The Orioles had lost 16 games and two starting pitchers before tonight. High marks less than a full month into their season.
They won’t run the table after tonight’s 9-4 victory over the Twins at Camden Yards, but perhaps they could avoid more changes to their rotation created by injuries.
The lesser of two long shots.
Chris Ellis was supposed to replace John Means, at least for a while, but he’s done in 2022 after today’s procedure to clean up his right labrum and rotator cuff.
Spenser Watkins closes out the series Thursday night opposite Chris Archer, and Jordan Lyles, Tyler Wells and Bruce Zimmermann stay in turn this weekend against the Royals. Kansas City is starting Carlos Hernández, Daniel Lynch and Zack Greinke.
Rookie Kyle Bradish, who made his second major league start tonight, could pitch Tuesday night in St. Louis if manager Brandon Hyde pushes back everyone to provide an extra day of rest.
The Orioles hope to reach a point when they can select Grayson Rodriguez’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk and recall left-hander DL Hall, and make their own choices about removals rather than having them dictated by a health crisis.
Rosters stay at 26 players until the Sept. 1 increase to 28. Innings are controlled with Wells, and Bradish to a lesser degree. The idea of a six-man rotation later this summer hasn’t been dismissed, but it comes with some complications.
“I have no idea,” Hyde said earlier today. “I think we’ll see where we are in the rotation, see where we are with our pitching. There’s a long way to go.
“I think we would be open to it, but having flexibility in our pitching staff hasn’t really been something that’s happened here the last few years since I’ve been here, so we’ve been kind of going series to series and week to week, trying to carry as many pitchers as we can. To carry a six-man rotation, you’re just adding another guy and taking a guy out of the bullpen, which is challenging. But we’ll see where we are at that point.”
Hyde just wants to get through each game and plan for the next.
He’ll take more like tonight’s, with Cedric Mullins and Ramón Urías homering off Dylan Bundy in a six-run third inning and the Orioles scoring three more in the fourth to tie their season high before reaching the game’s midway point. The Twins had won 11 of 12 games.
"We had two of our better innings offensively, and nice to see our guys swing the bat the way they did," Hyde said. "We put the ball in play. Really happy with our offense tonight.
"We got some infield singles and some things by moving the baseball, by putting the ball in play, which led to some big innings, as well as some walks mixed in there."
"I'd say overall we had higher quality at-bats," said Trey Mancini, who reached base four times. "I'm sure pitch selection was better, but at the same time we've been talking a lot about some of the bad breaks we've gotten. Some things went our way tonight, too. Sometimes, that's the name of the game as well. But I think the quality of our at-bats was definitely better tonight.
"It energizes you, it just brings a different energy. I think we did a good job of passing the baton. ... We all know what this offense can do. I believe in everybody in this lineup. A lot of times I think we put too much pressure on ourselves and have been pressing at times, so if we can just take a step back, relax a little bit, it's a really good offense, and tonight we showed that, if we just trust the guy behind us to do the job if we don't get the pitches to do it."
The defense turned five double plays in the first seven innings to tie the club record, now done 11 times, the most recent before tonight on July 6, 1999 versus the Blue Jays. Two of them aided Cionel Pérez during his two innings of relief. Pérez was credited with the win.
"I think we have some guys in the bullpen who put the ball on the ground," Hyde said. "Really happy with our middle infield tonight, (Jorge) Mateo and (Rougned) Odor, with a really strong arm on double play turns. Mateo did a nice job making sure of the first out, getting to the ball, chest-high to Odor, with some really good turns. That was huge."
"They've done an incredible job all year," Mancini said. "It's great to see, and that's also a credit to our pitchers for getting ground balls in those situations with runners on first."
Bradish endured a four-run fourth, when the Twins sent nine batters to the plate and worked him for 35 pitches to double his total from the previous three innings. He fanned Jorge Polanco with an 84 mph slider to end the first inning, started the second by freezing Trevor Larnach with a 96 mph fastball, and ended the inning by striking out Nick Gordon on a nasty 86 mph slider below the zone.
Luis Arraez had a leadoff single in the first and was doubled off the bag when Mateo made an excellent basket catch of Carlos Correa’s popup with his back to the infield and fired to Ryan Mountcastle. Gary Sánchez singled to lead off the third and Gio Urshela grounded into a double play, allowing Bradish to face the minimum number of batters on 35 pitches.
Hyde said this afternoon that Bradish could stay in the 85-90 pitch range, with the possibility of inching past it with low-stress innings. Dillon Tate already was warming in the fourth as Bradish labored, and Pérez entered in the fifth.
