MINNEAPOLIS – The Orioles had just tied tonight’s game in the top of the third inning on Cedric Mullins’ two-out double. Austin Hays lined out, Spenser Watkins began to warm and manager Brandon Hyde reached his boiling point.
Hyde was ejected from the game, his second this season and the eighth of his career. This one was hardly noticeable.
The dispute began after a strike call to Mullins on the first pitch of the at-bat, which the Orioles thought was high and prompted some barking from the bench.
Plate umpire Ramon De Jesus kept turning back to the dugout, and Hyde came onto the field after the inning. Hyde carried his argument from De Jesus to crew chief Alfonso Márquez, appearing to gesture that the Twins had a similar beef earlier in the game that went ignored.
Hyde tried to go back to De Jesus, and Márquez pushed him with both hands toward the dugout. Hyde walked down the steps and raised a hand to calm catcher Robinson Chirinos.
The steadying influence turned out to be Watkins, who retired the last 15 batters he faced before Byron Buxton killed the mood again in the Orioles’ 3-2 loss to the Twins at Target Field.
Buxton fell behind 0-2 to Jorge López, took a pitch inside that almost hit him and launched a walk-off home run to left field. It was the first homer allowed by López this season.
Watkins tied his career high with six innings, his last outing of that length coming on Aug. 7, 2021 against the Rays. He allowed one run and three hits and struck out five batters.
The rotation certainly has room for Watkins, who’s been charged with one earned run in 11 innings since his activation from the injured list. Austin Voth also is staying, according to Hyde, and the Orioles will keep trying to stretch him out.
Cionel Pérez would have earned the win tonight by retiring all four batters he faced after replacing Watkins. Félix Bautista struck out both of his hitters in the eighth, but López failed to notch his 14th save after Luis Arraez's nine-pitch leadoff single and Buxton's fourth career walk-off plate appearance. The Orioles had retired 21 in a row.
"He's not going to be perfect. He's been close to that so far this year," Hyde said.
"Leadoff hitter put a great at-bat against him and gets on top of 99 for a base hit up the middle. And then just leaves a two-strike slider to a great hitter. A little too much of the plate there. The majority of guys probably roll that one over for a double play, but Buxton put a good swing on it. Lopey's been beyond incredible this year and those things happen."
But not to López in 2022.
"One pitch," he said. "The guys played hard the whole game, since the first inning. I made a mistake. ... The team doesn't deserve this, and I feel I let them down. It's only one pitch I missed and these are good hitters. You've just got to keep going and forget this day and come back tomorrow and get the win."
"Anything can happen in this game, right?" Watkins said. "Jorge's an incredible professional and he'll bounce back really well. We have every bit of faith in that guy every time he goes out, so we've got our trust in him every time he grabs the ball."
Teammates consoled López and offered support, which he appreciated.
"They're good, they know what's going on," he said. "It's only one pitch I missed. We were playing really good, we were playing really hard, and it's something, I have to come back tomorrow, forget today, what's going on.
"It's a really good lineup to face. It's something I've got to figure out tomorrow and the next couple days."
Because he'll want the ball again. As usual.
"I'm ready for tomorrow, for sure," he said.
The Orioles (35-43), losers of three straight, took the lead in the top of the eighth on Ryan McKenna’s leadoff double against Caleb Thielbar, pinch-hitter Trey Mancini’s ground ball and Jorge Mateo’s grounder that second baseman Jorge Polanco fielded and threw past catcher Gary Sánchez.
Hyde’s other ejection this season came in Oakland on April 21, after Mancini was ruled out for turning toward second base after crossing the bag.
Asked what happened tonight, Hyde said, "Well, during the Mullins' at-bat there was a disrespectful exchange between the home plate umpire and our dugout. I felt it warranted me to go out there and see what was going on, and it got heated from there. And we'll go through the proper channels with it."
Rougned Odor also had issues with De Jesus tonight after being called out on strikes to end the seventh inning, on a ball that missed high and outside. Odor dropped his bat and helmet at the plate, with his arms extended, removed his padding and also deposited them at De Jesus’ feet as acting manager Fredi González hustled onto the field.
Mullins sizzled in June and stayed hot in a new month with his run-scoring double in the third inning. Joe Ryan didn’t allow a baserunner until Mateo’s two-out walk, and Mullins followed with a drive to right field.
Mullins slashed .303/.352/.424 in June after batting .236/.297/.365 in April and May combined.
Ryan retired the last 11 batters he faced after Ryan Mountcastle’s one-out double in the fourth.
Watkins loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, struck out Polanco and induced a bouncer from José Miranda that appeared to get him out of the jam, but the ball skipped past third baseman Jonathan Araúz for a run-scoring single.
McKenna threw out Carlos Correa at the plate to leave Watkins at 29 pitches. McKenna picked up his fourth outfield assist, three fewer than Hays and one less than Mullins.
Watkins retired the next 15 batters, with McKenna making a diving catch to rob Arraez leading off the sixth. He threw only six pitches in the second, 11 in the third, 12 in the fourth and six in the fifth.
Fifteen were needed in the sixth, which produced two well-placed line drives and a strikeout. Watkins was done after 79 pitches, and Pérez kept the streak going by retiring the side in order in the seventh and getting a ground ball to begin the eighth.
"Watkins did everything we asked and more," Hyde said. "He had a tough first inning there and really found his groove. Low pitches second through the sixth inning. Loved the way he was throwing strikes, mixing pitches extremely well, kept guys off balance and kept us right in the game. Really happy with how Spenser threw the ball."
"The ultimate goal is to give the team a chance to win," Watkins said. "Performance was great, I felt really good. Struggled that first inning to get my footing, and then once I got comfortable I was able to roll. But ultimately you want to give the team the best chance to win."
McKenna turned in a complete game in his usual role of spot starter.
"Couple huge plays," Hyde said. "Mac's been hanging in there, Mac's been grinding. Nice to see him contribute today."
"Every day, everybody goes out there and tries to play as hard as they can to get a win," McKenna said. "It's a team effort every day."
Bautista struck out Gio Urshela and Sánchez to end the eighth. López didn't get an out in the ninth.
The Orioles were 29-0 when leading after the eighth.
"We just haven't lost many leads," Hyde said. "These things happen to good teams, premiere closers. Once in a while you give it up. We did to a really good player. I thought we were scrappy. We had some chances to add on there that we didn't. We need to start doing a better job of that. It was a well-played game. We lost by one."
"It stings," McKenna said, "but our bullpen has been unbelievable this year. All of our pitching has been. It's just a bump in the road, unfortunately, and we'll come back tomorrow and come right at them."
Down on the farm, Triple-A Norfolk left-hander DL Hall shut out Gwinnett on one hit, a bunt single, over four innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts. He threw 71 pitches, 44 for strikes, and lowered his ERA to 4.68.
Chris Vallimont followed with five hitless innings, walking one batter and striking out six.
Jordan Westburg had an RBI double in the first inning and also singled. Kelvin Gutiérrez homered.
Heston Kjerstad belted his second home run for Single-A Delmarva and extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He also singled and is batting .433 with a 1.133 OPS.
Edgar Portes allowed one earned run and two total in six innings.
Double-A Bowie’s Noah Denoyer allowed one earned run and two total in five innings, and he struck out nine batters. His ERA is 1.73. Adam Stauffer tossed three scoreless innings.
Hudson Haskin hit his 10th home run.
Coby Mayo had a run-scoring single, but he came out of the game after only two at-bats due to back spasms.
Catcher Andres Angulo hit his first home run for Single-A Aberdeen.