The sight was odd but not unexpected. A reliever warming by the fourth inning. Runs on the board for the visiting team.
Mike Baumann wasn’t called upon as a starter tonight to give the Orioles the same length as his predecessors. He was subbing for injured right-hander Tyler Wells, and the Oriole needed to keep evaluating him. That’s why he was chosen.
They got four innings out of him. He left with a lead. The game was placed in the hands of a fresh bullpen. Pretty much as designed.
The rest of it imploded. No where in the plan was Félix Bautista throwing a career-high 33 pitches in 1 1/3 innings, charged with four runs and his first blown save since the Jorge López trade in a stunning 11-10 loss to the Astros before an announced crowd of 22,546 at Camden Yards.
Anthony Santander homered twice, the second a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth that gave the Orioles a 9-7 lead. But the Astros loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, a run scored on Alex Bregman’s fielder’s choice grounder, Kyle Tucker doubled to tie the game.
Jake Reed entered, and Yuli Gurriel sent a ground ball through the right side to plate two runs.
"We did so many good things tonight offensively, and our bullpen has been the backbone of our team. Our bullpen and defense and pitching," said manager Brandon Hyde.
"It was just one of those nights we didn't have our best night out of the bullpen against a really good offense."
"It was a complicated outing," Bautista said via interpreter Brandon Quinones. "The hitters just started to pick up on my pitches and what I wanted to do out there, so it started to get a bit complicated and I couldn't execute the way I wanted to. It was just a really rough outing overall."
Tucker pulled a splitter into right field, a pitch that's made Bautista so dominant when paired with his triple-digit fastball.
"I tried to throw middle-down," he said, "but it stayed up."
Rougned Odor led off the bottom of the ninth with his 13th home run, the Orioles’ 17th hit of the night. But they finally ran out of comebacks.
The Mariners won tonight, leaving the Orioles four games back for the last wild card.
"Every game you lose right now hurts and we've got to rebound and we've got a day game tomorrow," Hyde said. "We'll try to win a series tomorrow."
"I think that was our hardest-fought game of the year," said Austin Hays. "Just so many lead change, just bouncing back, able to continue to put runs on the board. Our bullpen's been amazing for us all year. We just couldn't get them enough runs late in the game right there. But at some point you've got to give credit to the other team. They just wouldn't go away.
"That was a tough one for us to swallow tonight."
Ryan Mountcastle bounced a single into left field off Rafael Montero in the eighth and Santander demolished a changeup. The ball headed toward the seats in right-center field, 421 feet away, and Santander chucked his bat and yelled toward the dugout.
Santander began the fifth inning with a game-tying, 418-foot shot to center field off Framber Valdez, the exit velocity clocked at 107.1 mph. Santander, who leads the club with 29 home runs, hung around home plate to admire his work.
Santander has eight career multi-homer games, three of them this season. It’s also the third time in 2022 that he's homered from both sides of the plate in same game to set an Orioles record.
Mountcastle punched a tie-breaking single into right field in the sixth inning before the Astros rallied. And before a game that already spun in dizzying fashion gained momentum.
Hyde made a double switch in the eighth after losing his designated hitter – he pinch-hit for catcher Robinson Chirinos – and Bautista replaced Dillon Tate with a runner on first base and one out. Bautista got a strikeout and was dinged by a Gurriel’s fly ball that fell inside the left field line. Yordan Álvarez ran through a stop sign and scored easily.
Bautista's ERA rose to 2.23 tonight. He hadn't allowed more than two runs in his first 63 appearances. He converted 13 save opportunities in a row before the Astros won their 100th game tonight.
"We've got our best reliever on the mound who's been almost perfect for us, and he's not going to be perfect," Hyde said. "That's a hiccup. His numbers the last five months, four months, have been unbelievable. You've got to tip your hat a little bit. Gurriel had that ball that's kind of a sand wedge on the left field line that fell in the right spot. He was one strike away there in the ninth inning. They just got enough of the bat on the ball there in the ninth inning."
Bautista is a rookie who hasn't reached this depth of a season. He was pulled back recently due to arm fatigue. Everyone is tested physically and mentally in September, and especially a younger clubhouse.
"It's been a really long season," Bautista said. "I've never pitched this many innings consecutively and this much in my career. I do feel a little bit tired right now, but I have no doubt I can finish the season off strong."
The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh against Hunter Brown on singles by Ramón Urías, Hays and Odor, the latter a popped up bunt that eluded the diving reliever, but they failed to score. What seemed to make no difference by the bottom of the eighth turned into a monster later.
"You've got to score as many runs as you can against these guys because it's a great offense," Hyde said. "When you leave bases loaded, no outs and don't score there, you hope that doesn't come back to bite you."
The Orioles scored five runs off Valdez in the bottom of the fourth to lead 5-2. Three were unearned, but his streak of consecutive quality starts ended at 25, one shy of tying the major league record.
Valdez allowed four earned runs and seven total, and a season-high 11 hits.
Joey Krebiel replaced Baumann in the fifth and retired one of five batters faced, with Jeremy Pena lining a two-run double into left-center field. Cionel Pérez, pitching for the second time since Sept. 14, let two inherited runners score on Álvarez’s opposite-field single and Alex Bregman’s tie-breaking sacrifice fly.
Pena slid across the plate and left the game with a facial abrasion.
The Orioles’ scoreless streak ended at 22 innings with José Altuve’s two-run homer in the top of the third inning. Baumann fell behind 3-0 and Altuve pounced on a 95 mph fastball, sending it 405 feet to center field.
The last three starters worked at least 8 2/3 innings, but Baumann threw his 58th pitch to conclude the fourth and was done.
He walked off the mound with the Orioles down 2-0 and watched them score five times after loading the bases with no outs. Odor poked a game-tying, two-run single into center field, Hays came home on Jorge Mateo’s roller to the right side of the mound, and Cedric Mullins homered onto the flag court in right field for a 5-2 lead.
Three runs were unearned because Pena botched an easy double play bouncer from Hays after singles by Adley Rutschman and Urías.
Odor also had a two-run single off Justin Verlander Thursday night. He’s gunning for Cy Young candidates.
Mullins was batting .199/.260/.292 with three home runs against left-handers before tonight. He pulled the seventh pitch of the at-bat, a cutter, beyond the out-of-town scoreboard.
The Orioles handled other business before playing the Astros, honoring Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson on the 45th anniversary of his retirement from baseball.
Robinson was driven around the warning track in a convertible, and manager Brandon Hyde presented him with a base signed by the entire team. Players lined up on the infield grass to shake his hand, with Austin Hays leaning in for a hug.
Gunnar Henderson caught the ceremonial first pitch from Robinson. The pairing just felt right.
Third base is where the Astros keep running into outs. They did it again tonight in the second inning.
Tucker singled on a ground ball that Odor failed to backhand on the outfield grass. Tucker stole second base on a close play, and Chirinos threw him out trying to third with only one out.
The Orioles had some early chances against Valdez, failing to score after back-to-back one-out singles by Mountcastle and Santander in the first inning and Hays’ infield hit leading off the second.
They busted out in the fourth and made noise again in the fifth. They took another lead in the sixth, lost it and immediately answered in the loudest voice. And then they walked off the field and into a quiet clubhouse.
"It's difficult for sure," Bautista said. "I couldn't go out and complete the job, but at the end of the day, it's an experience that I'm going to learn from and I know next time I go out there I'll be better."