Arraez drew a leadoff walk and Carlos Correa hit a fastball down the middle of the plate 418 feet to center field, giving him 500 career RBIs and shaving the Orioles’ lead to 6-2.
Polanco walked and Larnach singled on a ball that Odor could only swat at with his glove. Gordon had an RBI single with one out, Bradish hit Sánchez to load the bases, and Urshela flied to right field to score Larnach.
It could have been worse except Gilberto Celestino’s line drive, headed to right field for an RBI single, nailed Sánchez as the former Yankee was halfway to second base.
"The first three he was really good," Hyde said. "It's a mid-90s fastball with a little bit of cut, curveball, slider, change. We score six in the third, he sat for a long time. It was a long half-inning for us offensively in a great way. And they got to him there in the fourth inning. I have to go look, but they were on a lot of his pitches. His command was a little bit off that inning.
"The most important thing is he's going to be pitching every five days and these are good learning experiences."
The high-stress inning led to Bradish’s departure and left his ERA at 5.40. He allowed four runs and six hits, walked two, struck out three and hit a batter.
“Just lost command of my breaking balls,” Bradish said. “Wasn’t throwing them for strikes and they were laying off it.”
The long wait during the bottom of the third could have been handled better.
“I should have probably did more in between that inning while I was sitting,” he said. “I was enjoying all the hits we were getting, and runs. I was just being a fan.”
The Twins started Bundy, the former Orioles first-round draft pick traded to the Angels in December 2019 for Bradish and three other pitchers. Hyde called it “the ironies of a baseball season.”
Another term could have been “harsh homecoming,” with Bundy allowing a career-high nine runs and 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Bundy threw 22 of 25 pitches for strikes over the first two innings, with singles by Mancini and Mountcastle wasted. Mateo led off the third with a bloop double and Mullins followed with his third home run, a curveball aimed at the flag court, to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Mancini and Anthony Santander walked, the latter for the 18th time to leave him five short of his 2021 total. He’s reached base in 24 of 25 games.
Austin Hays singled for a 3-0 lead. The shift robbed Mountcastle of a run-scoring single up the middle, a sharp grounder turned into a double play, but Santander scored on Odor’s line drive that struck first baseman Jose Miranda’s mitt, and Urías cleared the center field fence for his first home run.
A team that scored two runs or fewer in four of its last five games, and in 14 total, vented against Bundy.
It responded to the Twins’ rally by scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Mullins singled, Mancini reached on another infield hit and throwing error, Santander had an RBI single, and he came all the way around on Mountcastle’s double into the left field corner for a 9-4 lead – the final batter Bundy faced.
Mancini collected his third infield single in the sixth inning, this one unaccompanied by a throwing error.
The last time he's had three in a game?
"Yeah, never," he said, laughing. "If you see my speed and things like that, it doesn't happen very often. I was pretty fortunate to get three out there tonight. It felt pretty good."
"I think he was hitting it in the right spot," Hyde said. "Obviously, they play him way to pull and he kind of nubbed it in the right area for them to have to backhand and make a cross-body throw, and I'm sure the speed intimidated them to try to hurry it."
Mancini also had an infield hit last night and added a bloop RBI single before lining out to center field.
"Just hitting it in the right spot, basically," he said. "There's been a pretty good amount of those plays lately. I'm just trying to run as hard as I can down the line, which isn't too fast, but I try to get down there as quickly as I can.
"It's nice to get some back, for sure, because whenever you're hitting balls hard at people and they're getting caught, all you want is a cheap hit afterward, and I'll stop complaining for a few days after tonight."
Notes: Scoring changes from the April 28 game in New York have removed both Kelvin Gutiérrez errors and left Zimmermann with three additional earned runs. Chris Owings also had his error removed from the April 24 game in Anaheim, leaving Keegan Akin with a hit allowed to Shohei Ohtani.
Double-A Bowie left-hander DL Hall is starting Thursday morning at Prince George’s Stadium in his first game since leaving high Single-A Aberdeen. Hall tossed four scoreless innings with the IronBirds, striking out six batters. He’s working on an extra day of rest.
Aberdeen’s Houston Roth allowed only an unearned run and one hit in five innings against Brooklyn. He struck out six batters.
DJ Stewart was scratched from Triple-A Norfolk’s lineup. He was supposed to be the designated hitter.
Outfielder Robert Neustrom hit his fifth home run. Denyi Reyes held Nashville to one run and three hits in five innings, with no walks and six strikeouts.