WASHINGTON - It was the kind of defensive play we have not seen from the Orioles much this year and one that was big in last night’s game. But it didn’t serve to provide the momentum to lead to a win, it just delayed the winning runs scoring until an inning later.
The Nationals’ sensational rookie, Juan Soto delivered, a two-run double off Mychal Givens in the eighth last night to break a 2-2 tie as Washington beat the Orioles 4-2 at Nats Park. The O’s lost two of three in the series.
But an inning earlier in a 2-2 tie, right fielder Colby Rasmus and catcher Caleb Joseph teamed up for a huge double play. Just when it looked like the Orioles would fall behind, they didn’t. Wilmer Difo tripled off Givens to start that inning, the liner just eluding Rasmus as he was charging toward the right-center gap. After Difo held third on a groundout, pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy lined one to right. Rasmus reached up for the catch and then fired a strike to the plate that was high. Joseph leaped to bring the ball in and then reached down to tag out Difo.
The O’s kept the game tied after the Nats had put the go-ahead run on third with no outs. But in the eighth and ninth, the Orioles went 0-for-6 against two Washington late-inning relief aces and lost another game.
If the Rasmus play briefly provided momentum for the Orioles, two Nats relievers took it away.
“Oh, yeah, you’re looking at (Kelvin) Herrera and you’re looking at (Sean) Doolittle,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s where your momentum is. You can have a lot of things going for you momentum-wise, but if a pitcher’s on top of his game and an offense has some momentum supposedly, they can negate that in a hurry. And I think that’s what happened.”
Said Rasmus: “That was the hope (the defensive play would lead to a win). But you look out there on the mound and they’ve got Herrera throwing 98 (mph). It’s kind of tough. You know they made good moves to beef up their bullpen. Got Herrera, obviously Doolittle doing his thing, and it’s a tough game in the big leagues.”
Wilkerson gets first start: You only make your first major league start once and Steve Wilkerson’s came last night against a three-time Cy Young winner. Facing the Nats’ Max Scherzer, he grounded out twice and then worked an eight-pitch walk with two outs and none on the seventh. Wilkerson also made a great defensive play in the second inning when he dove along the third base line to snare Michael A. Taylor’s grounder and throw him out.
Before the game, Wilkerson talked about the excitement of getting his first start and also having made his major league debut as a ninth-inning replacement on Wednesday night.
“It’s really exciting,” Wilkerson said in the Orioles clubhouse. “When I got to the stadium today and saw my name in the lineup, it’s really exciting. It was really nice to get my feet wet, eases a little bit of the anxiety and is a little comforting. To have that (Wednesday) and to be in there today, it’s exciting.
“I think that’s what we all play this game for: to make it to this level. It seems like everything’s gone by in the blink of an eye. To go to Norfolk, to spend a couple of weeks there, them having the confidence in me to bring me up at that time is really special.”
Wilkerson had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday. The O’s eighth-round pick in 2014 out of Clemson was batting .290/.362/.500 at Norfolk with four doubles, three homers, 11 runs and nine RBIs in 16 games. He made starts at second, short, third, left field and right field.
Davis set to return: Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has not started in the last eight games, but that streak could end tonight. Before last night’s game, manager Buck Showalter told reporters that Davis was likely to return to the lineup tonight in the series opener at Atlanta.
Davis is batting .150/.227/.227 with four doubles, four homers and 15 RBIs in 57 games. His OPS is just .254 this month and he’s gone 89 at-bats without a homer, his longest stretch as an Oriole.
“That is when they me told they thought would be the right time,” Showalter said of Davis’ likely return tonight. “I think everybody has had input on it, looked at and worked on it. This is what we want to do. Looking forward to getting him back on the field. Really looking forward to potentially getting the impactful player he’s capable of being.”
For more on Showalter’s pregame comments on Davis, click here.
On the farm last night: Outfielder Cedric Mullins went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer for Norfolk. Mullins was 2-for-24 over his first several games with the Tides but is now batting .297 in his past 12 games and is 4-for-7 his last two games.
Double-A Bowie lefty Keegan Akin is a pitcher on a roll. He threw seven innings, allowing one run, to get the win last night in a 2-1 victory at Harrisburg. Akin is 8-5 with a 2.53 ERA. He is tied for the Eastern League lead in wins and innings, is first in the league in strikeouts and fourth in ERA. Over his last five starts, he is 4-1 with a 1.16 ERA.
Ryan McKenna was promoted from Single-A Frederick to Bowie yesterday. He hit leadoff and played in center field last night for the Baysox, going 0-for-5 in his Double-A debut.
Left-hander Zac Lowther had another good outing for Frederick in last night’s 2-1 win at Salem. He gave up one unearned run over five innings. Lowther is 3-0 with an ERA of 0.44 in four starts with the Keys and has given up one earned run over 20 1/3 innings.