The ball was carrying well at Camden Yards on Saturday afternoon, which was a good-news, bad-news story for the Orioles in the first game of a rare single-admission doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins.
The O’s took advantage of the mild jet stream that pushed long fly balls toward the left field bleachers, hitting three home runs off Minnesota ace Jose Berrios. But the Twins were on the same flight plan and parlayed a two-homer performance by Eddie Rosario into a 6-5 victory in the rain-postponed series opener.
It was another game in which the young Orioles showed their mettle and long-suffering first baseman Chris Davis delivered his second multi-hit performance of the season and hit safely for the fourth time in his last five game.
The O’s jumped ahead in the third inning, fell behind by three runs in the sixth and chipped away to make it a nail-biter at the end. Left-handed reliever Tanner Scott kept hope alive with a terrific final two hitless innings that featured five strikeouts, but Twins left-hander Taylor Rogers pitched a scoreless ninth to get the save.
Orioles starter Dan Straily pitched a decent five innings in his second start and third appearance for the team, but the home run epidemic that has struck the pitching staff continues to run rampant. Twins slugger Eddie Rosario and first baseman Willians Astudillo hit back-to-back homers to lead off the second and Rosario added another in the fifth — all three long balls mercifully coming with no one on base.
“(Doug) Brocail was talking about this pretty much the day I got here, how a lot of times baseball games come down to one or two pitches that, before you throw the ball, you don’t know what impact it’s going to bring to the game,’’ Straily said. “Unfortunately, any one of those pitches — just one of those — would have changed the outcome for us. It just brings back the importance of being focused on every single pitch.”
Straily allowed just those three runs on six hits over five innings before giving way to middle reliever Jimmy Yacabonis, who didn’t fare quite so well. He hit former Oriole Jonathan Schoop with a pitch to open the sixth and allowed no-out doubles to Jason Castro and Byron Buxton that put the Twins back in front.
After a minor league career that included three elbow surgeries and a move to the bullpen, Branden Kline, a Frederick native and the Orioles' second-round pick in the 2012 draft, got his first major league call-up Saturday as the 26th man for the Orioles' doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins.
Minnesota extended that lead to three runs later in the inning when former Oriole Nelson Cruz greeted reliever Miguel Castro with a run-scoring single.
The Orioles had taken the lead in the third inning with their own set of back-to-back homers. The rally started with a one-out double by Trey Mancini, and Dwight Smith Jr. tied the score with a shot into the seats in left center field. Renato Núñez followed suit to put the O’s in front and give them their first set of consecutive homers this year.
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“I thought we battled, like normal,’’ said manager Brandon Hyde. “Just came up a run short. I liked the way we swung the bat and put together a nice rally in the eighth inning.”
The Orioles remain vulnerable to the home run ball and set another dubious record when Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron homered in the first inning of the nightcap. Those were the 50th and 51st homers allowed by the O’s pitching staff, eclipsing the record for homers allowed before May 1, which was set when the 1996 Detroit Tigers allowed their 50th on the final day of April that year.
“We’ve given up a lot of home runs,’’ Hyde said. “We’re looking to execute a little better with two strikes. A lot of damage is done with two strikes against us and it’s just something we’ve got to get better at.”
Manager Brandon Hyde and coaches Doug Brocail and Tim Cossins all got thrown out of games during the recent road trip, which probably has Earl Weaver smiling somewhere, but it's never a good idea to get a bad reputation with the umpires.
Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Blake Snell won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, posting a 1.06 ERA in his 10 starts with Jesús Sucre behind the plate. Now, Sucre is the Orioles' starting catcher and trying to have the same impact on Baltimore's young staff that he did on Snell.