PITTSBURGH - The games still count for the Orioles, but so do the impressions made by young players who are getting an opportunity to compete with nothing on the line beyond pride.
The Orioles can distract themselves from another defeat by focusing on the production offered tonight by catcher Chance Sisco and outfielders Anthony Santander and Austin Hays. They can peer into the future while the present continues to disappoint.
Gabriel Ynoa allowed runs in all three of his innings before being removed for a pinch-hitter and the Orioles never regained the lead they lost while falling to the Pirates 5-3 before an announced crowd of 24,779 at PNC Park.
The Orioles are 75-84 and have lost 16 of their last 20 games with three left in the season. They have another off-day Thursday before facing the Rays at Tropicana Field.
If tonight served as another audition for Ynoa, he needs manager Buck Showalter to hold onto the memory of the previous start. Ynoa held the Rays to one run over a career-high eight innings, but the Pirates homered twice and scored four runs in three frames.
Santander doubled twice and singled for his first multi-hit game in the majors. Why not continue to play him through the weekend?
Sisco doubled into left-center field in the second inning to plate two runs. Hays walked and singled as the club’s leadoff hitter while Tim Beckham recovers from a hamstring injury.
Five of the nine players in the lineup, including Ynoa, were in the minors last month.
Pedro Álvarez, also part of the expanded roster, singled twice in his return to Pittsburgh.
The crowd gave Álvarez a standing ovation in the second inning as he batted for the first time at PNC Park since the Pirates non-tendered him following the 2015 season. A short highlight video was set to “Juicy,” his old walkup song. The words “Thank You Pedro” appeared on the screen.
Álvarez patted catcher Elias Diaz on the chest protector while the Pirates applauded him in the dugout. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen removed his glove and joined them. El Toro doffed his helmet, settled into the box and pulled a single into right field against the shift.
Trey Mancini reached on a single up the third base line, the ball deflecting off the bag, and both runners scored on Sisco’s double. Sisco came home on Santander’s double to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
Mancini extended his hitting streak to 16 games. The all-rookie outfield made another solid impression.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first on singles by Adam Frazier, McCutchen and Josh Bell. They trimmed the Orioles lead to 3-2 in the second on Gregory Polanco’s leadoff home run. And they moved ahead 4-3 in the third on Bell’s two-run shot.
McCutchen walked with two outs before Bell batted. Never a solid plan by the pitcher.
Mark Trumbo batted for Ynoa with two on and two outs in the fourth and struck out on a pitch diving into the dirt. He’s 13-for-70 (.186) with 24 strikeouts this month.
Alvarez and Mancini opened the sixth with singles off starter Chad Kuhl. Two relievers teamed to strand them.
Mike Wright shut out the Pirates on one hit over three innings after replacing Ynoa. He was a candidate to start Saturday night against the Rays.
The Pirates scored an insurance run off Mychal Givens in the bottom of the seventh.
Santander doubled off Felipe Rivero with one out in the ninth, but pinch-hitter Welington Castillo struck out, Hays flied to deep center field and the Orioles fell to 8-12 in interleague games.
Neither league is treating them kindly this month.
Showalter on Santander: “It’s as much for us as it is for him. He was impressive tonight. Almost ran down one ball, had a good break on another one. More about how he’s going to fit in defensively, too. It’s good to see him. Just like Austin and even Trey, learning to play this time of year. I talked to Trey the other day. The biggest challenge is, usually you’re at home now. It’s late September and you’re still playing baseball, so those are good experiences for them.”
Showalter on Ynoa: “A little flat, not much crispness to his stuff. He was pretty flat, everything. Breaking ball was a little sloppy. That’s not going to work. Basically, he was a two-pitch pitcher last time out and pitched well. Tonight, he threw a few changeups, but nothing that they had to put into the memory bank. I thought he wasn’t getting down the hill, wasn’t much real urgency moving down the hill. And didn’t really seem to get after it.”
Showalter on how the team’s playing: “Well, obviously we’re not winning. At the end of the day, we’re judged by our we scoring more runs than the other team at the end of nine innings? That’s been a challenge for us. We’re getting some looks at guys, but we’d like to win games. Some young pitchers are getting some opportunities to show, and they better take advantage of it. Tonight wasn’t one of those nights.
“Pete had a good game, obviously, and I thought Mike was really good tonight and that was good to see. Those types of things you put in your memory bank as you go home. And whether you’re a young player trying to make a mark or whether you’re somebody who’s been here all year, those are things that you think about when the season is over.”
Showalter on Álvarez getting hit against the shift: “If you’re going to toward the shift, you have to hit over them if they’re shifting you a lot. You keep hitting it hard, they’ll fall. Good things happen to good people, and Pete’s good people.”
Showalter on Wright: “I thought he was crisp. He commanded the fastball and had some secondary pitches. Once he got the first hitter or two out of the way, he settled in and gave us a chance to win.”
Ynoa (via translator) on difference between last outing and this one: “I was trying to attack the hitters, the same as the last outing. It didn’t work out for me today.”
More Ynoa: “Unfortunately, I was missing with my fastball. The hitters took advantage of that. I was just trying to compete.”
Álvarez on reception: “That was pretty cool. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was very classy on the Pirates part. I’m not too much of any emotional guy, but that was pretty cool to get that kind of reception from the organization and the fans. I’ve been receiving nothing but love since I’ve gotten here. I want to thank them for that. I was very appreciative of the gesture.”
Álvarez on former teammates applauding: “Yeah, I mean the whole thing was really neat. I’m still having a hard time putting it into words, just the kind of good emotions that were going through me at the moment and just unexpected in the sense, not that I didn’t see it coming from them, but when we’re playing against each other it’s a game and the last thing you think of is if they’re going to do that for you. So definitely it was pretty, just an awesome experience just to experience that.”
Álvarez on whether he heard anything from the fans: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Good stuff. A couple jokesters here and there, just like anywhere else, but for the most part it was very positive messages. Just a lot of encouragement and I’m just really thankful of the way I’ve been treated here.”
Álvarez on getting two hits here: “It’s great to get a couple hits anywhere. It doesn’t add any specialness to it. My job day in, day out is to help this team win and it just so happens we were here today. The focus and the objective is the same.”