The Orioles lost their starter, then lost the game with their closer.
Orioles starting pitcher Tyler Wells exited Wednesday night’s 6-4 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays with side and lower back discomfort, the team said. The decisive runs came in the 10th inning off All-Star Jorge López, with Randy Arozarena continuing to haunt the Orioles with a two-run double.
Wells will be evaluated further Thursday morning, but manager Brandon Hyde said there’s a “pretty good chance” he will need an injured list stint.
“I was out there, and it happened, and I was like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t feel great,’” Wells said. “And then I didn’t want to continue to try and test it because you see it so many times with other people, one extra one and it just re-irritates it, and I wanted to make sure that I stayed on top of it and didn’t really get to a point of where I made it any worse.”
Wells threw his 69th pitch, an 87 mph slider, with one out in the fifth inning and began grimacing on the mound while holding his left side. Hyde, pitching coach Chris Holt and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel came out to the mound, with Wells eventually gingerly walking off the field with Ebel. Dillon Tate came in to replace him.
Wells, a 27-year-old in his second major league season, was making his 20th start of the season, tying veteran Jordan Lyles for the most on the team. The Orioles said before the season they would exercise caution with Wells throughout the year. Between Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2019 and the lost 2020 minor league season, he did not pitch in a game for two years before Baltimore took him in the Rule 5 draft and used him as a reliever.
Wells’ 94 2/3 innings rank second most on the team behind Lyles and are nearly 40 more than he threw out of the Orioles’ bullpen in 2021. He said he’s been dealing with tightness in his hips and back of late, working on mobility to keep himself loose.
“I haven’t been a starter, haven’t been thrown this many innings in three years, so it’s definitely my body kind of re-acclimating to the overall workload,” Wells said. “But it’s all part of it.”
His effectiveness had prompted the Orioles to loosen the leash on him somewhat. Before his start Friday to open the second half of the season, Wells had 17 straight outings in which he allowed three or fewer earned runs, the second-longest such streak from an Oriole since 1969. He went at least five innings in 11 of those starts and completed six frames in five of them.
“It is unfortunate,” Hyde said. “I’m hoping for the best, and we’ll see. I’m not gonna make any judgments right now, but I’m hoping for the best, but it is somebody that we’ve been trying to be careful with throughout this year, and sometimes, you can’t control some things.”
Wells left a runner on second for Tate, who allowed him to score. Wells finished the outing with four earned runs allowed, the first three coming on a pair of home runs, and a 3.90 ERA, the lowest among Orioles with at least 10 starts.
The Orioles trailed 4-2 after the fifth inning, getting a run back in the bottom half when Trey Mancini broke an 0-for-26 skid with a single that scored a run thanks to Rays right fielder Luke Raley’s throwing error. Raley homered off Wells in the second inning, with Ji-Man Choi hitting a two-run shot in the first.
Yandy Díaz’s double off Tate to score the runner he inherited from Wells marked the only run that scored with an Orioles reliever on the mound in regulation. Baltimore’s bullpen collectively pitched 14 1/3 scoreless innings in the series before the 10th inning.
Big day for shortstops
The day the Orioles officially added a new shortstop prospect to their farm system and another continued his push for a major league promotion with a pair of home runs at Triple-A, their current player at that position sent the game to extras.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Jorge Mateo laced a game-tying home run. It marked the farthest right of center he has hit a homer in his major league career and a rare offensive outburst from a player who has made more of an impact for Baltimore with his defense and speed. The latter was on display even on the home run, with Mateo losing his helmet on his trot and leaving it on the ground near first base as he made his way home.
“I’ve been putting a lot of work in overall but especially trying to hit the ball towards the opposite fields,” Mateo said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “It’s not surprising to me, and I’m happy that the hard work is paying off.”
The highlight came on the day Baltimore welcomed Jackson Holliday, the first overall pick in the 2022 draft, to Camden Yards, and Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore’s No. 2 prospect, homered twice in Triple-A. The Orioles threatened to win in the bottom of the ninth, putting two on after Mateo’s home run, but Anthony Santander struck out to send the game to the decisive extra frame.
Vavra ‘eager, excited’ to debut
Infielder Terrin Vavra learned late Monday night not long after Triple-A Norfolk arrived in Memphis that he was heading to Baltimore. Perhaps the most exciting part beyond his looming debut is that his wife, Carlie, will be able to watch it.
Carlie, 35 weeks pregnant, has been back in Vavra’s home state of Minnesota for much of the season, unable to watch her husband play. But she got clearance from her doctors to join the rest of his immediate family on a flight to Baltimore to watch his first game with the Orioles.
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They’re still waiting. Vavra, Baltimore’s No. 12 prospect according to Baseball America, didn’t make it to the ballpark Tuesday until 4 p.m., flying from Memphis to Washington that morning after being notified of the promotion late Monday. He also wasn’t in the lineup Wednesday, but he’s looking forward to being part of an Orioles team that he’s watched play well from a distance while part of a Triple-A team featuring other top infield prospects Henderson and Jordan Westburg.
“As a team down there, we’re trying to get to this point, and we see what they’re doing up here, and we’re trying to try to replicate that down there,” Vavra said. “But then obviously we’re looking forward to the opportunity to get up here and do the same thing. So yeah, eager, excited. Ready to get here and just try to help with winning games.”
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