Orioles use Kimbrel in seventh inning, Cano closes out 4-2 win over Diamondbacks (updated)

Craig Kimbrel stood up tonight, removed his jacket and began to throw in the Orioles’ bullpen.

It was the bottom of the sixth inning.

Kimbrel said earlier in the day that he expected to get the ball again in a save situation, but he jogged onto the field for the top of the seventh with the Orioles ahead 3-2. The lights flickered as if he were closing. The entrance didn’t change.

Just the timing of it.

Kimbrel retired the Diamondbacks in order on a 101.4 mph line drive to Ryan Mountcastle, a strikeout at 94.4 mph and a fly ball near the warning track in right field. Twelve pitches, eight for strikes, and Kimbrel was done.

Yennier Cano did the closing in the Orioles’ 4-2 victory over the Diamondbacks before an announced crowd of 27,703 at Camden Yards. Whether that’s temporary or indefinite will be confirmed later.

Cionel Pérez stranded two runners in the eighth inning, Cano recorded his 10th career save, and a nine-game homestand - the longest of the season - got off to a good start.

Gabriel Moreno led off the ninth with a double into the right-field corner. Danny Coulombe began warming but Cano didn't need rescuing.

Asked about the plan for Kimbrel moving forward, manager Brandon Hyde said, "It's just trying to give him a little bit different situation and try to match up the best we possibly can. I just wanted to give him a little bit of a different look and I thought he threw the ball really, really well, so really happy with pitching a big inning for us in the seventh inning.

"It's a day-to-day thing for me right now."

Kimbrel’s last appearance in the seventh inning came with the Phillies in Game 2 of a Sept. 30, 2023 doubleheader at Citi Field, his final outing in the regular season. He struck out the side.

Blaze Alexander smoked a ball tonight that Mountcastle leaped to catch. Kevin Newman fanned, Ketel Marte flied out and fans stood to cheer.

Kimbrel, stuck on 425 career saves, heard a few boos during the light show and again when introduced. Baseball and everything attached to it can be fickle.

"Pitching in a 3-2 game in the seventh is still a lot of pressure and a high-leverage situation," Hyde said. "I just want to get him going, honestly. I just want him to get confident. I know he's had kind of a rough week and just wanted to kind of change his look a little bit. This guy's done a lot of really cool things for a long time and just trying to get him some confidence."

Kimbrel wasn't assured of pitching tonight. It just worked out that way. And the Orioles didn't decide earlier in the day that Cano would get the save chance. Again, it just worked out that way.

Jacob Webb entered in the eighth, retired the first two batters and walked former Oriole Christian Walker. Pérez nailed pinch-hitter Joc Pederson, who came out of the game, and Eugenio Suárez grounded into a force.

"I didn't really have a plan after that except for a few guys I wanted to use there," Hyde said. "Just how the inning went in the eighth. ... We were just going to try to match up like we did in September."

Cano owned a career 5.79 ERA in the ninth inning before tonight.

"Just tried to pocket honestly the best situation for him," Hyde said. "I had Coulombe up there, too, in the ninth inning just in case it got to (Corbin) Carroll. I'm just trying to set all these guys up for success the best I possibly can. We did a good job in September last year after we lost (Félix) Bautista, trying to get Craig going, and we have a similar crew back there this year."

Cano found out he'd close as the game approached the ninth.

"I had no idea," he said via interpreter Brandon Quinones. "They just told us all to go out there and be ready, and I went out there and did what I've done all season long, which is to be prepared and do my one inning of work and get the job done."

The ninth inning is different. There's no denying it.

"It's an extremely difficult inning," Cano said. "There always seems to be something that just goes sideways, but I've tried to learn from last year and approach it as any other inning. Same thing if it was the seventh or eighth. It doesn't matter. I'm just going to go out there and do my job."

The next time it might be setting up Kimbrel. Who knows at this point?

