A one-run game at Camden Yards became ugly quickly Monday night after Orioles manager Buck Showalter turned to Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr.
With right-hander Mychal Givens pulled from the game after 37 pitches, the bases loaded and Toronto Blue Jays left-handed-hitting outfielder Curtis Granderson at the plate with two outs in the ninth inning, Showalter called on the only left-handed reliever he had available.
The last time Cortes inherited such a situation — lefty-versus-lefty matchup, the bases loaded — he allowed a grand slam to the Houston Astros' Josh Reddick on Tuesday.
But disaster repeated itself Monday for Cortes, who fell behind Granderson 3-0 before walking in a run on five pitches, and then allowed a grand slam to the next batter, Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson.
"Everything wasn't working," Cortes said after the 7-1 loss. "I didn't have anything. Just wasn't executing pitches."
On Tuesday in Houston, Cortes had entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, fallen behind Reddick 3-0, then worked the count full before allowing a grand slam on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
In Monday's loss, Cortes got ahead of Donaldson 0-2. But after a ball, he lofted a 88-mph fastball that Donaldson blasted well over the left-center-field fence. Three of the four runs were charged to Givens.
But the walk to Granderson was just as crucial.
"It can't happen," said Cortes, who later allowed a single to Justin Smoak, meaning left-handed hitters are now 3-for-7 against him. "You can't come into that situation and give up a walk. I have nothing to say. You just can't do it."
Left-hander Richard Bleier was unavailable Monday after throwing three innings in Sunday's 8-7 win over the New York Yankees. Opponents are 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position against Bleier, and he's held hitters to a .125 average (2-for-16) with runners on base.
Showalter said he had taken Givens as far as he wanted, and before the game noted that that there were five relievers he likely would not use Monday. The bullpen accounted for 11 1/3 innings Sunday in New York.
Darren O'Day and Hunter Harvey also were available in the bullpen, but Showalter didn't want to warm up O'Day a second time unless it was in a save situation, and he was saving Harvey for extra innings, leaving Cortes as his only option.
"It's not his fault," Showalter said of Cortes, whose ERA rose from 4.15 to 7.71. "He's kind of learning on the job. That's part of it. It was a tough night for guys to pitch. Their guys obviously did well, and we did well until it got away from us a little at the end. Mike was having trouble gripping the ball a little bit. But, no, it's kind of the situation we're in. ... It's really a two-day fallout, what happened in the [Yankees] series there. We had a chance to win it, though."