TORONTO - There was a sense that maybe the Orioles offense was going to start trending up. That offense produced 11 hits each night in Washington, the first back-to-back games of double-figure hits by the Orioles since Aug. 5-6.
But then last night, in the critical series-opener at Rogers Centre, the O's produced just five hits, going 5-for-31 against Toronto's bullpen procession of seven pitchers as the Blue Jays won 6-3. The offense just came up short on this night and now the O's will need two straight wins to take this series.
Held hitless through the first three innings Friday night, the O's bats briefly came alive against lefty Yusei Kikuchi in the fourth when Cedric Mullins tripled and Adley Rutschman hit his first homer against a lefty as a big league player. It came in his 93rd plate appearance against a southpaw.
But other than those two hits, the Orioles went 3-for-29 the rest of the night. Gunnar Henderson hit a solo homer to left on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth.
“You look at their numbers, they have a good bullpen," O's manager Brandon Hyde said of the Blue Jays, now 12-4 this month and 82-63 for the year. "And we’ve seen a lot of those guys. Give them credit, they threw extremely well. We didn’t have our best night offensively and we gave up a few homers and lost the game.”
Rutschman's 11th homer got over the Rogers Centre wall rapidly. Batting .158 with an OPS of .517 against lefties entering Friday, the rookie mashed his homer 102 mph off the bat to left.
“That was a great at-bat," Hyde said. "You know two strikes. And nice to see Mullins go left-on-left there and hit a triple. And then Adley got a ball that he could handle with two strikes. Been struggling a little bit right-handed, so good to see him hit his first homer right-handed."
Hyde also had props for Henderson's homer in the ninth as he took a 97 mph fastball to left for his second major league homer.
“I just love the way Gunnar uses the whole field," Hyde said. "We don’t do enough of that honestly. When we are swinging the bat well like we did in Washington, our rallies came from using the whole field. Extra-base hits from the opposite side. Gunnar has the ability to cover (the plate) and go hit the ball the other way. Collectively we’ve got to do a better job of using the whole field."
Hyde also was pleased with a two-inning relief stint from right-hander Mike Baumann. He threw scoreless ball over the seventh and eighth innings, allowing one hit on 35 pitches.
“That was good. That was encouraging," Hyde said. "Really hard slider, couple of good curveballs and Mike we know has a really good arm. He showed really good stuff tonight.”
Baumann threw 18 sliders, getting swings and misses on three of the eight sliders Toronto swung on. The pitch had an average velocity of 93.1 mph, pretty hard for a slider. Baumann last's two outings have come versus Toronto, allowing thee runs in a combined seven innings.
Said losing pitcher Jordan Lyles on the loss: “Get a good night’s rest and try to even up the series tomorrow. We’ve got two more here. We’ve got what we want in front of us. This is just one loss. The end of the season is here and each game means that much more, but we have a chance to win the series."
Mullins said it's time to regroup for an O's club has lost seven of its last 11 games.
“We created some momentum, just couldn’t maintain it," he said. "They’re a good opponent and we had guys come in and immediately (after the loss) were saying, ‘Let it go, get it tomorrow.’ It’s that mindset of not giving in to anything or any obstacles we come across. We’ll come out and play hard."
Aberdeen wins playoff series: It was quite a night on the O's farm Friday. Top prospect Grayson Rodriguez was dealing for Triple-A, while Double-A Bowie moved into a strong playoff position and High-A Aberdeen won a playoff series for the first time in club history.
Heston Kjerstad's two-run double gave Aberdeen a 3-1 lead and TT Bowens added two RBIs as the IronBirds beat Brooklyn 5-4 in the third and deciding game of its playoff series.
Now the IronBirds advance to the South Atlantic League Championship Series and play at Bowling Green tomorrow afternoon. Aberdeen will host Game 2 on Tuesday and Game 3 on Wednesday night, if necessary.
Connor Norby hit another homer, No. 25, as Bowie beat Akron 10-3. And coupled with Erie's loss, Bowie is now solely in first place in the second half race at 41-26 with just two games left. If Bowie stays ahead of Erie, the Baysox make the playoffs. If the teams tie, Erie advances.
Norfolk blanked Charlotte 9-0 as Rodriguez threw five scoreless on 72 pitches. It was his first Triple-A game since June 1 and he now has thrown 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless for Norfolk.
Jordan Westburg went 5-for-5 with a homer, hitting a homer for the third game in a row. He is finishing strong, to say the least. For the year, between two teams, Westburg is batting .264/.353/.503/.856 with 36 doubles, three triples, 26 homers and 99 RBIs.
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