In a 5-3 loss Wednesday, Orioles right-hander David Hess was tagged for four long balls, including two from Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres. Hess has allowed 14 home runs this season, the most in the major leagues. As a staff, the Orioles have allowed a league-high 88.
Hess, originally scheduled to pitch Monday’s series opener before both that game and Tuesday night’s contest were rained out, surrendered three home runs among the first eight batters he faced.
“They were just pitches that didn’t have enough bite, and obviously, clearly went over the fence, so we just need to not do that, period,” catcher Austin Wynns said. “There’s too many home runs. It’s embarrassing. We have to put an end to that.
“We lead the league in home runs [allowed]. You know what? We’ve gotta try to make an adjustment. We’ve gotta bounce back. We’ve gotta come up with something.”
Trey Mancini supplied the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the first inning with his eighth home run, tying Dwight Smith Jr. for the team lead, but Gary Sánchez answered in the bottom half with a booming drive off Hess to right-center field, traveling a projected 443 feet and tying the game.
Wynns put the Orioles back ahead with a two-out RBI double, but Hess surrendered Torres’ first home run on his second pitch of the second inning. The tie, like the Orioles’ leads, was short-lived, as Cameron Maybin delivered his first home run as a Yankee three batters later.
Renato Núñez temporarily quelled a lengthy slump with a fourth-inning home run, but Torres broke the deadlock with his second solo shot later in the inning. Manager Brandon Hyde took no solace in the home runs being of the solo variety, especially as the Orioles went 0-for-3 in attempts at shutdown innings.
“They’re still homers,” Hyde said. “The disappointing part for me a little bit was we come out, we score, you give in to Gary Sanchez in the middle-middle, heater that goes out of the ballpark. We score again, and they hit another homer. It’s just being able to have shutdown innings after teams put some runs up for you. He’s throwing the ball aggressive. It’s just about executing a little bit better in those situations.”
Torres’ second home run came on a slider below the zone, one Hess watched afterward on film and figured would’ve bounced if Torres hadn’t hit it. With an exit velocity of 93.5 mph, it was New York’s softest-hit home run of the season and the softest the Orioles have allowed.
“That’s one that kind of leaves you confused to what exactly you’re doing and what’s going on,” Hess said. “He’s a good hitter. Obviously, that pitch wasn’t good enough to get him out, so we’ll have to figure out something else.”
Mancini then dropped a flyball from Gio Urshela in the right-field corner, a three-base error. Mike Tauchman, the Yankees’ 26th man for the doubleheader, made it hurt by slipping an RBI single up the middle as each of the first five hits Hess allowed produced a run.
From there, Hess settled in, allowing just a single by Sánchez in his final two innings while requiring only 15 pitches for six outs. Despite allowing the career-high four home runs, Hess completed six innings for the first time since holding the Toronto Blue Jays hitless across 6 1/3 innings in his first start of 2019.
Since, Hess has a 7.03 ERA in seven starts, with the Orioles going 1-6 in those outings.
“In the later innings, when you saw him, his velo got up higher, there was more bite to his pitches,” Wynns said. “We need that, and he understands that.”
Núñez homers amid slump
Despite entering play Wednesday amid a slump in which his batting average dropped from .301 to .221, Núñez batted cleanup against left-hander J.A. Happ.
That was partly because he had a career .462/.500/1.000 batting line with two home runs against Happ, and also because Hyde lacked other right-handed options to deploy in that part of the lineup.
Núñez, the Orioles’ designated hitter, rewarded Hyde with a fourth-inning solo shot to tie the game, his first home run since April 23. The homer came amid Núñez’s hitting droughts of 0-for-15, 1-for-32 and 4-for-53.
“I think he sees the ball pretty good against him,” Hyde said. “Got a changeup and hit it out of the ballpark, so I know that felt good for him.”
Joey Rickard and Wynns, struggling at the plate themselves, both added two hits in the opening game. Rickard led off the seventh with a single and stole second, but Hanser Alberto, Chris Davis and Wynns, all representing the tying run, struck out.
Kline provides scoreless relief
On a day the Orioles’ pitching staff had to cover two games worth of innings, right-hander Branden Kline was effective in limiting bullpen usage in the first game.
The Frederick native and University of Virginia product pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Hess. After allowing two home runs in his major league debut April 20, Kline has not allowed a run in four of his past five outings.