Ryan Mountcastle will tonight wear a protective guard on his left elbow for the first time after being hit by a José Berríos pitch during Saturday’s game in Toronto. He isn’t back to full health, and he’d have been doubtful for the series opener against the Tigers if the season hadn’t moved past May.
“We’re not in May,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.
All hands are on deck. All elbows, too.
Mountcastle is serving as the designated hitter instead of starting at first base, which is a concession to the injury.
“The elbow’s still sore, but he wants to play,” Hyde said. “Left-hander (Tyler Alexander) on the mound, he feels like he can hit, feels good enough to be out there.”
Mountcastle completed his rounds of batting practice and stayed in the lineup.
“It’s just good enough to play,” he said this afternoon. “Tested it today, hit some balls, and it (the discomfort) is still there, but try to power through.”
The hit-by-pitch happened in the top of the second inning. Mountcastle took his base, but came out of the game in the bottom half.
“It was a little scary at the moment,” he said. “I couldn’t really move my arm for a couple minutes, and then finally started to get some feeling back. Just happy that nothing’s broken and I can be out there today.”
X-rays were negative, which allowed Mountcastle to re-enter the lineup during a crucial stretch.
“Obviously, all of these games are big and don’t want to miss any, especially this time of year,” he said. “For me to only miss that one yesterday and to get the win was huge.”
Mountcastle watched from the dugout as the Orioles rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the eighth to beat the Blue Jays 5-4.
“It was awesome,” he said. “After we dropped the first two, for the guys to go out there and still have the will to go out there and finish that game was huge, and was a lot of fun to be a part of.”
The outcome left the Orioles four games behind the Mariners for the last wild card with 17 left to play.
“I think it’s going to be hard,” Hyde said. “Obviously, we’ve got to win games, and I feel like who’s right in front of us is somebody different every few days, so anything can happen. We have to win as many games as possible and see where we are at the end.”
“There’s a lot of games left, and we’re four out or something like that,” Mountcastle said. “There’s definitely a big chance, and it starts with the series here and we’ve got to, hopefully, handle business.”
Major League Baseball implemented an extra wild card in both leagues this season, providing more hope for a team like the Orioles that’s on the outside but staying within mathematical striking distance.
“I like it,” Hyde said. “I think it adds more drama. That wild card game, as you guys know … that wild card game is crazy. That one game, take all, almost feels a little bit unfair. It’s like a Game 7, your Game 7. So, to have the different format this year, I like it. It adds another two teams getting into the postseason, which, if I told you right now I didn’t like it, I’d be crazy.”
Hyde knows about the difficult road ahead.
The Orioles’ remaining opponents have a combined .541 winning percentage, the eighth-toughest strength of schedule in the majors, per the Elias Sports Bureau. But Hyde’s club battles until the final out, which kept it from being swept in Toronto. It has a puncher’s chance.
Yesterday’s win was the 13th when trailing after the sixth inning, the third-most in the majors behind the Guardians and Phillies (14 each). The Orioles have eight victories when trailing after the seventh, tied with the Brewers and Yankees for fourth in the majors.
“Got to give our team a ton of credit. There’s a lot of fight in that room,” Hyde said.
“That’s a fun group and they’re not letting down, and we’re continuing to scrap and claw and fight.”
The Orioles will honor reliever Dillon Tate tonight in a pregame ceremony after he was chosen as their nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award.
For the Tigers
Riley Greene CF
Victor Reyes RF
Javier Báez SS
Miguel Cabrera DH
Spencer Torkelson 1B
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Ryan Kreidler 3B
Tucker Barnhart C
Akil Baddoo LF
Tyler Alexander LHP