BOSTON – With his starters churning out a combined eight innings in the first two games and his calls to the bullpen exceeding any level of comfort, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said it would be “huge” today for Cole Irvin’s debut to carry deep in the series finale.
“We’ve used a lot of people the first couple games,” he said.
The wheels already were turning. Who would provide length if Irvin had an early exit? How many times could the baton reasonably be passed from hand to hand, with the bullpen covering the last six innings on Saturday?
“We’re in the third game of the year and we’re already talking about (this),” Hyde said, laughing.
And then Irvin took the mound in the bottom of first inning and threw 32 pitches.
And Hyde was taking the ball from him with no outs in the fifth, giving him a pat on the chest and orchestrating the latest parade of relievers in a 9-5 loss to the Red Sox.
The Orioles scored 23 runs in the series and lost it.
"We swung the bat well enough (to win), but we've got to pitch and play defense and we didn't have our best series on the mound or defensively," Hyde said. "Those are two things we've got to do better to win series' in this league."
"Some of the stuff that we have to clean up on the defensive side," said Cedric Mullins, who homered and singled. "I like where we are as a whole. I felt like we were in all those games. Thought we had a chance to take all those games, and it's just a matter of making those adjustments, committing to what we need to work on and move forward."
The weather can't be blamed for everything that went wrong. It was better today, with the sun shining throughout, but no matter the conditions, they didn't target only the visiting side.
"I thought today wasn't as bad as the previous couple days, but pretty windy," Hyde said. "I'm not going to make that as an excuse because we play in all kinds of weather and Boston had to play in it, also."
"It's definitely tough," Mullins said, "but we have to look at it as the other team has to do it, too. So, it's just coming out and playing hard and making the adjustments as we can. It's different being their home field. They have a slight advantage to it, but we have to make our adjustments, as well, if we want to win as many games as we can."
Three straight singles to open the fifth doomed Irvin, who totaled 88 pitches. Masataka Yoshida followed Justin Turner’s infield hit with a blooper into center field that broke a 3-3 tie and led to Irvin’s removal.
"We went into this game a little short already in the bullpen and first inning, 30-plus pitches," Hyde said. "I thought he did a great job after that to get us into the fifth inning at least, but kind of living on the edges there, a lot of calls didn't go his way in the strike zone, extended some counts and a lot of deep counts. But I thought his stuff was OK. He gave us a chance. We swung the bat well, just got to pitch a little bit better."
Adam Duvall singled off Bryan Baker to let both inherited runners score. Irvin was charged with six runs and eight hits in his first appearance at Fenway Park.
Orioles starters combined for 12 innings in the series and allowed 15 earned runs and 20 hits for an 11.25 ERA. The staff surrendered 27 runs in the first three games to tie the 1984 Orioles for the second-most in team history. The 1978 group allowed 40.
"I know those guys work hard," Mullins said. "It's just one of those things where today they had a good amount of soft hits over the infield and it hurt us. But I know coming into the future they'll be able to lock it in, put some zeros on the board."
"We just didn't have our best series on the mound and need to improve on that," Hyde said, "but I think we will."
Irvin walked one batter in 14 1/3 innings in spring training. He exceeded two walks only once last year in 30 starts with the Athletics. But he loaded the bases twice today with a free pass in the first.
The Red Sox could have opened a big early lead but were held to one run, on Yoshida’s ground ball with the bases filled and no outs. Duvall, who won last night’s game with a walk-off home run, struck out looking and Alex Verdugo walked to keep the pressure on Irvin.
Christian Arroyo drained 10 pitches from Irvin but also struck out.
"It's the first start of the year, so there's a lot of adrenaline and anxiousness and all that stuff going into that first inning," Irvin said. "Walks are something I don't like doing, so couple of those and weak contact hits just kind of were the tale of that inning.
"I thought I threw the ball well enough to maybe stay in it if I didn't have that first inning, but that's baseball and just got to roll onto the next one."
Kiké Hernández led off the second with a home run, and Duvall’s two-out double in the third and Verdugo’s bloop single into center increased the lead to 3-0.