"Baseball is a difficult game and I went through those same moments last year and even this year, so it's bound to happen," Cano said. "But it was good to see him go out there in the seventh inning and regain his confidence and we're excited to hopefully have him back doing what he does best.

"He's been able to do this for 14-15 years now and one of the top five greatest closers ever, so we're going to continue supporting him and be here for him, and we have all the confidence he's going to be able to get back to what he's been doing."

The Orioles improved to 25-12 overall and 16-2 when they score first. They will go 104 consecutive series in the regular season without being swept.

The Diamondbacks made their first visit to Camden Yards since the Orioles swept them in a three-game series in 2016. They had won four games in a row before tonight.

* Cole Irvin finally gave up a run tonight. He was due. The key was to keep it from being destructive to his start.

The scoreless streak reached 22 2/3 innings before Marte’s solo homer with one out in the second. Marte drove a fastball 400 feet to right-center field to slice the Orioles’ lead in half.

Irvin didn’t flinch. He just kept flinging and hoped it would be good enough.

The veteran left-hander tried to dig his heels a little deeper into the rotation by holding the Diamondbacks to one run heading into the sixth.

Randal Grichuk’s single with two outs in the inning forced manager Brandon Hyde to bring in Albert Suárez, who allowed an RBI single to Suárez that left Irvin with two runs on his line. Irvin threw a season-high 95 pitches and allowed five hits with one walk and six strikeouts.

"I thought Cole threw the ball great once again," Hyde said. "He had a really good fastball. A team that really hits left-handers well. This is the best left-handed hitting team in the big leagues right now and keeping them to just one run in the sixth inning and leaving there with a lead, I thought he really threw the ball great. Just really impressed with how competitive he's been. The confidence in his stuff. He's got his pitches working and he's pitching with a ton of confidence."

Irvin threw 22 pitches in a scoreless first, the last 10 to Grichuk before a fly ball stranded two runners. He retired nine of 10, the home run within this stretch, before walking Suárez with two outs in the fourth and striking out Moreno.

An eight-pitch second inning was matched by an eight-pitch fifth to leave Irvin at 76 and keep the bullpen quiet in a 2-1 game. That didn't last.

"Today wasn't my best execution day, but a really good team game," Irvin said.

The scoreless streak wasn't an obsession with Irvin.

"Obviously got people mentioning it," he said, smiling, "but with my process over the past few weeks and how it's changed, every game's independent of itself. I'm trying to do my best to throw up zeros and do what I can, but the streak by no means was even at the forefront of my mind. I was focused on getting back to executing pitches. I felt like early in that outing I wasn't throwing it where I wanted to and I was sporadic throughout that game, so it wasn't my most polished game, but I'm happy with where some pitches were at toward the later part of the outing."

* Owner David Rubenstein was the guest splasher in the Bird Bath for a couple innings, with a light rain falling and the first-pitch temperature at 55 degrees. He cranked up the hose on Jordan Westburg’s run-scoring double off Brandon Pfaadt in the second that followed singles by Mountcastle and Anthony Santander, and Colton Cowser’s fly ball to the edge of the left field warning track that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. caught on the run before stumbling to the ground.

Cedric Mullins grounded out to score Santander for a 2-0 lead.

Asked whether he'd like Rubenstein to remain the guest splasher every game, Hyde said, "Maybe only City Connect nights."

Pfaadt retired the first two batters in the fifth, but Gunnar Henderson walked, raced to third base on Adley Rutschman’s single and scored on Ryan O’Hearn’s single.

Jorge Mateo singled off Logan Allen in the seventh and hustled around the bases on Henderson’s double into right-center that gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead.

The Orioles have won six of their last seven games, eight of 10, 13 of 18 and 17 of 23.

* Double-A Bowie’s Brandon Young allowed one run tonight in 3 1/3 innings.

High-A Aberdeen’s Matthew Etzel had a two-run single in the first inning.

Single-A Delmarva’s Braxton Bragg allowed one run and three hits in four innings. Braylin Tavera and Aron Estrada each drove in three runs.

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