A long-awaited competitive effort was not enough for the Orioles to end a losing streak that grew to 17 games Saturday night.
A 5-4 defeat to the Atlanta Braves marked the first game of the skid in which they weren’t outscored by multiple runs, but that will offer little solace to an Orioles team that is approaching three weeks since its most recent victory and is the holder of the worst record in the major leagues at 38-84.
The 17-game streak is the second-longest in club history, behind only the 1988 team that lost its first 21 games, tied with the 2011 Seattle Mariners for the longest in the American League since 2011 and tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the longest skid this year in Major League Baseball.
Manager Brandon Hyde found no consolation in the narrow margin, though he said he was “encouraged” by how his club has played in this series after being outscored by a major league-record 96 runs in the streak’s first 15 games.
“It’s never easy to lose,” Hyde said. “It’s always tough to lose. I think we’ve played pretty good baseball the last two nights. I’m encouraged by that. I don’t think we played well for a while.”
After he was out of the lineup Friday to rest a perpetually sore left ankle, Anthony Santander’s second home run of the night to lead off the ninth inning would have tied the game if not for Atlanta’s insurance run in the top half. But the switch-hitter’s first two home runs from the right side this year and the continued turnaround of Ryan Mountcastle surely provide some consolation.
A 24-year-old who figures to be a part of the next competitive team at Camden Yards, Mountcastle took Braves starter Drew Smyly deep in the bottom of the first. Saturday marked his 81st game played — half a season’s worth — since the end of an abysmal April, and the solo shot was his 20th in that span. Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of his major league debut.
The drive into the Orioles’ bullpen extended Mountcastle’s hitting streak to 13 games, coming on both sides of the nine-game stretch he spent facing concussion symptoms.
It also provided the Orioles their first end-of-an-inning lead since Monday, when Matt Harvey made his previous start, but the veteran right-hander was unable to make it stand. Dansby Swanson’s two-out, two-run double in the third inning marked the first time Harvey had been scored on in the first three innings of any of his seven second-half starts, and Joc Pederson homered in the fourth to extend Atlanta’s lead to 3-1.
But with two outs in the bottom half, Baltimore showed some life. As Smyly cruised toward a third scoreless inning since Mountcastle’s home run, Santander sent a 2-2 curveball out to left. Three pitches later, Ramón Urías drove a center-cut fastball to right-center field to even the score.
The tie was brief. Harvey got the first two outs of the fifth before Austin Riley hit the game’s fifth solo shot.
“I hadn’t thrown a changeup to a righty the entire game and decided to throw it and hung out,” Harvey said. “It was just unfortunate that that happened.
“We’ll come out of it. Hopefully, it’s tomorrow.”
Harvey pitched into the sixth, giving Baltimore a chance to win with a performance both he and Hyde were pleased with. Behind him, Marcos Diplán worked two innings for his seventh straight outing without allowing an earned run to open his major league career. He got some help from Cole Sulser, who struck out two to strand an inherited runner at third base but allowed a run in the ninth.
Two-out singles in the eighth from Trey Mancini and Austin Hays became fruitless when Pedro Severino struck out on four pitches, and after Santander’s home run, the Orioles went down in order in the ninth as the second-longest losing streak in team history continued. The Orioles’ past 12 home runs have come with the bases empty, and they have one walk in their past four games.
“We haven’t had a whole lot of ninth-inning rallies this year, so we felt like we were in the game,” Hyde said. “We did like the way that we battled back. Just not enough.”
López to the bullpen
Harvey now stands as the only starter to take every turn through the Orioles’ rotation. Hyde said before the game that right-hander Jorge López will move to the bullpen. Who will start in López’s place Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels is to be determined.
Hyde said López, who leads the majors with 14 losses to go with a 6.35 ERA, was receptive to the move. After Baltimore claimed him on waivers from the Kansas City Royals last season, his first three outings were in relief.
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“I just think he needs to try something different a little bit, and we’re not closing the door on him from being in the rotation, but I’d like to take a look to see what it looks like coming out of the bullpen,” Hyde said. “He’s going through a lot, and this might take a little bit of pressure off of him, putting him in the bullpen here for a little while.
“I’d like to do the best thing for Lopie.”
López’s velocity dropped dramatically in his most recent start, in which he lasted only two innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. Frequently this season, he has pitched well early before struggling in the middle innings, particularly the fifth, in which he has a 14.79 ERA. Opposing batters have an OPS 150 points higher the second time they face López compared to the first.
López’s son, Mikael, underwent a two-week chemotherapy regimen and a bone marrow transplant in July.
Around the horn
- Hyde said right-hander Chris Ellis, who was put on the active roster Saturday after being claimed on waivers the day before, is a candidate to start Wednesday. A bullpen game is also an option.
- DJ Stewart, who is dealing with some knee soreness, was on the bench, but Hyde said that was more related to the Braves starting Smyly, a left-hander, rather than Stewart’s health, adding he would “probably in there tomorrow.”
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
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