A big swing from an unlikely source gave the Orioles a chance to prevent a club-record road losing streak Saturday at Tropicana Field. Instead, all it did was add another close loss against the Tampa Bay Rays to manager Brandon Hyde’s record.
Backup catcher Austin Wynns hit a fifth-inning grand slam to account for all the Orioles’ offense in a 5-4 loss, with an uneven start from right-hander Jorge López ultimately doing them in as the Rays’ relief corps once again suffocated any hope of a comeback.
“We played really hard today, and they shut the door on us,” Wynns said. “Their bullpen shut the door on us, that’s for sure.”
Without a win away from Camden Yards since John Means’ no-hitter in Seattle on May 5, the Orioles have now lost 14 straight games on the road, setting a club mark and passing road losing streaks from 1988 and 2018 in the process after starting 11-6 on the road.
Since that last road win, the Orioles (22-41) also had a 14-game overall losing streak that endured through the last two weeks of May.
López, thanks to a 33-pitch first inning that included mostly soft ground ball contact but also didn’t feature many strikes, had the Orioles down 3-0 in the first inning and then cruised until the fourth inning, when he allowed two more runs.
Manager Brandon Hyde said López was “great” despite the runs charged to his account.
“Hardly any hard contact,” Hyde said. “I thought he threw the ball really, really well and got really, really unlucky. We didn’t make a couple plays that shortened his outing, but I give him credit for having a 30-pitch inning with nothing going his way and staying out there and getting into the fifth inning. I thought he had really good stuff today.”
Lopez struck out eight while also allowing five runs on eight hits with a walk in 4 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to 5.64.
The Orioles answered those fourth-inning runs by loading the bases with walks by Ryan Mountcastle and Pat Valaika around a single by Freddy Galvis, and Wynns hit a high fly ball that just sneaked out of left field for his first career grand slam.
Wynns also contributed a caught-stealing in the sixth inning to help keep the game close, but the Orioles didn’t get a runner past first base the rest of the game as Tanner Scott, Hunter Harvey, Travis Lakins Sr. and Dillon Tate kept the Rays scoreless in relief of López.
Galvis’ two-out single in the ninth inning was his second of the game and the Orioles’ sixth hit; leadoff man Cedric Mullins had two of them as well.
The Orioles have played seven straight games decided by two runs or less at Tropicana Field dating back to 2019, and are losers of three straight since starting June with a 5-1 mark.
“The last few games we’ve played against Tampa, the majority of the games have been like that where we’re chasing a run or two,” Hyde said. “We just have a hard time once we get into their bullpen, a hard time pushing a run across to either even it or take a lead. That’s how it’s been the last couple years for sure.”
Wynns said: “We all have to just mesh and something has to click, and we have to find a way.”
López and Rays outfielder Brett Phillips were teammates with both the Brewers and the Royals, getting traded together in 2018, and seem to have developed a good relationship in the process.
They showed that Saturday when López plunked Phillips square in the back with a 95-mph fastball in the fourth inning. Phillips dropped his bat and gestured to the pitcher’s mound as if he was going to come after López, drawing Wynns and umpire Nick Mahrley out to prepare to separate them before Phillips broke into a smile and noted that he was joking.
Phillips and López laughed as he walked to first base.
Left field follies
Mountcastle doesn’t play left field often anymore, and days like Saturday won’t earn him more playing time out there. In the Rays’ three-run first, Mountcastle let a runner advance from second to third on a fly ball that he wasn’t ready to throw after catching, then in the fourth inning, a line drive bounced over his head and to the outfield wall to score two runs.
Mountcastle’s territory was also where, in the seventh inning, shortstop Freddy Galvis came out for a high fly ball and had it bounce out of his glove after he called Mountcastle off.
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