Orioles unable to overcome latest early deficit (updated)

First baseman Ryan Mountcastle made a diving stop of Yoán Moncada’s ground ball tonight and outraced him to the bag to record the out and prevent at least one more run from scoring. Elvis Andrus struck out, and Spenser Watkins caught a break only down 2-0 in the first inning.

On many nights in 2022, that play would launch a comeback for the Orioles. Their starter would get on a roll, they’d string together some hits, and the outcome would strengthen the belief that they have the stamina to stay in the wild card chase.

They still feel that way. Their confidence won’t erode. And Watkins didn’t allow another run. But the Orioles couldn’t push past the White Sox, who kept the lead and won 5-3 at Camden Yards.

Austin Hays slugged a two-run homer off Liam Hendriks in the ninth, his 300th career hit, but a fifth attempt to move seven games above .500 failed, dropping the Orioles to 64-59.

Watkins stranded a runner in each of his next four innings and retired the side in order in the sixth on three ground balls. The White Sox hadn’t cashed in much during this series, leaving 27 on base.

Bryan Baker replaced Watkins, who threw 25 pitches in the first but finished at 88. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his 10 starts since returning from the injured list.

"Took a little time to get my footing there in the first inning, just working through some rhythm stuff," Watkins said.

"Just getting the consistency with my mechanics and my release. That was really the main focus."

"I thought he did a great job," said manager Brandon Hyde. "First inning was a little shaky, a bunch of hard contact and a couple runs, but settled in after that. A 2-1 game, kept us right there. I thought his pitch mix got really good as the game went on, and a really good start for us.

"We're just not scoring a ton of runs for him."

Watkins went heavy with his slider usage tonight.

"We saw early on that they were kind of leaning out over the plate toward the cutter, so we reversed our focus and we put a lot of work in it this week to get it to where we wanted it to be," Watkins said. "After that first inning, when I got the rhythm and the release down, I had a good feel for it, so we were able to use it a lot."

The White Sox loaded the bases against Baker with one out in the seventh. José Abreu struck out, but Gavin Sheets reached on an infield single against Keegan Akin, his third RBI of the evening, for a 3-1 lead.

A slumping bullpen struggled again in the eighth, when the first four White Sox batters singled – two against Akin and two against Louis Head, whose wild pitch allowed a run to score. They pushed across two – unable to completely break open the game but doing damage to it.

Making Hays' long two-run shot to left field in the ninth mostly decorative.

The good version of Lucas Giolito stepped on the mound for Chicago. He allowed one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 5.14, but he left after walking Ramón Urías to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.

Rougned Odor walked on four Kendall Graveman pitches to load the bases, Jorge Mateo swung at the next one and pulled a hard one-hopper down the line, where Moncada made a sprawling backhand stop, stepped on the bag and fired across the infield for the double play.

The other team’s turn to bail out its pitcher.

Mateo thought the ball was headed to the left field corner, similar to his three-run double Sunday in Williamsport, Pa., "but he made a good play," he said via interpreter Brandon Quinones. "That's part of the game."

Hyde wasn't critical of Mateo for attacking the first pitch.

"I thought, tip your hat to a guy who made a great play in a big spot," Hyde said. "A game-changing play there. Pretty much the same ball he hit against Boston. If the ball goes in the corner, the game might be a lot different."

Cedric Mullins had a leadoff single in the first, broke for second base and couldn’t make it back to the bag on Adley Rutschman’s popup to short, raising his hand in a mock attempt to slap away the ball. The Orioles didn’t get another hit until Rutschman ran the count to 3-0 and doubled off the out-of-town scoreboard leading off the fourth.

Rutschman tagged and advanced to third base on Anthony Santander’s fly ball to the right-center field track, and he scored on Mountcastle’s ground ball to reduce the lead to 2-1.

The bat hasn’t cooled for Mullins. He produced a hustle double with one out in the sixth on a soft liner into left-center field, but Giolito escaped the jam.

The Orioles fell behind 2-0 in the first inning for the second consecutive night. Four straight batters reached with one out, including Sheets on a bases-loaded, two-run single. Mountcastle followed with his defensive gem.

Sheets’ infield hit in the seventh came after Mateo made a backhanded stop of his ground ball and leaping throw to first, rather than trying for the out at third base. The Gilman School graduate batted three times with the bases loaded, lining to right field to end the eighth.

"I looked at third and I thought of it, but since they weren't yelling or anything to go to third, I thought the best chance I had was going to first," Mateo said. "That's why I made that decision."

A roster move is anticipated Thursday after the Orioles claimed right-hander Phoenix Sanders off waivers from the Rays this afternoon. He holds three minor league options, but the Orioles probably want to swap out a reliever.

Down on the farm, Triple-A Norfolk’s Jordan Westburg homered last night before the game was suspended due to rain, and he homered again tonight after it resumed. DL Hall didn’t allow a run, hit or walk in two innings, striking out four batters in his second relief appearance. Bruce Zimmermann was charged with five earned runs and six total with 10 hits and seven strikeouts in five innings.

Gunnar Henderson also played second base in the regular game.

Coby Mayo doubled and hit his second home run with Double-A Bowie. Colton Cowser went 3-for-4, and Conner Norby (two RBIs), César Prieto and Cody Roberts each had two hits.

Brenan Hanifee allowed one run and three hits with four strikeouts in five innings.

High-A Aberdeen’s Donta’ Williams hit a three-run homer in the first, and Connor Pavolony had a two-run shot later in the inning.

Jud Fabian had a triple and home run among his first three at-bats with Single-A Delmarva. Dylan Beavers, also from this year’s draft class, had a double and triple.

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