If this rebuilding Orioles season requires a keen appreciation of what goes well, nights like Wednesday aren’t doing those positives any favors.
Staked to a 2-1 lead thanks to newcomer Keon Broxton's second home run of the season and a strong start by rookie John Means, the Orioles bullpen turned what looked like it could be as simple a win as manager Brandon Hyde could imagine into a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers before an announced 10,614 fans and 236 dogs Wednesday at “Bark at Oriole Park” night at Camden Yards.
“Means really threw well,” Hyde said. “With him and Dylan [Bundy] yesterday, had some really good starts, and starts you expect to win those type of games. We just didn't score enough, and didn't lock it down late.”
Pitching in an earlier situation than normal in an effort to break him out of his recent funk, Mychal Givens struck out two in a perfect seventh inning before allowing a leadoff home run to catcher John Hicks in the eighth.
Rookie Branden Kline, tasked with holding the tie in the ninth, walked the leadoff man and watched him come around to score on a home run by Brandon Dixon.
The loss prevented the Orioles from securing their first series win in over a month and continued a stretch in which seemingly every hand Hyde plays with his bullpen seems to go bust.
He will focus on how the Orioles are close enough in such situations for the leverage placed on his bullpen to be so high. He'll just want to stop having to explain that after losing again from a winning position.
Wednesday’s game started strong for the Orioles, with Trey Mancini scoring from first in the first inning on a two-out double by Renato Núñez.
Means, who has been the Orioles' best starter by a wide margin since joining the rotation in mid-April, got back on track early and never really wavered. He retired the first nine in order, and had the first hit he allowed — a chopper up the middle by Niko Goodrum — deflect off his glove.
Nicholas Castellanos doubled to score Goodrum and tie the game, but Means would allow one more hit the rest of the way and got the lead right back on Broxton's second home run of the season. Means allowed just the one run on three hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking none to lower his ERA to 2.80.
Broxton’s homer was all the offense for either side until the eighth, when Givens' propensity for coming out after a clean inning and have things go sideways reared its head.
Asked whether he considered letting Givens simply feel good after his 1-2-3 seventh, Hyde said he was “throwing the ball so well, I was just trying to get another hitter or two.
“I wanted him on Hicks — that didn't work out — and when a guy is throwing the ball that well, and he's rested, and we've got a day off tomorrow … yeah,” Hyde said. “He's got really good numbers against a lot of these guys, and it just didn't happen.”
Kline, he said, pitched well enough in Colorado this past weekend that he felt the rookie warranted a big spot like Wednesday’s ninth inning.
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“We're just having a tough time getting through the last couple innings, and looking for guys to step up and see who can pitch in big spots,” Hyde said. “It just didn't happen. You just can't walk the leadoff guy.”
Considering how often the pitchers he brings in to protect these leads give them up, Hyde said he still feels good about the process that they go through to decide who pitches when, outcomes aside.
“I'm just trying to give us the best matchup possible,” Hyde said. “Our numbers aren't real good out of the ’pen, so it's, 'Who's available?' We usually meet before the game and talk during the game about kind of how we see it play out. Our numbers aren't real good out of the ’pen, so it's kind of a tough deal on a night-to-night basis.
“For the first two months of the season, I just tried to get the ball to Mike [Givens], somehow. Now, I want him to take a step back and try to give somebody else an opportunity, try to get him back to being Mychal Givens again. It just didn't work out tonight.”
Means mows ’em down
After allowing three runs in five innings in each of his past two starts, allowing his ERA to climb to 2.96, Means got back on track with a start that he felt was validating to some of the work he’s done recently.
“I definitely feel a lot better than the last couple,” Means said. “I'm starting to figure some stuff out. Obviously, not everything is going to roll through the whole season, so it's nice to get some results after kind of tweaking some things.”
Núñez doubles up
With a pair of doubles Wednesday, Núñez has four multihit games in his past 10 and is batting .361 in that span. He's raised his average from .211 to .239.