No reliever has been asked to keep more inherited runners from scoring than Orioles right-hander Adam Plutko. He couldn’t complete that task Sunday.
After rookie starter Dean Kremer allowed consecutive singles to open the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox, manager Brandon Hyde brought in Plutko to retain a one-run Baltimore lead. But a walk and two-run double by Rafael Devers gave Boston a lead it didn’t relinquish in beating the Orioles, 4-3, at Camden Yards.
“I’m putting him in almost impossible spots,” Hyde said. “I need to start letting him start innings and give him a little bit of a breather. I feel like every time I bring him in is when we really need somebody to put the ball on the ground or pitch against the middle of their order, just because he has shown me he can wiggle his way out of innings and does a nice job with that.
“It just didn’t work out for us.”
Since sweeping the Red Sox in Boston in their series-opening series, the Orioles have dropped six straight games, all at home, to their American League East foe and will try to avoid a four-game sweep in Monday night’s finale.
Both runners the Red Sox (22-13) scored in the sixth belonged to Kremer, who pitched into that frame for the second straight start after doing so only once in his first eight major league outings. He allowed only two hits in the first five innings, one being Dever’s game-tying home run in the top of the second. Cedric Mullins returned the lead to Baltimore (15-19) with his fifth-inning solo shot, his sixth to tie him with Trey Mancini for the team lead.
“It’s definitely getting there,” said Kremer, who lowered his ERA to 6.23. “Trying to get better every start and try to pitch with that mentality of leaving it all on the field.”
Kremer took the mound for the sixth having thrown 77 pitches, but eight later, there were two Red Sox on base and he was out of the game. Plutko entered, inheriting his 16th and 17th runners of the season, as many as any other pairing of Orioles relievers combined. After Devers doubled to score both, Plutko, who the Orioles acquired late in spring training in a trade with Cleveland, has allowed eight of those inherited runners to score. In his 19 frames, only two runs have scored on his account.
“He’s done such a great job,” Hyde said. “Today was tough.”
After Paul Fry pitched around an error and left the bases loaded in the seventh, Hunter Renfroe hit a long home run to center field off Cole Sulser in the eighth. At 453 feet, it was the longest home run Statcast has tracked at Camden Yards this season. The Red Sox have hit five of the seven longest, with the Orioles hitting none.
Mountcastle heating up
With two run-scoring hits, rookie Ryan Mountcastle continued to turn around his slow start to his first full season.
He followed a pair of two-out walks in the first inning with an RBI single off Nick Pivetta, though Pivetta struck him out his next two times up. But with a runner on third base and two outs in the eighth, Mountcastle hit a high-and-tight 95 mph sinker from Adam Ottavino into left-center field for a double. Freddy Galvis grounded out to end the inning with Mountcastle, representing the tying run, at third base.
Mountcastle’s 2-for-4 performance gave him half of the Orioles’ hits Sunday and raised his batting average in the past 13 games to .306, bringing his overall mark to .223.
“Getting a couple hits is always nice, but just building up that confidence and get back to where I want to be,” Mountcastle said. “I’m going to keep working hard, and I feel like it’s starting to come into the game.”
Along with Mullins’ home run, Galvis singled in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.
“We had opportunities,” Hyde said. “But when you get four hits, you don’t expect to win the game.”
Tate, Stewart hurt hamstrings
Right-hander Dillon Tate impressively pulled off the splits Friday covering first base trying to get the back half of a double play, but the show of flexibility gave him a left hamstring strain that put him on the 10-day injured list Sunday. In his place, the Orioles recalled outfielder Ryan McKenna for his third major league stint.
During the sixth inning, McKenna again served as a replacement for a player with a hurt hamstring, pinch-running for outfielder DJ Stewart in the middle of a Mountcastle at-bat. Hyde said Stewart suffered a left hamstring strain, the same injury that put him on the IL to start the season.
“He’s been playing a little beat up,” Hyde said.
Although Hyde acknowledged after Saturday’s loss that Baltimore could use an extra arm, he said before Sunday’s game the Orioles instead called up a position player in McKenna because they have others who are dealing with some ongoing ailments, a group that likely included Stewart.
“We’re a little banged up on the field, too, and we have some guys that are kind of playing through some stuff,” Hyde said. “Ryan adds an extra body for us, position player-wise, so I’m sure there’s more moves on the horizon.”
It’s possible Stewart’s injury quickly proved that to be an accurate forecast. After pinch-running for him, McKenna dropped a flyball to right with one out in the seventh, but third baseman Rio Ruiz held onto Xander Bogaerts’ 113.2 mph liner to leave the bases loaded.
Monday, 7:05 p.m.
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