Orioles can't keep bats humming and lose again in walk-off fashion 3-2 (updated)

PITTSBURGH – To awaken the Orioles' offense this afternoon, Ryan Mountcastle took the logical route and made loud noises.

It worked for a brief spell, but he couldn’t prevent another slumber. And it killed the series for the Orioles.

Yennier Cano handled closing duties with Craig Kimbrel unavailable and didn't protect a one-run lead. Ke'Bryan Hayes and Jack Suwinski singled, Connor Joe walked to load the bases. Rowdy Tellez grounded to Mountcastle, who got the out at the plate, and Edward Olivares sent a bouncer up the middle that Gunnar Henderson smothered with a diving stop.

With the hint of a game-ending double play in the air, Henderson tapped the bag with his hand and fired the ball past Mountcastle, letting two runs score and giving the Pirates a 3-2 win and back-to-back walk-offs at PNC Park. Henderson was trying to rise from his prone position and execute the latest gem today in the field.

"I usually make that play 99 times out of a hundred, and it just so happens that the throw got away from me right there," Henderson said. "That was pretty unfortunate."

"You can't blame Gunnar," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Not many people get to that ball, one. Chopper over the middle. Tough play, makes a great play. Tried to hurry the throw a little bit."

Mountcastle doubled twice in his first two at-bats with exit velocities at 109.2 and 112.1 mph and also singled at 103.9. He drove in a run and scored in the fourth and Dean Kremer gave the club its longest start with seven innings, but the bats didn't keep up. They produced 24 runs in the first two games and two walk-offs against the Royals, but the fade in production - 23 runs in seven games - is hurting.

"We had six hits and I think four last night. Tough to win that way," Hyde said.

"We were a foot or so from getting out of that inning there in the ninth inning, with Gunnar making just a great play. But not making it easy on ourselves offensively right now."

Keegan Akin retired the side in order in the eighth on only nine pitches, but the Orioles (5-4) failed in their attempt to win the first three series of the season for the first time since 2016 and second since 2009.

Akin hasn’t allowed a run in four appearances over 4 1/3 innings, and Cano hadn't in four appearances over 4 1/3 before today.

"A couple balls elevated early, the first couple guys," Hyde said of Cano. "We were so close, so many little tappers, because he has so much sink on his fastball and changeup. A lot of mishits, so besides the first two guys, it was typical Cano."

Kremer surrendered only an unearned run and five hits, with no walks and six strikeouts. A 20-pitch seventh left him at 91, including 69 for strikes.

There wouldn’t be much offensive support. He didn't require it, but he also wasn't staying on the mound for the entire game.

After going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position yesterday, the Orioles stranded Mountcastle at second base today following his two-out double in the first inning.

They didn’t have a hit yesterday over the first five innings. Mountcastle prevented another dry spell, but Pirates left-hander Marco Gonzales retired nine of the first 10.

Adley Rutschman led off the fourth with a single and scored on Mountcastle’s missile to left-center field, a curveball almost losing its cover. Mountcastle hustled to third base on shortstop Oneil Cruz’s error and came home on Anthony Santander’s single to center at 106.5 mph.

Mountcastle began the day in a 1-for-16 slump. Unfortunately for the Orioles, he blended among a group of hitters who fell into a funk.

Before his RBI single, Santander was 4-for-26 since homering in the first two games of the season. Austin Hays is 2-for-26 and hitless in his last 19 at-bats. Cedric Mullins is 4-for-28 this season and 2-for-20 since the second game. Henderson is 3-for-26 since going 3-for-4 on March 30.

Ramón Urías didn’t start again today and is 1-for-17 this season.

"First two games of the season, sort of saw what we can do," Henderson said. "Kind of just through a lull right now, so it'll definitely pick up here pretty soon."

"It’s normal,” bench coach Fredi González said this morning. “As a guy who’s been around a little bit, you’ve just got to let it play out. These guys now have a history. These guys have a track record. You know they aren't what they are this first week, one way or the other. I've seen hot starts and you go, the water's going to reach its level sooner or later. You’ve just got to be patient, you’ve got to keep running them out there.

“The watermark will get to where it’s supposed to be.”

Kremer threw 14 of 17 pitches for strikes in the first inning and retired the side in order in the second. Jared Triolo led off the third with a single and tried to score with one out on Cruz’s double to the center field fence, but Jorge Mateo’s relay nabbed him at the plate.

After breezing through the fourth to leave him at 44 pitches and 35 strikes, Kremer created his own problems in the fifth. Edward Olivares singled with one out, and Kremer fielded Triolo’s hard comebacker on one hop and fired the ball past Mateo for an error. Henry Davis’ fly ball to right produced an unearned run and cut the lead to 2-1.

The up-the-middle defense was dazzling in the sixth, beginning with Henderson ranging to the second base side to make a diving stop and snap throw to retire Baltimore native Bryan Reynolds. Mountcastle picked the ball out of the dirt. Jorge Mateo followed by soaring to his right to make the stop and throwing out Ke’Bryan Hayes.

"I feel like we always play really hard defense and we always err on the side of being aggressive and trying to make play aggressively, and that's how we roll," Henderson said. "Try to do that each and every day to make easier work for the pitchers."

The inning cost Kremer only eight pitches to leave him at 71.

"Every time we're out there, always somebody makes a diving play," Kremer said. "Yesterday, all three outfielders made an amazing catch. Both guys up the middle today. We have one of the better defenses in the league and I'm not afraid to throw it down the middle and let them work."

Kremer shut out the Pirates over 6 1/3 innings in his only other start against them in 2022. He deserved a better result today.

"We had a good plan and a good mix going for pretty much the whole outing," he said.

A better approach is needed at the plate.

"We're not creating any sort of traffic right now," Hyde said. "We're not taking walks, and we're getting out early in the count quite a bit. You don't want to discredit the other teams' pitchers, but we've got to do a better job of putting pressure on them and getting on base."

* The Orioles didn’t break out the same lineup in back-to-back games last season, with the most recent occurrence on Aug. 5-6, 2022 against Pittsburgh. Brett Phillips started in left field and Terrin Vavra was the designated hitter.

Kremer was the starter in a 1-0 victory and the Orioles also won the following day 6-3.

Hyde kept yesterday’s order intact this afternoon, including Rutschman as the designated hitter.

* The Red Sox are starting right-handers Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta and Kutter Crawford in the series against the Orioles that begins Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park. Corbin Burnes, Cole Irvin and Grayson Rodriguez start for the Orioles.

* Down on the farm, Triple-A Norfolk’s Cade Povich struck out nine batters in five scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and walked three. Connor Norby had two more hits and is batting .395 with a 1.205 OPS.

Double-A Bowie’s Trace Bright tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out six.

High-A Aberdeen’s Jackson Baumeister tossed three scoreless innings with five strikeouts. Mac Horvath had a three-run double in the sixth.

Single-A Delmarva’s Luis De León allowed one earned run and two total with five strikeouts in four innings.

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