It can be maddening at times to be invested in the Orioles, with energy best spent on individuals instead of what happens on the scoreboard on a nightly basis.
Just as a loss stings more when it’s one of their touted young starters on the hook for it, a win on the backs of Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Trey Mancini is all the sweeter.
That’s how the Orioles’ 9-7 victory over the Houston Astros on Monday night at Minute Maid Park will be remembered, and that they won thanks to a five-run ninth inning despite some difficult relief outings will make it one to savor.
“Well, I’m happy we won,” manager Brandon Hyde said, moments after he had to remove his closer from the game and bring in another reliever from his short bullpen to face the potential tying run in the ninth.
“I wish we wouldn’t have made it so interesting there at the end. It was nice to get a five-spot up in the top of the ninth. That was huge.”
After Hunter Harvey and Tanner Scott combined to walk four in the seventh inning, turning a 4-2 lead into a tie game, Mullins singled to open the ninth for his third hit of the game and Hays hit his ninth home run of the year to spark a five-run inning that gave the Orioles (25-54) the win.
Hays, who has been limited by a hamstring injury since returning from the injured list, said he started to feel more like himself both physically and approach-wise throughout the previous series against the Toronto Blue Jays. He demonstrated to Hyde just what he’s capable of Monday with a day that also included him bringing a home run back from the stands for an out in the second inning.
“Keeping Hays healthy and keeping him on the field is extremely important, and he showed you tonight,” Hyde said. “He’s still not 100%, he’s still a little banged up. That’s why he’s not quite moving quite the same, but hopefully he can be full-strength the second half because he’s an exciting player. He’s got a lot of tools, and we need him.”
Hays’ home run came before a two-run double by Pedro Severino and a run-scoring double by Ramón Urías in that big ninth inning.
Before that, it was Mountcastle’s show. The Orioles’ best hitter of late, his two-out single in the third inning put them ahead 1-0, and with Baltimore trailing 2-1 in the fifth, he hit his 14th home run of the season after a single by Mullins gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
The rookie slugger entered Monday batting .341 with a 1.037 OPS, and his blast the other way was his ninth of the month.
He even helped the Orioles — who entered having lost 16 of their past 18 games — pick up an insurance run in the seventh with a hard slide into second base that allowed Ryan McKenna to beat a potential bases-loaded double play to score Hays and make it 4-2.
Hyde singled out both Mullins and Mountcastle for what they’ve been doing lately, while Mancini’s two hits gave him his first multi-hit game in over a week, perhaps helping the scuffling star out of his slump. Hyde said Mullins is playing “an exciting brand of baseball” as he added two stolen bases to his three hits, while Mountcastle’s seven walks in his last five games in addition to that power production is making the team’s faith through his early-season struggles look smart.
“Both of those guys are playing at a high level right now,” Hyde said.
Ten walks too many
The Orioles’ top hitters helped remove the red from Hyde’s face after he watched his pitching staff walk 10 and balance on a tightrope all night long. But asked which he’ll think about more from this game, he opined on the free passes issued.
“We have to eliminate the walks,” Hyde said. “We can’t walk guys coming out of the bullpen. You’re not going to win games doing that. We got fortunate tonight that we put a big number up in the top of the ninth, but we have to be able to be strike-throwers out of the pen. We have good arms down there. They have good stuff. Hopefully, they can flush this and move on.”
Starter Thomas Eshelman had three on his account, including two in the fourth inning. His last left the bases loaded for Cole Sulser, who walked in a run to give Eshelman two runs allowed on five hits in 3 ⅔ innings. Sulser walked one more in 1 ⅔ innings, and Harvey and Scott’s four walks in the seventh inning looked like they could be enough to sink the Orioles’ chances.
Rule 5 draft pick Tyler Wells, however, continued his emergence as a leverage reliever by striking out two with the bases loaded in the seventh. Hyde said he “won us the game, flat-out.” Adam Plutko issued the 10th to load the bases in a three-run ninth inning before he cleaned up a mess left by Paul Fry to end a tense game.
“That’s not the recipe to win against the Houston Astros or any other major league team,” Hyde said.
Mullins on the ticket
Voting began Monday afternoon for the second phase of All-Star balloting to determine the starters for the July showcase game, and Mullins is the only Orioles player who made it to this stage.
Voting continues through Thursday at mlb.com/all-star/ballot.
Hyde said before Monday’s game that both Maikel Franco and Anthony Santander were given days off because of how they were pressing at the plate, and noted Santander’s ankle was feeling better the past few days.
Domingo Leyba started at third base, and in his second game with the Orioles after being claimed off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks this month and promoted to the majors Sunday, collected his first hit of the season.
Wednesday, 8:10 p.m.
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