"I put myself in a hole early, and really just one of those days when I thought I was making the right pitches except for maybe the one to Hernández that he hit out, but was making good pitches and just got kind of singled to death," Irvin said. "But a lot of that today was due just to the adrenaline and anxiousness and readiness to pitch. Done my homework on these guys for the past week and you've got a solid game plan going into it, so you're just anxious. It is the first start, so there is a lot more to come.
"I've had the same nerves, same anxiousness, same preparedness going into every opening series in the past three years. I don't think I've had a solid opening series but I've had a good season at the end of it, so if that's how it's going to start, I'll keep focusing on my next one and just stay ready."
The bullpen remained motionless as Irvin retired the side in order in the fourth and headed back to the dugout at 81 pitches. The bats perked up, with a two-run homer from Adam Frazier – his first with the Orioles - and solo shot from Mullins tying the game against Tanner Houck.
Being even didn’t last long.
Mullins stayed hot with a two-run single off former Orioles reliever Richard Bleier in the seventh inning to cut the lead to 6-5. Another successful at-bat in a left-on-left matchup.
"Been really solid, just the results I've been looking for," Mullins said. "All the work, focusing on hitting lefties this offseason and also bringing the confidence that I know I have had success in the past, and just kind of tying it all together."
Keegan Akin was called upon in the bottom of the seventh and put two runners on base with one out. Duvall kept torturing the Orioles with his second double and third hit of the game. Mike Baumann replaced Akin, and singles by pinch-hitter Triston Casas and Hernández increased the lead to 8-5.
Baumann allowed a run with two outs in the eighth on Verdugo’s RBI single. Ramón Urías caught Duvall’s line drive and committed a throwing error trying to double up Yoshida at second base.
Frazier had three more hits, including a leadoff double in the ninth. Kyle Stowers made his 2023 debut as a pinch-hitter and struck out.
Frazier went 5-for-8 with three doubles and a homer in Boston. This was his first home run since July 13, 2022 in D.C., snapping a 71-game, 232 at-bat and 264-plate appearance dry spell.
"Good to see," Hyde said. "Big homer for us there and a nice swing on the double, so swung the bat well in the two games he started."
The Orioles hit seven home runs in the series to tie the 2006 club for the modern day franchise record to begin a season.
* The Orioles experienced another defensive lapse in the outfield in the fifth inning.
Well, sort of the outfield.
Terrin Vavra charged Verdugo’s shallow fly ball as Gunnar Henderson broke back. Henderson reached for it, Vavra veered to the right to avoid contact, and it deflected off the shortstop’s glove for an error.
Baker retired the next three batters keep the deficit at three runs. Hernández took a disputed third strike.
Vavra did a nice job holding Yoshida to a single on a ball in left-center field in the seventh, and he made a clean play on Duvall’s double off the Green Monster that put Akin in deeper trouble.
Austin Hays raced toward the right field line and made a diving grab to rob Connor Wong in the seventh.
Henderson made a diving stop and strong through to first on Turner’s infield hit. He drew his sixth walk of the season in the sixth inning but remains hitless in three games.
* Adley Rutschman went 0-for-5 today, striking out in his first three at-bats, and is 0-for-9 since beginning the season with six consecutive hits and reaching base seven times in a row.
Rutschman fouled a ball off his left knee in the seventh, after Mullins’ two-run single, and was in obvious pain as Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel came out of the dugout to check on him. Rutschman tried to walk it off, stayed in the game and grounded into a force.
* Hyde praised outfielder Ryan McKenna this morning for the way he dealt with the media Saturday following the two-out dropped fly ball in the ninth that preceded Duvall’s homer.
As expected, McKenna was at his locker as reporters entered the clubhouse and calmly responded to each question. He didn’t take out his frustrations on anyone.
“I thought he handled everything unbelievably,” Hyde said. “I told him that this morning. I saw how he talked to you guys after, how much of a pro move that was. Just shows you the character, honestly.
“You never want to see anybody go through anything like that. He’s from this area and he had people here, and he’s been my defensive outfield replacement for a couple years and done an unbelievable job. Made big plays for us. And unfortunately, we’re human beings and we make mistakes and it happened. But I think he’s done a great job of moving on from it and owning up to it the way he did with you guys after the game. That’s really impressive.”