The first pitch of today’s game produced a grounder to Rougned Odor, making his third base debut as an Oriole, a position he tolerated last summer with the Yankees. He fielded it cleanly, paused and fired across the diamond for the out. Of course, the ball found him right away.
A grounder in the second eluded first baseman Ryan Mountcastle’s, but Terrin Vavra backed up the play and threw to Spenser Watkins, who was covering the bag. Of course, they hustled to get there.
Another grounder with two outs in the third looked like it would squirt into center field for the Pirates’ first baserunner, but Jorge Mateo cut in front of Odor to get the last out. Of course, he had the range and the arm to do it.
The Orioles led 1-0 after Mateo’s fly ball leading off the third inning kept carrying until it landed a few rows back in the left field corner, beyond the shorter portion of the wall.
The Orioles just have a knack, and it seemed to be trending again today. Doing whatever is necessary, often defying the odds. But a series of soft hits in the fifth inning and a controversial call in the seventh put them on the other side, where they haven’t resided of late.
An unwanted invitation to how the other half lives.
Watkins retired the first 13 batters before the Pirates scored three times in the fifth, and the Orioles' winning streak ended at five games with an 8-1 loss at Camden Yards before an announced crowd of 16,714.
The Orioles (56-52) were trying to move six games above .500 for the first time since May 23, 2017.
Manager Brandon Hyde was ejected in the seventh after an out call on Greg Allen was overturned and gave the Pirates a run. Catcher Robinson Chirinos was ruled to have blocked the plate and not allowed a clear path after Kevin Newman reached on an infield single and Mateo ran down a ball that deflected off his glove and made a two-hop throw home.
The teams left the field with the Orioles still trailing 4-1, but the challenge went in Pittsburgh’s favor and three more runs scored after play resumed.
Third base umpire Ron Kupla, also the crew chief, motioned for Hyde to stay in the dugout. Hyde left it and was tossed for the third time this season and ninth with the Orioles.
Hyde raised his arms and argued at the same spot where the game turned against his club.
Major League Baseball issued a statement confirming that, after reviewing all relevant angles, the replay official determined that Chirinos was in violation of the home plate collision rule, implemented after the 2014 season.
“The catcher's initial setup completely in foul territory was illegal and he maintained that position without possession of the ball,” the statement read.
"I thought that Chirinos was in a good spot when Mateo got the ball and threw it in," Hyde said. "I felt like, looking at the replay, too, his right foot was on the line or on the foul side of the line, giving the runner a clear lane. The ball beat him, the throw from the left field line takes him into the plate. I'm not sure what a catcher's supposed to do at that point. I guess it's to backhand the ball. I don't agree with any of it. I don't agree with the call.
"For me, this is common sense. This was a common sense play. The throw's from the left field line and the throw beats him by seven feet. I don't know as a catcher what you're supposed to do, because I felt like Robby was lined up correctly when Mateo released the ball. Now, the throw took Robby into the plate, square in the middle of the plate. And then Robby held his ground and the runner didn't slide. And he never touched the plate on top of that. So, there were a lot of things going on there."
Increasing Hyde's anger is the manner in which he was ejected and the lack of communication from the umpires.
"I was not going out for an explanation, because I know you can't argue that, even though I didn't agree with it. I wanted to see if I could appeal if he touched the plate or not and get a rules check, and they threw me out because they thought I was coming out to argue, which was not the case.
"Everybody disagreed. They go to New York twice, New York does what they do, and the umpires can't explain to you on the field, which doesn't make any sense to me, either. Then, you get an email. But that play, I just don't agree with."
Allen initiated contact with Chirinos, going in standing. Chirinos thought he did everything the right way, but didn't get the final call.
"Looking at the replay, I know I started in the inside, but the rule doesn't say where you have to start. You only have to give him some space to slide, and I think I did out there when I was in the field and also when I watched the replay," he said. "You can see the inside part of the plate is open, and when Mateo threw the ball, I took the plate away because the ball was right on top of the plate. So, I don't know what they want me to do right there."
Chirinos sought clarity on the rule following the inning in a conversation with a plate umpire Carlos Torres. Whether he needed to set up on the inside in fair territory and then take away the plate.
"He told me 'no,'" Chirinos said. "He told me I can even start on the inside and have to give him some plate to slide and I think I did. They're saying I can't start on the inside in foul territory. I have to be in fair territory. I don't think that's the rule.
"He didn't touch the plate, but they were saying, I guess, when they turned the plate over, he doesn't have to touch the plate."
Bryan Reynolds followed with an RBI single, Beau Sulser replaced Keegan Akin, and Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a two-run homer – the ball striking the new railing along the back end of the bullpen.
Michael Chavis ended Watkins’ streak with an infield hit in the fifth, with Odor leaping to grab the high chopper and throwing late. Two groundball singles followed, the second by Allen tying the game, and Bligh Madris scored the go-ahead run on Cal Mitchell’s line drive single into left-center.
José Godoy grounded into a force that scored Allen for a 3-1 lead.
One hard-hit ball in the entire inning.
"The game of baseball, anything can happen," Watkins said. "Chalk that inning up to being just another day in the game kind of thing. Unfortunately, that stuff happens and I wanted to continue putting up zeros and continue to give the team a chance to win, but like I said, those things happen, so just roll with the punches and keep going."
Hyde removed Watkins with a runner on second base in the sixth inning, one out and the right-hander at 77 pitches. Chavis’ two-out single into right field off Bryan Baker scored Reynolds.
Watkins was charged with four runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings, with one walk and five strikeouts. He pitched better than the line, but it didn't come with an asterisk.
This is the second time in 15 starts that Watkins has allowed more than three earned runs.
"It's super easy to focus on the negatives always, and in this game there's a lot of failure, but in my growth I feel like I'm able to start focusing on the positives," Watkins said. "And that's something we'll attack tomorrow when we address everything. But a lot of positives to take out of this one."
Pirates starter Bryse Wilson retired the first six batters before Mateo hit his 11th home run. Mateo singled with one out in the fifth and was caught stealing for only the fifth time in 31 attempts.
Chirinos led off the sixth with a single, and reliever Eric Stout stranded him.
The game got away from the Orioles in the seventh, a rare sight for a team that moved within one of the wild card before today.
"I don't think anybody in the dugout or in the clubhouse feels we're about to go on a streak of losing," Watkins said. "There's zero thought of that whatsoever."
"Strange game," Hyde said. "I thought Watkins was really good early, I thought he had a really bad-luck fifth inning. An infield single and a high chopper, that's a tough play, a couple choppers through the right side that's just out of our reach. ... I thought Watty was throwing the ball really good, he just had really bad luck there in the fifth inning. That being said, we didn't do much offensively. Mateo with a big homer and we had four hits.
"Did that play at the plate change the game? I don't know. But I would have liked to stay in it a little bit longer. But we need to swing the bat a little better than that."
"That was the third out right there and they scored four runs after that play, and that game went out of hand," Chirinos said. "I don't know what could happen if we end up coming back to the dugout 4-1. We'd probably have a chance to turn over that game, but the thing happened. We have to give him more plate next time."
Anthony Santander's hitting streak ended at 16 games.
Sulser appeared to be heading back down to the minors, with a fresh arm on the way.