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Orioles’ late homers not enough to overcome Boston’s early ones in 8-5 loss

Much has been the case this week at Camden Yards, Friday night’s biggest blasts did not belong to the Orioles.

Pat Valaika and Cedric Mullins went back-to-back in the seventh, and Chance Sisco provided an opposite-field, three-run home run in the eighth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome an early trifecta from the Boston Red Sox in an 8-5 loss, the Orioles’ sixth straight defeat.

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After a crisp six-pitch first inning, Baltimore left-hander John Means allowed a home run on a changeup to Xander Bogaerts to open the second. A frame later, after slugging prospect Ryan Mountcastle walked in his first major league plate appearance and was erased on a double play in the bottom of the second, J.D. Martinez hammered another Means changeup for a two-run shot.

Statcast measured the home run at a projected 431 feet, the longest at Camden Yards in 2020. That remained the case until the fifth inning, when Rafael Devers broke the game open with a three-run home run off another changeup, this one from reliever Jorge López, that went a projected 447 feet. The Red Sox added two more runs off López in the sixth.

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“We got beat with our changeups tonight,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

Even with the Orioles’ three homers in the late innings, the five longest home runs this season at Oriole Park have all been hit in the past week by visiting players. Friday’s defeat dropped the Orioles (12-14) to 4-13 at their home ballpark, including games in which they played as the road team.

In other teams’ venues, the Orioles are 8-1.

Making the most of it

Colten Brewer, making his second start in 78 career appearances, pitched four shutout innings to open the game for the Red Sox. But Valaika spoiled Boston’s shutout bid with a solo home run in the seventh, then Mullins hit one of his own, the fourth time the Orioles have gone back to back in 2020.

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With the home run coming off left-hander Josh Osich, it marked not only the first time the switch-hitting Mullins has gone deep batting right-handed in the majors, but also the first time he’s had an extra-base hit from the right side.

Since Austin Hays went on the injured list last week and thus opened up more playing time in the outfield, Mullins has a six-game hitting streak, batting .476 during that span while raising his average to .324. He added a sliding catch in center field in the eighth.

“I just see a totally different guy from a confidence standpoint, a guy playing with some energy,” Hyde said. “This game is such a confidence game, and right now, he’s playing with a little bit of a swagger.”

Having struck out and flew out after his second-inning free pass, Mountcastle worked an eight-pitch walk with two outs in the eighth, extending the frame. Sisco capitalized, cutting the Orioles’ deficit in half with his second home run in three games.

Mountcastle had two walks in the same game only twice in his 2019 season that earned International League Most Valuable Player honors.

“I think he might’ve walked 10 times in his whole minor league career, and up here, he has two walks in his first game,” Means quipped. “I was kind of giving him crap for that. But he’s going to be so good for this team for such a long time.”

During the game, the Red Sox traded closer Brandon Workman, along with fellow reliever Heath Hembree, to the Philadelphia Phillies. Replacement closer Matt Barnes surrendered a leadoff bunt single by Mullins in the ninth, but nothing more.

Spare change

In his All-Star 2019 campaign, Means’ changeup held opponents to a .207 average, while they swung and missed on it nearly a quarter of the time.

Despite throwing the pitch nearly 4 mph harder than he did a year ago, it hasn’t been nearly as effective. Three of the four hits Means allowed Friday, including both home runs, came on his changeup. On the year, opposing batters are hitting .409 off the pitch with an .818 slugging percentage. The Red Sox whiffed on only one of the eight Means changeups they swung at Friday, in line with the 13.3% swing-and-miss rate he entered the start with.

“I felt like every pitch was working except my changeup, and that’s kind of been the story of this year for me,” Means said. “All my pitches feel really good except for the changeup, which is something I didn’t think I would have to worry about.

“The movement’s good. It’s just middle-middle every time.”

Means’ night ended after 44 pitches in three innings as the Orioles worked to build him up after time missed because of arm fatigue and the death of his father. On the season, Means is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA.

“The life to his stuff was good again,” Hyde said. “He just got hurt with his changeup tonight. Just didn’t have the real good changeup, and that’s where the damage came for him.”

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