The Orioles’ race to the postseason likely runs through the Toronto Blue Jays. In that sense, Monday’s doubleheader against their American League East foe represented tripping out of the gate.
On the biggest day of not only this season but also the past four, the Orioles lost both of the day’s games at Camden Yards, with an unexpected bullpen game in the latter featuring three home runs from Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette in an 8-4 defeat.
The pair of losses left Baltimore (71-64) 4 1/2 games behind Toronto for the American League’s third wild-card spot with 27 games to play. Eight of those, including one each over the next two days, are against the Blue Jays. Dropping Monday’s first game, 7-3, guaranteed the Orioles wouldn’t be able to overtake Toronto (75-59) with this four-game series alone. Losing both threatens to derail Baltimore’s postseason hopes entirely.
“It was a tough day,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We were short, and it didn’t turn out very well.”
Scheduled starter Jordan Lyles had been set to throw in the first game, only for an illness to prompt Baltimore to push him to the later game. He warmed up for it, only to still feel unwell with what Hyde described as “flu-like symptoms” and be scratched. Keegan Akin, a former starter who has found a home as a long reliever in the Orioles’ bullpen, volunteered to start in Lyles’ place, Hyde said, rushing to the bullpen to warm up as lineups were exchanged.
Akin worked into the third inning without allowing a run before exiting with two on. With Hyde having used Bryan Baker and Joey Krehbiel in the earlier game, his only right-handed relief options were late-inning relievers Dillon Tate and Félix Bautista. Instead, Hyde brought in rookie left-hander Nick Vespi, the first time in two years he’s used a member of his bullpen three days in a row. Vespi served up the first of Bichette’s home runs, bringing home both of the runners he inherited from Akin.
The next two both came off left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who covered the game’s last six rain-soaked innings after being called up between games. It marked the Ellicott City native’s first major league appearance since July 9 and second since June 15, when Toronto took him deep three times. The Blue Jays did so again Monday, with Cavan Biggio adding a solo shot to Bichette’s trio as Toronto built an 8-1 lead.
Zimmermann said he learned at about 7:30 a.m. that he might be needed in Baltimore, catching a connecting flight from Atlanta while Triple-A Norfolk was en route to Memphis. Later in the morning, he was named the International League’s Pitcher of the Week, coming off an outing of 7 2/3 scoreless innings for the Tides.
“I thought I was throwing as well as I have all year,” said Zimmermann, who began the year in the Orioles’ rotation. “Came up today, kind of different circumstances with when I was told to come up and everything, but the opportunity was there for me to take advantage of it. A couple pitches got away from me there. But other than that, I thought I did all right with the weather and battling.”
“It’s fortunate we had Zimmermann here,” Hyde said, adding that Tate, Bautista and fellow backend arm Cionel Pérez were his only other available relievers.
The lone Baltimore run before the score ballooned came on Rougned Odor’s home run off José Berríos in the second, though Bichette’s first home run quickly erased that lead. The Orioles managed two more runs off Berríos in the seventh, with Cedric Mullins reaching on catcher’s interference with the bases loaded and Adley Rutschman following with a run-scoring fielder’s choice. Rutschman went deep in the ninth, finishing a triple shy of a cycle. The phenom became only the sixth Baltimore rookie with 10 home runs and 25 doubles in a season, joining Trey Mancini, Nick Markakis, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and Sam Bowens.
Baltimore Orioles Insider
The doubleheader marked the first time the Orioles allowed at least seven runs in consecutive games since the contests that bookended the All-Star break. They have now lost three in a row for the first time since a four-game drought that covered the crossover of June and July; perhaps offering some solace, that stretch preceded the 10-game winning streak that first propelled Baltimore above .500 and into the postseason chase.
Hyde was unsure when Lyles might rejoin the rotation, saying Kyle Bradish, coming off consecutive scoreless starts against division leaders, will get the ball Tuesday.
“We’ve still got two more games left with these guys,” Hyde said. “They’re very good, and we need to come back out ready to play tomorrow.”
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM