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Orioles rally against Max Scherzer, but fall short after late error in 6-5 loss to Nationals

Unless the Orioles crash back down to earth and out of contention soon, manager Brandon Hyde will have daily occasion to discuss how challenging a playoff run for his roster of castoffs will be.

He described Sunday’s challenge succinctly in his morning media briefing: “This is not easy. We’re facing Max Scherzer.”

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Still, facing one of the best pitchers in the world, the Orioles erased a late four-run deficit Sunday against the Washington Nationals at Camden Yards and looked in line for another improbable win.

But once they tied the game, an uncharacteristic error from one of their breakout players — third baseman Rio Ruiz — allowed the go-ahead run to score in a 6-5 loss.

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“That was an unfortunate play,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

The Orioles (12-9) trailed 5-1 in the sixth inning and Scherzer had thrown just 73 pitches before the middle-inning rally that seems to be inevitable for these Orioles came. Ruiz walked, Chance Sisco singled and both scored on a towering home run by Pedro Severino.

Severino, a former National who the Orioles claimed off waivers at the end of spring training in 2019, had a team-high three hits against his old team.

An inning later, Anthony Santander hit his second solo home run of the game off Scherzer to tie it up.

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But with a runner on second and two outs in the eighth, Kurt Suzuki hit a chopper to Ruiz. After he waited for the runner to pass him en route to third base, Ruiz rushed a throw that bounced past Renato Núñez at first base, allowing a run to score.

“Suzuki hit the ball, and he’s not a good runner, wasn’t running down there very hard and Rio just, I felt, kind of lost the intensity in his throw,” Hyde said. “I’m sure he recognized that he had plenty of time, and instead of just doing his normal routine with catching the baseball, moving his feet and making a strong throw, I feel like he just let up a little bit and kind of goosed it. The throw became a little short because of that. I think he’ll learn from that and be better off going forward.”

The Orioles left a runner on third base in the eighth inning, but that was their last chance at a comeback. Daniel Hudson retired the side in the ninth for his fourth save.

Emotional return

With John Means pitching for the first time since Aug. 4 after leaving the team to be with his family after the death of his father, the Orioles weren’t sure what they’d get from their former All-Star on Sunday.

After the game, Means said he handled the emotional few weeks “about as well as I can,” and said that while he was glad to be with his family and be there for him, Sunday was a “pretty emotional day” as his loss finally started to sink in.

He didn’t have the day he’d hoped for on the mound. Means was only scheduled for two innings, but didn’t finish one after a long first inning.

Nationals leadoff man Trea Turner worked an 11-pitch walk to start the game, and things went sideways for Means from there. He ended up charged with three runs in the Nationals’ first inning, and left having recorded two outs on 34 pitches.

Right-hander Jorge López, making his Orioles debut after being claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals last weekend, was charged with two runs in four innings of strong relief after taking over for Means.

“He’s still building, so this is kind of a spring training for him,” Hyde said of Means. “I think fortunately Jorge López coming behind him today, that was fantastic. That picked us up. Really impressed with his outing, going multiple innings and showing great life with his fastball.

“I think we’re going to continue to build both of those guys, and we’ll see. But John, it’s going to take a little while. We’re going to do what’s best for John and the club. It’s not for lack of effort. He just had setback early and had this unfortunate circumstances. It’s just going to take a little while to get back to normal.”

Tony time

With two home runs Sunday, Santander took over the American League lead with 22 RBIs. Santander is batting .271 with a .935 OPS, and his seven home runs lead the Orioles are tied for fourth most in the AL.

“He’s showed up this year and is really swinging the bat well and driving the baseball,” Hyde said.

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