If there’s a silver lining for the Orioles to take out of Sunday afternoon’s defeat, it’s that they don’t have to face the Tampa Bay Rays again.
The American League East contenders completed their season series with a 12-8 victory at Camden Yards, dropping the Orioles to 1-18 against the Rays in 2021. Home runs from Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo were not enough to avoid the first time the Orioles finished with one or fewer wins against a divisional opponent since 1999, when the Toronto Blue Jays dominated the series, 11-1.
“Especially as a competitor, you want to go out and win,” starter Spenser Watkins said. “Consistently not doing that takes a toll.”
Watkins and Paul Fry, who combined to allow 10 of the Rays’ runs Sunday, were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game. After posting a 1.76 ERA in his first three starts, Watkins’ ERA in his previous seven — all Orioles losses — was 10.57 after he allowed six runs in five innings Sunday.
Fry opened the season as one of Baltimore’s top relievers, briefly serving as the Orioles’ closer, but his command has escaped him of late and led to several disastrous outings. With the Orioles down 6-4 in the seventh inning, the left-hander loaded the bases on a single and two walks before Joey Wendle hit a grand slam. The Rays’ four grand slams off the Orioles (40-89) are the most Baltimore has allowed to one opponent in a single season.
After posting a 1.78 ERA in his first 26 outings, Fry’s ERA is 11.05 in the 26 since. The Rays have especially given him problems; Fry’s ERA against Tampa Bay is 34.71 and 2.98 otherwise. He was considered a trade candidate at last month’s deadline and is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter.
Watkins and Fry combined for a 3.03 ERA in July but had a 13.10 mark between them in August. Manager Brandon Hyde spoke with reporters before the roster moves were made.
On the season, the Orioles were outscored 150-71 against Tampa Bay, the third time in five years an opponent totaled 150 runs against them after no team had done so to another since 1960. They’ll enter 2022 having lost 12 straight games to the Rays.
After the Rays scored three runs off him the first time through their lineup, Watkins seemed to be recapturing his old form, retiring 12 batters in a row. He pitched into and completed the fifth for the first time in four starts.
“Caught some rhythm, executed what I wanted to where I wanted to with the plan we had,” Watkins said. “Just getting back to me, where have I been successful and what was I doing earlier on in the season that was really working? So we got back to that.”
Back out for the sixth, he allowed a leadoff single to Wander Franco before Austin Meadows and Wendle hit back-to-back home runs.
“I was encouraged by the third, fourth and fifth,” Hyde said. “I thought his stuff in those three innings looked more like he did in the first couple starts that he was with us. But he had just had a tough time getting through six innings.”
After Jorge López worked his fourth scoreless inning across three outings since a move to the bullpen, Fry’s immense struggles of late and against the Rays continued. Tampa Bay added two more runs in the eighth off Conner Greene when, with runners on first and second, Franco blooped a single into center and the Orioles took their time getting the ball in, allowing Kevin Kiermaier to score from first.
“You want to go out there and win every day,” Mountcastle said. “It’s obviously a lot more fun when you win. We’re all gonna keep pounding away at the rest of this season and hopefully get some more wins down the stretch here.”
King of the ’castle
Before Sunday’s game, Hyde bemoaned Mountcastle’s recent string of hard-hit outs, including several in this series. But the rookie shook off that bad luck with four hits Sunday, including his 24th home run. That count ties him with teammate Trey Mancini for the third-most by a rookie in team history, trailing only Cal Ripken Jr.’s 28 in 1982 and Eddie Murray’s 27 in 1977.
Over his past 70 starts, Mountcastle has a .949 OPS with an on-base percentage above .350.
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“He stayed on the ball really well all day long,” Hyde said. “Mounty’s got a ton of ability and is gonna be a good player in this league. He’s showing his power right now.”
Jorge Mateo, who has mostly made an impression with his speed thus far, launched his first home run as an Oriole, a two-run shot in the fifth inning. It was Mateo’s 24th hit in 19 games with Baltimore.
An inning later, the Orioles brought the tying run up against former Baltimore reliever Shawn Armstrong, but Kelvin Gutiérrez struck out with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Mullins took Armstrong deep in the eighth, tying Mountcastle for the team lead. The Orioles scored six runs off Tampa Bay relievers after managing 14 earned runs off the Rays’ bullpen in their first 18 games against them.
Around the horn
- Right-hander Hunter Harvey, who has been on the 10-day injured list with a right lat strain for nearly two months, felt some soreness after his most recent rehab outing with Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday and won’t join the Orioles for their road trip to Toronto and New York. Hyde did not specify whether the soreness was in the injured lat or elsewhere, but did say Harvey was scheduled to play catch Sunday in hopes of pitching again in “the next couple days.”
- Right-hander Chris Ellis will start Monday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, his second start for Baltimore.
- The Orioles will bring a full five-max taxi squad with them on the road trip. It’s expected to include left-hander Alexander Wells, who could provide a length option behind Ellis.
Monday, 7:07 p.m.
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