CHICAGO — Trey Mancini hopes to be back in the Orioles' lineup Tuesday.
After watching his offense without its talisman struggle yet again, this time in a 5-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, manager Brandon Hyde will wish it had been Monday.
Sans Mancini, one of baseball's consistently hottest hitters over the first month of the season, the Orioles (10-20) look a lot like what they are: a group of role players cast as starters, and a group that either all hits at once or doesn't really at all.
“Take Trey out of our lineup — he's leading the American League in hits — it’s obviously a blow,” Hyde said. “But some guys swung the bat well tonight. We did some nice things. Just didn't get the big one.”
Monday night's game was the Orioles' fourth straight with three runs or fewer, all losses. The past two have come without Mancini, who was hit by a pitch in his right index finger early Saturday and left the game. Even before his injury, it was already a volatile offense; the Orioles have scored three runs or fewer in half of their 30 games, and lost 13 of those. Seven of their 10 wins have come when they've scored six or more runs.
They scored twice in the game Mancini left Saturday, once Sunday and three times Monday.
Those three runs Monday came on nine hits — three by Hanser Alberto, two of the run-scoring variety by Chris Davis, and two, including a home run, by catcher Pedro Severino. But considering they had someone on base in every inning but the first and the ninth, and someone often reaching to open the inning, the Orioles ended so many frames one hit away from breaking it open.
They were often left waiting for it, so it mattered little that left-hander John Means, their most reliable pitcher to date, allowed a pair of two-run home runs to Yonder Alonso and Tim Anderson to bring the Orioles' ever-climbing season total to 72 home runs allowed. Tanner Scott's wild cameo, allowing a runner to score on Yefry Ramirez's account in the seventh, was also moot, though the Orioles did mount a comeback of sorts in the eighth, stranding two runners after Davis' second RBI single of the game.
That gave them eight runners left on base for the game, with just two hits in nine at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
“I think there's some situational hitting where we haven't, either advanced a runner on second and nobody out, or score a runner on third with less than two outs, the kind of situation where we did a good job early but we've been in a bit of a funk here,” Hyde said. “We're just not driving in the runs. I think those things happen, but at the same time, we have to do a better job to situational hit.”
Said Alberto: “I think we leave a lot of men on base in scoring positions, especially. I think we've got to, as a group, work on that and get better.”
At any point, they could have used one of Mancini's league-leading 39 hits to break through. He's in the top five in the American League in almost every hitting category.
And without him, the Orioles haven't won.
The hard-throwing left-hander Scott, who entered in the seventh inning with a runner on second and allowed a hit and two walks without much command, was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game. Scott was making his eighth appearance of the season; in the four in which he didn't allow a run, he struck out eight and allowed three hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings. In the other four, opponents have five earned runs on eight hits with six walks.
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“Tanner's got elite stuff,” Hyde said. “He's got to be able to throw the ball over the plate. He's got to be able to make pitches. You see the stuff, you just want to see some consistency. That was a good spot for him tonight. It just didn't happen.”