we battled, like normal,’’ Hyde said. “Just came up a run short and I liked the way we swung the bat...put together a nice rally in the eighth inning and just came up a little short.”
First game starter Dan Straily gave up three solo homers in a five-inning performance, but the game was tied when he turned it over to the bullpen. The Twins scored three times to take the lead in the sixth inning, which was the only time they scored in the game without hitting a home run.
The Orioles chipped away with a sixth-inning homer by catcher Pedro Severino and an RBI double by Trey Mancini in the eighth, but left two runners in scoring position in that inning and did not threaten in the ninth.
The nightcap got ugly in a hurry. Cobb gave up homers to Cruz and C.J. Cron to tie and break the April record, then allowed homers Rosario and Mitch Garner in the third. Schoop hit one of his signature low line drive homers in the fourth inning off Mike Wright.
The only pitching highlights in the second game were the major league debut of right-hander Brandon Kline and the second career appearance on the mound by Davis, who made that legendary extra-inning appearance against the Red Sox in 2012
Kline was the extra player allowed for the second game of the doubleheader and took the mound in the seventh inning. But he wasn’t immune to the long ball epidemic, allowing the final Twins homers to Garver and Cruz in the eighth.