Kimbrel can't hold lead and leaves with injury in 7-6 loss (updated)

Craig Kimbrel attracted two mound visits today from manager Brandon Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel. The first, after the veteran closer issued a four-pitch walk to the first batter he faced in the top of the ninth inning and fell behind 1-0 to the next. The last, after Oakland's Kyle McCann hit a go-ahead two-run homer and Kimbrel fell behind again 1-0.

A second consecutive blown save from Kimbrel might not be the worst news.

Kimbrel walked off the mound with Ebel while Hyde signaled for Dillon Tate, and the Orioles lost 7-6 before an announced crowd of 40,887 at sun-splashed Camden Yards.

Another attempt failed to record his eighth save this season and the 425th of his career, which would tie the Red Sox’s Kenley Jansen for fifth place on the all-time list. Kimbrel's fastball was in the mid-90s, but something obviously wasn't right.

Hyde said afterward that Kimbrel had upper-back tightness." Kimbrel was in the trainers' room and unavailable to the media.

"He's just kind of being evaluated right now," Hyde said.

Kimbrel began his outing by putting Darell Hernaiz on base without throwing a strike. He threw one warmup pitch with Ebel and Hyde standing near him, continued to face McCann and served up a two-run shot on a 94.7 mph fasteball.

"He threw a pitch and it looked good and felt right, and kind of just trust the player at that point when he says he's good to go," Hyde said. "And then, the long AB. I don't know. I'm not sure.

"The way he was walking around, it just didn't look right, so we wanted to make sure he was OK."

Bullpen changes could be coming, with Kimbrel a candidate for the injured list and a few returning starters perhaps altering roles.

"It's part of the game," Hyde said. "Other guys are going to have to step up. We need to pitch well out of the bullpen. Just a next-guy-up type of mentality. I don't know what the timetable is with Craig, if any at all. We'll see. But I think we've been playing pretty good baseball. We just had a couple unfortunate kind of endings this series."

McCann made contact and Kimbrel turned away in disgust. Lawrence Butler took a fastball out of the strike zone and Tate entered the game.

"He obviously has a lot of experience," said catcher Adley Rutschman. "I trust him, so I know that he knows his body better than anyone else."

Asked what he was seeing with Kimbrel, Rutschman didn't make reference to the injury.

"Just trying to make adjustments on the fly as we go," he said. "Just trying to make sure we're on the same page with targeting and whatnot.

"I think that Craig's a phenomenal pitcher, obviously, and he's going to bounce back. We've got no worries."

The Orioles fell to 17-10. They also lost Friday night after Kimbrel lasted only one-third of an inning and allowed a run and two hits with three walks. The only out came on a play at the plate.

* Albert Suárez won’t go through his entire Orioles career without allowing a run.

Seth Brown barreled a changeup today in the top of the second inning and drove it 409 feet to center field, the ball landing in the seats to give Oakland an early lead. Suárez’s scoreless streak was over at 12 1/3.

His time in the rotation could be next.

Someone has to step aside, and Suárez lasted only four innings while allowing four runs and seven hits. But he also induced 15 whiffs and left with a lead.

"I think I wasn't executing the way that I'm supposed to," he said. "Threw a lot of pitches to hitters and I think that's what cost me not going longer in the game."

Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle homered in the third, allowing the Orioles to move ahead again, and Ramón Urías hit his first since July 9, 2023, but a 6-4 lead couldn't be protected.

Rutschman extended his hitting streak to a career-high nine games with his fourth homer of the season and first from the left side. Ryan O’Hearn singled and Mountcastle sent Paul Blackburn’s cutter 424 feet to center field.

Urías padded the lead in the fourth, giving the Orioles at least three homers in nine games this season. They rank first in the majors with 44, a club record through 27 games.

Eight players have hit four or more, also a team record through 27 games.

The Orioles scored twice in the second inning to take a 2-1 lead, with Colton Cowser’s RBI double breaking the tie. But four consecutive batters reached against Suárez in the third after he struck out McCann, and the Athletics scored three times.

JJ Bleday lined an RBI double to right field at 110.2 mph after Butler walked and Tyler Nevin singled, and Brent Rooker followed with a two-run, bloop single into left-center - the ball clocked at 68.7 mph off his bat.

The offense covered for Suárez, who’s out of minor league options and could work in a bulk relief role if he’s pulled from the rotation. Might be harder now to sneak him through waivers.

The Orioles are listing Grayson Rodriguez as Monday nihght’s starter against the Yankees at Camden Yards, followed by Dean Kremer on Tuesday, Corbin Burnes on Wednesday and TBA on Thursday. Kyle Bradish could make his 2024 debut or Cole Irvin could pitch on regular rest.

The Yankees are starting Clarke Schmidt, Nestor Cortes, Luis Gil and Carlos Rodón.

Irvin said earlier today that his left middle finger is fine after he was struck yesterday by a comebacker. He still has a bandage wrapped around it but X-rays were negative and he said there’s no discomfort. He’s just trying to figure out how his pitching hand got in the way.

John Means was spectacular earlier today with Triple-A Norfolk in his final rehab start, shutting out Gwinnett on one hit over seven innings and striking out eight batters. He was stretched out to 95 pitches. He’s also ready to return.

The bullpen lacks a true innings eater, and changes in the rotation could be a solution.

"It's always nice to have a long reliever, guys who can throw multiple innings," Hyde said, "and hopefully we have some guys coming off the IL soon and we'll have some long relief then."

Suárez retired the side in order in the first on 13 pitches, striking out the first two batters on a changeup and 95.7 mph fastball. He allowed the home run in the second and Max Schuemann singled, but Suárez struck out Ryan Noda at 96.1 mph and retired Hernaiz on a bouncer to the mound.

The third inning got away from Suárez, and he stranded two runners in the fourth after back-to-back, two-out singles. Nevin swung through a 97.6 mph fastball on the 83rd and final pitch from Suárez.

"I just thought he was a little off today," Hyde said. "He was good in the first, the stuff was still good. He missed up a little more than normal. I didn't think he had his best command today. But I thought we did a pretty good job out of the 'pen there until the end and had a chance to win."

"We trust our pitching staff," Rutschman said. "There's going to be ups and downs, so I don't think anyone's worried."

Keegan Akin retired all six batters he faced, and Danny Coulombe retired the first two in the seventh before Nevin homered to left field and reduced the lead to 6-5.

It turned out to be a big run.

Yennier Cano stranded a runner in the eighth, with Mountcastle making a lunging stop to rob Noda.

Mountcastle had three hits through the fifth inning to raise his average to .322 with a .915 OPS. He also stole his first base, making the Orioles 24-for-25.

* Jordan Westburg has a stomach bug and wasn't available today, which explains why he didn't pinch-hit late in the game.

* Jackson Holliday led off again today for Norfolk and went 1-for-4 with a double. Coby Mayo hit his eighth home run and Maverick Handley hit his second. Kyle Stowers doubled twice.

Double-A Bowie’s Samuel Basallo homered twice and singled from atop the order. He started at first base.

Seth Johnson allowed two runs and three hits in four innings, with one walk and six strikeouts. Carlos Tavera replaced him and tossed five scoreless innings with one hit, no walk and six strikeouts.

Braxton Bragg started for Single-A Delmarva and allowed only an unearned run and two hits in four innings, with no walks and six strikeouts.

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