What began with a flourish Friday at Camden Yards in the form of the first of many ovations for veteran outfielder Adam Jones and an early lead on his first-inning double, ended — as most Orioles games have this year — with a frustrating loss.
The Orioles opened their final series of the season with a 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros, who drew a pair of walks and singled twice in the span of four batters in the eighth inning to push across the go-ahead run on a Marwin González single against reliever Tanner Scott after rookie David Hess held them to one run in seven shining innings to start the game.
The Orioles nearly pulled even with two outs in the ninth, but Renato Núñez’s sinking line drive was caught by a diving Jake Marisnick in center field to end the game.
“That’s a great example of why they win those games,” manager Buck Showalter said. “They’re a plus defensive team. We had a ball in left field [on González’s single] we couldn’t quite get to that fell, and they had a ball they got to with Marisnick that didn’t fall. We had a young pitcher who walked a couple guys who came around to bite him. Tanner fisted a guy and the guy muscled it over the infield.”
Hess' performance, combined with the early spark from Jones, made it an energetic night at Camden Yards before an announced 18,434 fans. Hess stranded a leadoff bunt single by José Altuve in a quick first inning, and by the time he took the mound in the second, the Orioles had their only run of the night.
Shortstop Jonathan Villar singled with one out and went to second on a groundout up the middle by Trey Mancini. Then, Astros starter Gerrit Cole stepped off the mound to allow Jones to soak in what will be the first of many warm standing ovations this weekend as he and the team's fans face the possibility he won't wear an Orioles uniform beyond this season.
Jones responded with a run-scoring double down the right-field line, though he regarded it after the game as just another at-bat.
“I can hear everything,” Jones said. “I appreciate it, but like I said, I'm focused on the pitcher, Gerrit Cole. If I lose any focus on him, he gets you out. Just try to keep my focus on them.”
Hess made that lead stand up until the sixth inning with little resistance. In the third, he allowed a leadoff single and hit the following batter, but fellow rookie DJ Stewart recorded his first outfield assist on a fly ball to the warning track in left field by throwing out catcher Martín Maldonado trying to take third base.
Josh Reddick homered with two outs in the sixth after a grinding at-bat, and Hess issued a pair of walks in the seventh, but stranded them to finish his season with a 4.88 ERA. Since he returned to the rotation in August after the Kevin Gausman trade, he had a 3.88 ERA.
“Anytime you can eat up innings and save the bullpen, that’s really important, knowing that we have two games tomorrow,” Hess said. “I think that’s something that I really wanted to be able to do tonight, and to be able to do that for the team was really important.”
But once he left, Scott struggled. Center fielder Tony Kemp popped up the first pitch on a bunt attempt for a quick out, but Scott then issued a pair of walks and allowed singles to Alex Bregman and González to score the go-ahead run.
“I just wasn't executing pitches,” Scott said. “Hess did a great job today, went seven, only gave up a run, and then I came in and wasn't able to execute a pitch.”
Ryan Meisinger got a double play to end the inning and Mychal Givens pitched a clean ninth, but the Orioles didn’t have a hit between rookie catcher Austin Wynns’ one-out single in the fifth inning and a two-out single in the ninth by Stewart. Pinch runner John Andreoli was on second base after a wild pitch when Marisnick dove to keep the Astros’ 101st win intact.
Cole, Tony Sipp, Collin McHugh and Roberto Osuna combined to hold the Orioles to six hits, and Friday was the 40th game out of 159 where they scored one run or fewer. The Orioles fell to 46-113.