Somehow, even as they allowed home runs at a record pace, no Orioles pitcher had surrendered a grand slam in 2019. In fact, Baltimore entered Wednesday’s game with the Toronto Blue Jays as the only American League team yet to be tagged with a four-run bomb.
That remained true until Miguel Castro’s 98 mph sinker ran into Rowdy Tellez’s bat and went into Camden Yards’ right-field flag court with two outs in the fifth inning, supplying distance that proved more than necessary in Toronto’s 8-6 victory to even the three-game series.
The blast was the 129th home run allowed by Orioles pitching, putting Baltimore (21-46), in its 67th game, halfway to the 2016 Cincinnati Reds’ record of 258 forfeited homers.
Right-hander David Hess entered his Wednesday night start tied for the major league lead in home runs allowed, having 20 of his pitches end in an opponent rounding the bases. But he was hampered in other ways when facing Toronto (24-43) for the first time since April 1, when he blanked the Blue Jays over 6 1/3 no-hit innings in his first start of 2019.
That outing came off a two-inning relief appearance, so manager Brandon Hyde limited Hess to 82 pitches. He reached that number two batters into Wednesday’s fifth inning, as putting away batters remained an issue that has led to his 8.26 ERA in 12 starts since that no-hit bid.
“I thought he threw the ball pretty well the first couple innings, but the pitch count just gets up there,” Hyde said. “It’s a lot of deep counts.”
Hess issued only a walk his first time through the Blue Jays’ order to reach nine hitless innings against them this season. But Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed Cavan Biggio’s two-out walk in the third with a single, then Lourdes Gurriel Jr. walked to load the bases. Hess left them that way by striking out Randal Grichuk.
After four scoreless innings, he was again afforded the opportunity to escape a jam in the fifth. A hard grounder directly at shortstop Jonathan Villar went untamed yet was ruled a single to start the inning. Another Biggio walk and another Guerrero single loaded the bases with no outs. Hyde stuck with Hess, who produced a grounder from Gurriel that Villar was unable to corral with a slide.
“The ball goes to the right spot, and we didn’t make it,” second baseman Hanser Alberto said. “We’ve gotta keep our heads up and be ready for the next one. They got some lucky hits, and the game is just like that.”
The infield single tied the game and ended Hess’ outing, his first in the past seven without allowing a home run.
“The things that we’ve been working on are starting to come together,” Hess said. “There’s glimpses of that, just not the consistency that we want right now, but that’s part of the growing process, and that’s something that we’re trying to expedite as much as we can and make that happen sooner rather than later.”
Hess gave way to Castro with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning for the second time in three starts, and again all three runners came home. The first was on a wild pitch, then a walk reloaded the bases for Tellez, who lofted a flyball that snuck over the right-field fence.
“Tough spot I’m putting him in, against the middle of their order,” Hyde said. “Just made a bad pitch to Tellez.”
Two of the four runs went on Hess’ line, leaving him with four runs allowed in four innings and a 7.20 ERA on the season. It was his 12th straight start of at least three runs allowed; he has not held an opponent to fewer since that April 1 outing.
Toronto added two runs off Evan Phillips in the sixth before Dan Straily, making his first appearance in 10 days, pitched through a consistent rain to throw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Paul Fry stranded two in scoring position to get it to the bottom of the ninth.
Trey Mancini continued to propel his candidacy as the best bet to represent the Orioles in next month’s All-Star Game in Cleveland.
Facing Toronto opener Derek Law in the first inning, he tripled off the right-field wall, his second three-bagger of the year and first at Camden Yards. Matched up with former Oriole Edwin Jackson in the fifth, Mancini ended a scoreless tie with his 14th home run.
With the offense around him struggling, Mancini’s bid for a cycle fizzled with a sixth-inning groundout. He worked a two-out, full-count walk in the eighth, but also struck out with the tying runs on base in the ninth.
With the potential tying run on first and the go-ahead run waiting to enter the batter’s box in the eighth, the Camden Yards grounds crew scattered dirt in an effort to dry an infield and pitcher’s mounded dampened by a consistent rain.
This effort came amid a pitching change as the Orioles rallied for four runs in the eighth, all with two outs. With the bases loaded after Mancini’s walk, Chance Sisco to score two. After Mancini scored on a Renato Núñez groundout, Pedro Severino walked to bring up the potential tying run in Rio Ruiz, who delivered an RBI single up the middle.
Toronto’s third pitching change of the inning prompted the grounds crew to try to cure the field. Even as players were ready to continue play, they continued grooming the field. The Orioles’ rally was slowed, too, as Hanser Alberto struck out to end the inning.
Chris Davis pinch-hit to start the ninth and walked, then Jonathan Villar was hit by a pitch. Both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Daniel Hudson retired the next three batters, Anthony Santander, Mancini and Sisco, to send the series to a rubber game, of which the Orioles have lost five straight.
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“It’s the guys you want coming up in that situation,” Hyde said. “Just didn’t happen tonight.”