When Brandon Hyde whipped the hat off his head, it was almost as if he needed to let the steam out more easily. The Orioles manager had been standing on the top step of the dugout, waiting for a verdict on a play at the plate.
And after a conference between umpires resulted in the decision to overturn the original call, Hyde came out to appeal the play at the plate — which was a key turning point in an eventual 8-1 series-finale loss in which the Pittsburgh Pirates avoided a sweep and ended Baltimore’s winning streak at five games. Managers aren’t allowed to argue replay rulings and Hyde was quickly ejected.
It all began with two outs in the seventh inning, with Pirates outfielder Greg Allen on second base and infielder Kevin Newman batting. A sharply hit ground ball into the hole between third base and shortstop was knocked down by shortstop Jorge Mateo’s dive into the outfield grass, and when the ball skittered a few feet away, Allen rounded third and headed toward the plate.
Mateo’s throw home bounced twice before reaching catcher Robinson Chirinos, who had set up in front of the plate. The ball stuck in his glove, the tag was applied and Allen ran into him. The immediate reaction from Allen was to counter that Chirinos was blocking his path to the plate rather than allowing a lane for Allen.
While Allen was initially ruled out by home plate umpire Carlos Torres, the lengthy deliberation between umpires led to the reversal and Hyde’s ejection shortly thereafter. And once the Orioles retook the field, the Pirates quickly added on from there, scoring three more runs — including a two-run shot from third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes off right-hander Beau Sulser, who entered shortly after the ejection.
“For me, this is common sense,” Hyde said. “This was a common sense play. Throw’s from the left field line, and the throw beats him by seven feet, so I don’t know, as a catcher, what you’re supposed to do. Because I felt like Robbie was lined up correctly when Mateo released the ball. Now, the throw took Robbie into the plate, square in the middle of the plate, and then Robbie held his ground and the runner didn’t slide, and he never touched the plate on top of that. So there was a lot of things going on there.”
When Hyde came out of the dugout, he hoped to appeal whether Allen touched home plate. He wanted to ask for a rules check but was ejected instead.
In a statement, MLB said the replay official “definitively determined that the catcher was in violation of the Home Plate Collision Rule. The catcher’s initial setup completely in foul territory was illegal and he maintained that position without possession of the ball.”
In a conversation with Torres after the inning, Chirinos asked the umpire whether he had to start completely in fair territory before stepping in front of the plate. But Chirinos said Torres told the catcher he had to give more space, whether he sets up initially in fair or foul ground. Hyde “felt like his right foot was on the line or on the foul side of the line, giving the runner a clear lane.”
“I know I start in the inside, but the rule don’t say where you have to start, you only have to give him some space to slide,” Chirinos added. “And I think I did. I think I did out there when I was on the field and also watching the replay. I mean, you can see the inside part of the plate was open, and Mateo threw the ball and it took the plate away because that ball was right on top of the plate. I don’t know what they want me to do right there.”
The Orioles (56-52) fell apart after the ruling and ejection. Instead of getting out of the seventh inning unscathed, four runs crossed. Instead of a three-run deficit with nine outs remaining, the difference ballooned to seven — far out of reach for a team that has a penchant for late-game drama. Baltimore has 24 comeback wins this season, and 10 of them have come when trailing after the sixth inning.
“That was the third out right there,” Chirinos said. “They scored four runs after that play, and the game went out of hand. Don’t know what could’ve happened if we end up coming back to the dugout 4-1. Probably have a shot to turn over that game. But thing happened. Probably have to give him more plate next time.”
Bench coach Fredi González became the Orioles’ acting manager with Hyde’s ejection. It marked Hyde’s third ejection of the season, the first coming April 21 in Oakland and the second on July 2 in Minnesota. It’s the Orioles manager’s ninth career ejection.
The four runs Pittsburgh scored in the seventh added to the four they plated off right-hander Spenser Watkins.
Before an infield single to third in the fourth inning, which Statcast credited with having a .060 expected batting average, Watkins had retired 13 straight Pirates on 48 pitches. Then came three more softly hit singles as part of a three-run fifth inning.
The four runs Watkins allowed in 5 1/3 innings marks the second most in any start this season. He struck out five and allowed four hits and one walk in what had been one of his best performances since returning from the injured list June 25 until an infield single opened a trickle he couldn’t stop.
“It’s super easy to focus on the negatives always; in this game, there’s a lot of failure,” Watkins said. “But in my growth, I feel like I’m able to start focusing on the positives, and that’s something we’ll attack tomorrow when we address everything. But yeah, a lot of positives to take out of this one.”
There was little offensive support around either Watkins or the bullpen, with shortstop Jorge Mateo’s solo homer in the third inning representing one of four Orioles hits.
Entering Sunday, the Orioles’ .706 OPS in the seventh through ninth innings was the highest of any third of the game. They’ve made a habit of comebacks. But with a decisive ruling and a subsequent ejection, those comeback hopes vanished.
“Mateo with a big homer and we had four hits, so would that play at the plate change the game?” Hyde said. “I don’t know, but I would’ve liked to have stayed in it a little bit longer.”
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Baltimore Orioles Insider
>> Outfielder Austin Hays continued his recovery Sunday by hitting in the cage and throwing on the field. He has missed four straight games and five of the last six with left oblique tightness.
>> Outfielder Anthony Santander has practiced first base before games for much of the season, and with the Orioles having traded Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros, Hyde said Santander might see some time at first at some point this season.
>> Rougned Odor received his first start of the season at third base. While he said in spring training playing third base for the New York Yankees last season was “uncomfortable,” Hyde said Odor was open to the idea of playing third if it helped the team. The move allowed rookie Terrin Vavra to play second base while keeping both left-handed bats in the order.
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