Each recent turn through the Orioles’ rotation, manager Brandon Hyde lamented that Baltimore couldn’t provide Jorge López a comfortable lead to try to free himself of his fifth-inning demons. Often sharp through four innings, the right-hander continually struggled in the median frame, with narrow margins preventing Hyde from giving López a chance to pitch through it.
López finally cleared that hurdle in Monday night’s 4-1 victory to avoid a sweep against the Boston Red Sox, working a season-high 5 ⅔ innings and facing what Hyde called “one of the best middle of the orders in the game” three times. Despite having pitched into the fifth inning in each of his six starts, López completed it only once and had yet to take the mound for the sixth. When he began Monday’s fifth by surrendering a leadoff double, it seemed his struggles would only grow. At the time, López had a 42.43 ERA in the fifth inning despite posting a 2.89 ERA through the first four innings of his starts.
“It’s been frustrating getting to that fifth inning and I couldn’t get outs like I want,” López said.
Such early effectiveness suggested the potential to thrive in a relief role, but Hyde said he believed in López as a starter, hoping to just give him a chance to get through a fifth inning. His only blip Monday came in the fourth inning. He had retired 10 of the first 11 Red Sox before a single, hit batter, wild pitch and sacrifice fly in quick succession tied the game at 1.
Still, Hyde gave López a chance to work the fifth, and he responded to the double with a groundout and two strikeouts. He returned for the sixth inning and got two quick groundouts, but center fielder Cedric Mullins’ diving attempt couldn’t corral a soft line drive by Xander Bogaerts that resulted in a double. Hyde ended López’s outing at 71 pitches, and Tanner Scott kept López’s sixth-inning ERA at 0.00 by striking out Rafael Devers to strand Bogaerts at third.
“So happy for Lopie,” Hyde said. “Got over the hump tonight. ... I was going to do anything I could to get him through that inning. I was hoping we would have a little more of a lead, maybe a little cushion for him, but like normal, we didn’t, but I’m proud of him for getting through five and into the sixth inning.”
Scott’s strikeout was the first of 10 consecutive outs from the Orioles’ bullpen as Baltimore (16-19) beat the Red Sox (22-14) at Camden Yards for the first time in 2021, ending a six-game losing streak against Boston.
Before Monday night, sluggers Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle had never homered in the same game. With each hitting a go-ahead solo shot, that changed.
Continuing a two-week surge as he turns around a slow start to his first full season, Mountcastle homered on the first pitch he saw in his return to the cleanup spot to give Baltimore an early lead.
Mancini, who also started slowly in his return season from colon cancer, then broke a 1-1 tie with a 440-foot home run to center field in the sixth. It was the second-longest home run of his career and the longest by an Oriole this season, according to Statcast. He’s responsible for four of the top five.
In the past 13 games, Mancini and Mountcastle have combined to slash .324/.358/.510 with four doubles, five home runs and 19 RBIs.
“I’ve felt as good as I ever have,” Mancini said. “I just feel like I lined out, like, 50 times. That’s the name of the game, but I’m trying to do what I can up there, and just focused on my approach and not the result, and I think that’s produced hard contact pretty consistently, so I feel really good about my at-bats lately.”
Any way you can get it
When Mullins popped up to shallow left field to begin the eighth, it seemed as if it would be a quick first out.
Instead, with the Boston infield shifted to the right side, Bogaerts couldn’t get over in time to make the catch, deflecting the ball twice before it hit the ground. With third base vacated, Mullins raced there, beating catcher Christian Vázquez to the bag for a strange triple. Since Statcast was introduced in 2015, no triple had been tracked as being hit softer than 75 mph with a launch angle exceeding 50 degrees as Mullins’ had, and at 161 feet, no flyball or popup hit a shorter distance has become a triple in that time. Statcast gives balls hit a similar way a 2% chance of being a hit.
“It’s gonna be probably the shortest distance triple we might all see,” Hyde said. “You should put this on an educational video for all young players on how to get out of the box. It was ball hit and eyes up and incredible hustle. He got to third base so fast. Great heads-up play. We needed it. Just a good baseball play by a good player.”
It led to two runs when Mancini singled him home, with Freddy Galvis adding a sacrifice fly later in the frame.
“I think everything kind of had to happen like it did for him to get to third,” Mancini said. “Xander almost had it the first time, almost had it second time, and then it dropped finally the third time, it kind of bounced, and then at that point, no one was really covering third. Cedric had already noticed that, and he took off. It was electric and got that inning started. It was huge.
“I feel like we go out every night and expect to win and know we can.”
Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.
Latest Baltimore Orioles
TV: MASN2 Radio: 105.7 FM