The idea of a moral victory in baseball is of little comfort to a losing baseball club, but there’s something more to be learned from the Orioles’ loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night. Baltimore ran into a five-round deficit and returned to tie the game, which could be a waste for some losing teams.
With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on the plate and an auto runner in second place in the 10th inning, the challenge ahead of right-hander Felix Bautista was superb. In the end, it proved too great when Guerrero hit the left wing on Bautista’s second offer to seal the Blue Jays’ 7–6 win.
When first base was open, manager Brandon Hyde considered walking Guerrero. But Bautista is not a ground ball pitcher, which makes double play less likely. And after Guerrero there is no stoop, Alejandro Kirk and Theoscar Hernandez should be next.
So Hyde has bet on Bautista’s 100 mph fastball and can put up with coming out the wrong way.
“Give credit to Vladi,” Hyde said. “He hit the top 100.”
However, there were other moments that shone more than the final score, including the first home run of rookie catcher Adley Rutchman’s career. It was a losing effort, but the game was not a bad one for Baltimore.
Ryan Mountcastle swears he has nothing against the Blue Jays, even if the results say otherwise. The Orioles first baseman has faced an American League opponent in the East so often that it’s almost expected, inevitable, when he hits the plate. Wednesday was another such example.
After six runs scored against left-hander Bruce Zimmermann within the first five innings, a Mountcastle-led home run—the first of Rutchman’s career—put the Orioles back 27–37. Mountcastle has a habit of playing against the Blue Jays; with two more home runs on Wednesday, he has 12 in 28 games against Toronto.
“Mounty sees a beach ball there right now,” Zimmermann said.
Ruchman’s fourth-inning homer broke a promising no-hit bet from right-hander Jose Berrios. Mountcastle’s first home run in the seventh round hit the front of the upper deck before his double throw in the eighth round equalized – a couple of explosions that show just how hot he is at the plate.
After Rutchman broke through against Berrios with a two-run homer, Mountcastle’s homer marked the last run against the Blue Jays starter. Berrios allowed three runs on three hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings, a strong showing based on his previous two deep starts.
But right-hander Yimi Garcia stepped in and ran into trouble, allowing consecutive doubles for Cedric Mullins and Austin Hayes to a second Mountcastle homer.
“Mounty sees the ball very well now and hits bats very well,” Hyde said, “and got two huge homers for us.”
Rough traffic, again
Over Zimmermann’s last 36 1/3 innings, he struck out 16 batters and conceded 17 homers. It’s a dismal run that continued into Wednesday as he allowed six runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
The problem was mostly the placement of his off-speed passes, and she hit Theoscar Hernandez again at the plate in the third. Zimmermann left the lead at about hip height in the center of the zone, and Hernandez leveled the field about 461 feet. Two batters later, Matt Chapman squashed a slider left low in the zone for another two-way bomb.
Both pitches were preceded by bland singles, a goof-and-burst situation that can derail even the best pitchers. Zimmermann started the season in great form, but his last seven games against him have been full of long passes with no end in sight.
He fiddled with his set and finish, hoping that changing the start of his hands would lessen the risk of tripping the serve, as well as bring back some control. But he returned to his previous game and felt more comfortable despite long passes against him. His change took six breaths, the best he’s looked in a while.
“The last couple of outings were kind of a wash with mechanical changes that we fiddled with,” Zimmermann said. “It was not very comfortable on the hill. But today I felt much more comfortable with many of my things. It’s just that I was unlucky in those places and like I said, I probably should have gone back to my substitute as it was my best serve and trusted her in those places.”
Zimmermann avoided losing his track record with an explosion at the end of an inning from Baltimore’s offense and a strong bullpen showing behind him. For the Orioles, however, this is yet another unsettling departure from the starting roster, the sort of off-the-wall display that has become all too common of late.
“It’s a tough game and a tough league, and this division doesn’t give any respite,” Zimmermann said. “No excuses or anything like that. You have to go there and you have to perform.”
Around the horn
>> The Orioles nominated left-hander Zach Lowther for Wednesday’s assignment and required infielder Jonathan Arause to be waived by the Boston Red Sox before selecting him to Triple-A Norfolk. With this move, Baltimore acquired an average infield depth.
>> Right-hander Joey Krehbiel dropped the mound on Wednesday for the second time since his injured listing for a shoulder inflammation. On Monday, he threw 15 fastballs. On Wednesday, he increased the score to 20 and dropped all his pitches. He felt “weakest” all year and should be activated on schedule on Saturday.
>> First baseman Trey Mancini’s hand swelling has subsided and he could be available from the bench on Thursday.
IROVKA @ BLUE JAYS
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