PHILADELPHIA — In a duel of two of baseball’s worst bullpens, the better came away victorious.
With the Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies both planning to use their bullpens to cover every inning Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park, the home team evened the series with a 3-2 victory. J.T. Realmuto’s walk-off two-run triple followed an intentional walk of National League MVP frontrunner Bryce Harper, who represented the potential winning run.
“I didn’t want Harper to beat us there,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Realmuto’s an all-star, superstar-type player, didn’t really want him to beat us as well. Pitch was just too close to the plate there on Realmuto with their pinch-hitter on deck.”
The decisive hit came off César Valdez, who was added to the 40-man and major league rosters Tuesday a month after he was designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk. He finished an out shy of what would’ve been his team-leading ninth save, with right fielder Anthony Santander’s lunging effort not enough to secure Realmuto’s line drive. It wasted Austin Hays’ go-ahead double in the inning’s top half.
Hyde said Valdez, who now has an 8.04 ERA since his last save May 10, and newcomer Brooks Kriske were his only remaining available relievers.
“I would’ve liked to give Kriske a little bit better situation in his first outing with us than an extra-inning, 10th-inning situation,” Hyde said. “So we went Valdez, who’s done it before, and we’re a couple pitches away.”
The Orioles (48-103) entered play with the majors’ worst relief ERA at 5.70, with the Phillies’ bullpen a full run better but still sixth worst. Yet they carried a 1-1 tie into extra innings.
Conner Greene, Marcos Diplán and Thomas Eshelman kept the Phillies scoreless through five innings, giving Baltimore 14 straight shutout frames to open a series with a Philadelphia team contending in the National League East and wild card. But Realmuto’s double off Eshelman and Andrew McCutchen’s double off Dillon Tate evened the score in the sixth.
After Tate worked a scoreless seventh, Fernando Abad allowed a leadoff double to Harper, but following a productive groundout, the Orioles’ drawn-in infield was able to catch Harper trying to score on another groundball. Eric Hanhold got the final out of the eighth before Tyler Wells’ clean ninth sent the game to extras.
“We all know that a lot of us are probably gonna end up pitching and we’re just trying to go out there and give our team the best shot to win a ballgame,” Wells said. “It’s a tough loss tonight, but I think that the bullpen, I think all the pitchers did very, very well. Unfortunately, it just didn’t go our way in that last inning.”
With the Orioles placing outfielder DJ Stewart on the 60-day injured list and adding Valdez ahead of the bullpen game, Hyde had a four-man bench at his disposal. He burned through half of it quickly.
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Ryan McKenna pinch-hit for Greene in the top of the second, grounding out with two on. Ramón Urías, who had been scratched from the Orioles’ lineup as he continues to nurse upper right leg/groin soreness, delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the fourth to chase Phillies starter Adonis Medina in the fourth; Hyde then had right-hander Chris Ellis, who was on turn to start Tuesday’s game before a bout of arm fatigue, pinch-run for Urías.
The moves left Ryan Mountcastle and backup catcher Austin Wynns as the only position players on the Orioles’ bench. With a runner on and two outs in the sixth, Mountcastle was on deck when Kelvin Gutiérrez reached on an error. But Hyde pulled him back and let Eshelman hit for himself, and he grounded out to end the threat. Hyde said afterward he would have had Mountcastle bat if the Orioles were trailing and possibly if they were tied.
“I just know that I got Mountcastle and Wynns left with three innings to go, trying to piece it together,” Hyde said. “We never got in a double-switch situation until late in the game. So I knew Mountcastle was gonna come up, potentially, in a big spot later in the game, and it being just the sixth inning with the lead and trying to stretch [Eshelman] for one more inning, that was a tough call.
“We had an unusual situation three times with first and second, two outs and the pitcher spot [up]. That doesn’t happen ever. So yeah, it was a challenging night.”
Inches from 30/30
Cedric Mullins was inches from perhaps preventing the game from going to extras, with his third-inning drive down the right-field line being ruled just foul despite some replays seeming to show it grazed or possibly knicked the foul pole.
A home run would’ve made Mullins the first player in Orioles history with 30 home runs and 30 steals in the same season. But a replay review determined he would have to wait for that distinction.
Instead of his power, he ended the at-bat showing off his speed with an infield single.