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Baltimore Orioles

Sloppy defense bites Orioles in 6-4 loss to Royals in first game of doubleheader

The Orioles’ pitching has been surprisingly strong to start this season. Their hitting, it seems, is beginning to turn around. The club’s fielding, though, remains a work in progress.

A pair of poor defensive innings cost Baltimore in a 6-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals to open Sunday’s doubleheader after two straight games were postponed because of rain. Four of the Royals’ runs were unearned.

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“We didn’t play our best defensive game,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “... We’ve played a lot of tight games. We’ve just got to play really good defensively to win tight games.”

The first of those unearned runs came in the fifth. With the game tied at 1, third baseman Bobby Witt Jr. — making his first appearance at Camden Yards after the Orioles passed on him with the first pick of the 2019 draft — singled hard into left field. Kyle Isbel followed with a ground ball to the right side, but a rangy grab and spinning throw from second baseman Rougned Odor was wasted when starting pitcher Jordan Lyles was unable to keep his foot on first base. He almost made up for it by producing another grounder, but first baseman Ryan Mountcastle’s throw to second hit Isbel’s helmet, recording no outs and allowing Witt to score and Isbel to move to third. He came home on Andrew Benintendi’s sacrifice fly.

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Lyles said the replay he saw of the play at first led him to think he had stayed on the bag, but others in the Orioles’ dugout said different angles showed otherwise.

“No one’s fault other than mine,” Lyles said. “Roogie made a really good play to get there. I probably need to just slow down a little bit more and not let my momentum carry me up the line as much as it did.”

Lyles had not allowed another run when he exited in the eighth, becoming the first Orioles (10-17) starter to record an out in that frame since John Means’ no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners just more than a year ago. But Jorge López allowed the runner he inherited from Lyles to score, tying the game at 4. The 7 1/3 innings Lyles provided were especially needed in what was the first game of not only a doubleheader, but also a stretch of 19 games in 18 days with no scheduled days off.

“We really haven’t had that, a guy that he’s able to take the ball and is irritated when he comes out in the eighth inning, which I’m happy about,” Hyde said. “The guy wants to stay on the mound. I think it’s fantastic. It’s huge. Doubleheader days, this long stretch, we’re gonna rely on starters, and the guy goes into the eighth inning for us.”

López returned for the ninth and recorded the frame’s first two outs before Odor mishandled a Nicky Lopez ground ball. Lopez then took third when López made an errant pickoff throw, scoring easily on Michael A. Taylor’s single to left. Two more hits followed to double Kansas City’s lead.

A bloop and a blast

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About 200 feet separated how far the Orioles’ two most significant hits traveled. Their results were the same.

Mountcastle, who earlier this homestand became the first hitter to clear Camden Yards’ deeper and taller left field wall, nearly did so a second time in the fifth inning of Sunday’s opener. With Baltimore trailing 3-1, he hammered Zack Greinke’s 65 mph curveball to left field at 104.6 mph, a ball that in past seasons would have been destined to tie the game. Instead, it pounded into the top of the wall, returning to play and forcing Mountcastle to settle for a one-run double instead of a two-run home run on a hit with a projected distance of 407 feet, according to Baseball Savant.

“One more inch,” Hyde said.

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Both Trey Mancini and Benintendi also hit balls that seemingly would have been home runs with the old dimensions.

Mountcastle kept the ball closer to the ground his next at-bat in the seventh, following Austin Hays’ two-out walk with a single into center field. Odor then dropped a looping double into left field to score both runners, with Collin Snider’s 0-1 slider leaving Odor’s bat at 71.2 mph and landing 206 feet away. As Odor reached third after advancing to third on the play, he threw an imaginary grenade toward the Orioles’ dugout.

All four of the Orioles’ runs came on doubles, with Cedric Mullins’ automatic one over the fence in right-center field plating their first run in the second inning.

Hays and Mountcastle each recorded their fourth hits of the game with two outs in the ninth, but Odor flied out to left to end the game.

Around the horn

  • Right-hander Travis Lakins Sr., optioned after Thursday’s game, was the Orioles’ 27th man for the doubleheader.
  • Left-hander Logan Allen, claimed on waivers from Cleveland, will initially work out of the Orioles’ bullpen, Hyde said. Allen said Orioles assistant pitching coach Darren Holmes was one of his first coaches growing up in North Carolina. “He taught me how to throw a curveball,” Allen said. “I’ve thrown the same one ever since.”
  • In the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader in Bowie, Double-A pitchers Garrett Stallings (six innings) and Morgan McSweeney (one inning) combined for the 11th no-hitter in Baysox history.

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