Stowers' three-run homer only hints at comeback in 6-3 loss (updated)

Two pitches into his start, Orioles left-hander Cole Irvin had surrendered a single and double to put himself in hot water on an 85-degree day. Both runners scored on his fourth pitch.

Irvin was efficient but couldn’t find complete effectiveness, allowing three earned runs and four total in 5 2/3 innings in the Orioles’ 6-3 loss to the Braves before an announced crowd of 33,700 at Camden Yards.

Kyle Stowers hit a three-run homer off reliever Pierce Johnson in the seventh to reduce the lead to 4-3, but the winning streak ended at six games. The Braves had lost five in a row.

Stowers followed Jordan Westburg’s double and Cedric Mullins’ two-out walk with a 439-foot shot to center field at 108.7 mph. A first-pitch curveball was destroyed, and Stowers had his fourth major league homer and first since Sept. 29, 2022 in Boston.

Also his first since injuring his right wrist in Toronto.

"Kyle gave us a big boost there," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Nothing going offensively and then he takes a great swing on a pitch that he puts in the seats, kind of gives us a roaring chance back and gets us back in the game a little bit."

"Definitely felt good," Stowers said. "It had been a long time. So happy that I was able to score in a close game, put us back in the game. Obviously been a while for me, so it was good."

Cionel Pérez entered in the ninth inning and put runners on second and third base with no outs. A wild pitch and Matt Olson RBI double cooled the comeback talk until the Orioles put two runners on base against closer Raisel Iglesias with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Michael Harris II raced in and made a diving catch of Stowers' shallow fly ball.

"I thought we did a great job battling," Hyde said.

"This team doesn't give up, we don't quit," Stowers said. "I've spent some time up here since '22, and every stretch I've been here, we find a way to fight."

Irvin allowed nine hits and struck out eight batters, both highs with the Orioles (45-23). His only clean inning was the fifth.

Hyde signaled for Bryan Baker, making his 2024 Orioles debut, after Orlando Arcia’s run-scoring double in the sixth and a strikeout of Harris. Irvin threw a season-high 100 pitches, 72 for strikes.

"I thought he did a nice job, went into the sixth inning," Hyde said. "Threw a bunch of strikes and gave us a chance." 

The three earned runs are the most by an Orioles starter since Cade Povich on June 6 in his major league debut.

"Couple good things to take away, couple bad things to take away," Irvin said. "Despite me giving up quite a few hits. I thought I threw the ball really well. Had quite a few strikeouts today, which is not my typical game plan."

Harris singled and Ozzie Albies doubled to begin the game as fans were still filing into the ballpark. Marcell Ozuna lined a cutter into right-center field to give the Braves a 2-0 lead.

Irvin responded by striking out Olson on a curveball and Travis d’Arnaud on a changeup. Austin Riley flied out. Thirteen of Irvin’s 14 pitches were strikes.

Too much zone?

"That's just a testament to them, come out swinging the bat," Irvin said. "I would say if my strike totals at 100 pitches are in the 75 range, that's too many strikes. But I've been told plenty of times where I've thrown too many strikes in my career. It is a thing, but I think if the quality of pitch and you're executing pitches ... baseball's going to happen. You're going to get balls hit in the holes, soft ground balls that aren't going to be made for double plays. It just makes it really tough on the pitcher. They made it tough on me, and just going to do better this week to clean up some areas I need to clean up."

Arcia and Harris struck out in the second inning on a sinker and curve, respectively, and Jarred Kelenic was stranded after his one-out single. Albies singled and Ozuna walked to begin the third and Irvin retired the next three batters. He had reached 56 pitches, 40 for strikes.

Albies had an RBI single with two outs in the fourth, making him 7-for-9 lifetime against Irvin, who should have been out of the inning without a run scoring. Jorge Mateo made a nice backhand stop of Harris’ ground ball, but Gunnar Henderson couldn’t come up with the throw at second base.

Irvin has faced the Braves eight times and allowed 27 earned runs and 44 hits in 26 innings.

"They came out swinging and we had to change our game plan pretty quickly in the first inning, and really calmed down the rest of the game," he said. "Unfortunately, there wasn't a play made there to get the third out and another run scored. And made a good pitch to Albies and it just fell. That was kind of the tale today. Even the last hit I gave up was a fastball down and in, really good location, and it found a hole. Sometimes you're going to make good pitches and they're going to hit it. They get paid, too.

"That's a sleeping (giant) right now. They're very good and they're able to put some damage up, and just thankful to keep them in the ballpark today and limit damage."

Braves right-hander Reynaldo López lowered his ERA to 1.69 by shutting out the Orioles on two hits in six innings. He retired 14 in a row after Westburg’s leadoff infield single in the second.

"We've only seen him out of the bullpen, but as a starter, pretty similar fastball, 97-98 (mph)," Hyde said. "He throws a good changeup, good breaking ball. We just had a tough time squaring it up on him. Only had two hits in six innings, so he was really good today."

Baker tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the game within reach.

The Braves were due to bust out, and now the Orioles get the first-place Phillies this weekend - a team with the second-best record in the majors.

Concerns over a bounce back following today's loss don't register around here.

"I think we'll be fine," Hyde said.

"We have high belief in ourselves in this clubhouse," Stowers said. "We feel like we can compete with anyone. We all play hard, pull for each other. You combine those things with all the talent in here, we feel like we stack up well with the rest of the league."

* The Orioles claimed right-hander Levi Stoudt on waivers from the Mariners and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk. John Means was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster.

Stoudt, 26, was a third-round pick by the Mariners out of Lehigh University in the 2019 draft. They traded him to the Reds in July 2022 and claimed him on waivers Feb. 17.

Stoudt appeared in four games with the Reds last season, including two starts, and allowed 11 runs and 16 hits in 10 1/3 innings. He walked eight batters and struck out nine. Stoudt appeared in 12 games (11 starts) this year with Triple-A Tacoma and posted a 6.92 ERA and 1.731 WHIP with 30 walks and 36 strikeouts in 52 innings.

He was designated for assignment Sunday.

* The June 30 game between the Orioles and Rangers is moved from 1:35 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. to accommodate ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”

This is the Orioles’ second hosting gig on ESPN in the last two seasons after a five-year drought. The game is a rematch of the Division Series, when Texas executed a three-game sweep.

Here are the starters for the series against the Phillies at Camden Yards:

Friday: RHP Kyle Bradish vs. LHP Ranger Suárez
Saturday: RHP Grayson Rodriguez vs. RHP Taijuan Walker
Sunday: RHP Corbin Burnes vs. RHP Zack Wheeler

* Triple-A Norfolk’s Chayce McDermott allowed three earned runs and four total with four hits, four walks and three strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings against Memphis.

Daniel Johnson had a two-run double in the eighth after Billy Cook’s RBI single, but Norfolk lost 5-3.

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