Orioles squander big scoring opportunity and bullpen buckles in 8-3 loss (updated)

Chafed by his career-high five walks in his last start in Chicago, Grayson Rodriguez used the word “atrocious” to describe his fastball command and overall performance. Well below his standards. Easier to tolerate, however, because the Orioles won.

Rodriguez began tonight’s game with a strikeout, home run, double and run-scoring single to fall behind 2-0. He also walked a batter. He was around the plate with 16 strikes among 22 pitches, but maybe a little too much.

Atrocious remained in play after Rodriguez was given a lead in the bottom half and the Red Sox responded by snatching it out of his hands, but he struck out a career-high 10 batters and issued just the one walk over six innings. The Red Sox didn’t score against him after the second.

Still needed was a comeback that would extend the Orioles’ winning streak to six games. They had opportunities but couldn’t do it. They couldn’t even keep it close.

They loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth and didn’t score, Keegan Akin allowed three runs in the ninth and the Orioles lost to the Red Sox 8-3 before an announced crowd of 17,970 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles are 34-19 and attempting Wednesday to go 18 division series in a row without a loss.

Rodriguez allowed four runs and seven hits and hit a batter in his six innings. He came out after 90 pitches, and Cionel Pérez retired the side in order in the seventh.

"Anytime you give up four runs, I think pretty disappointed about that," Rodriguez said. "Was glad I was able to go six innings, but should have done a better job keeping my team in the game.

"The fastball helped me tremendously, got me through that outing. I think if I didn't have it today, it would have been a lot shorter and a lot worse outing."

Wilyer Abreu deposited a changeup onto the flag court in the first, Rob Refsnyder doubled to center field on a slider and Rafael Devers lined a 97.6 mph fastball to center field at 104 mph for a 2-0 lead. It was only the second home run surrendered by Rodriguez since April 5.

Dominic Smith walked with two outs and was stranded.

David Hamilton began the second by striking out, but Ceddanne Rafaela singled and scored on Jarren Duran’s double to center field. Abreu struck out, Refsnyder was hit by a pitch and Devers dropped a soft single into left field – only 69.6 mph - for a 4-3 lead.

"I thought (Rodriguez) did a great job of settling down after the second inning," said manager Brandon Hyde. "He got hit hard the first couple innings and was leaving some balls in the middle part of the plate and they hit some balls hard against him, but I thought he made some really good adjustments there after the second inning. And the next four were outstanding."

Beyond the strikeouts, Rodriguez was most pleased with taking some of the load off the bullpen.

"I know it gets tiring down there," he said, "so anytime a starter goes out, I think six innings is the bottom line. That's what we're trying to get to."

Devers went 4-for-4 with a leadoff triple in the eighth off Pérez – another left-on-left matchup gone wrong for the Orioles. Devers came home on Connor Wong’s single off Yennier Cano for a 5-3 lead.

Akin’s struggles continued in the ninth. He gave up a leadoff single to left-handed-hitting David Hamilton and walked Rafaela, pinch-hitter Romy Gonzalez lifted a sacrifice fly to deep center field and Refsnyder hit a 419-foot homer to left. Fans began walking up aisles and heading out of the ballpark.

Akin has allowed seven runs in his last three outings to leave his ERA at 4.62.

"He got hit," Hyde said. "Walked the No. 9 hitter. Just didn't have his command tonight."

Anthony Santander led off the sixth with a single and Jordan Westburg was hit on the right hand/wrist, bringing athletic trainer Mark Shires onto the field and left-hander Brennan Bernardino into the game. Pinch-hitter Ryan Mountcastle walked, but pinch-hitter Austin Hays struck out, Jorge Mateo bounced into a force at the plate and Gunnar Henderson struck out on three pitches.

"Give Bernardino credit, he's been having a heck of a year and he did a great job against us," Hyde said. "Mounty had a good at-bat and unfortunately we didn't score. He got the next three guys out.

"We're down one with a bases-loaded, no-out spot, you feel pretty good about our offense at that point."

Hyde said Westburg was getting checked out after the ball hit a "tender spot."

"Hoping he's OK," Hyde said. "Tough kid."

Westburg singled off Justin Slaten with one out in the eighth and the margin stayed at two runs. The Orioles left 10 runners on base, including two in the ninth while it began to rain.

"It's part of the game, that's just the way the game goes sometimes, and unfortunately we just didn't get the job done on that end tonight," Santander said via interpreter Brandon Quinones.

"We're always focused on the game and we never really give up until the final out. The game turned out that way tonight."

Brayan Bello allowed three runs in the first. Henderson doubled down the left field line, Adley Rutschman walked, Henderson moved to third on Ryan O’Hearn’s fielder’s choice bouncer, and Colton Cowser reached on an infield single for his 25th RBI. Santander was hit by a pitch and Westburg lined a two-run single to right field.

Nine straight Orioles were retired, with Bello striking out six, before Kyle Stowers singled in the fourth. Cedric Mullins was robbed by Rafaela, who sprinted into deep left-center to run down a fly ball at the corner of the bullpen fence.

Asked again about Stowers, who had three hits and four RBIs yesterday, Hyde said, "He's had good swings."

"He's very talented and he's done a good job so far," Santander said. "Obviously, he's very disciplined. He goes about his work the right way and it's good to see him do well so far on this team."

* The Giants designated former Orioles outfielder Ryan McKenna for assignment.

McKenna was claimed on May 18.

* Jackson Holliday hit a leadoff homer tonight with Triple-A Norfolk.

Chayce McDermott allowed three runs and seven hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in four innings.

Double-A Bowie’s Kyle Brnovich allowed one run and four hits in five innings. TT Bowens hit a two-run homer.

Eccel Correa tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings with three hits and six strikeouts for Single-A Delmarva. Shortstop Aron Estrada doubled and hit his second home run.

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