Orioles lose late lead and seventh game in a row (updated)

DENVER - Keon Broxton just wants to have fun. And if a man can’t enjoy a 474-foot home run on the first pitch thrown to him on his new team, well, there’s something truly wrong in the baseball world.

Broxton was all smiles as he crossed home plate tonight and turned toward the Orioles dugout, knowing the enthusiastic reception that waited for him. Rio Ruiz got to him first behind home plate, scoring after drawing a leadoff walk and giving Broxton an affectionate slap on the helmet.

The high fives were mile high in the Orioles’ first game in Colorado since 2004. Broxton had given them a lead in the second inning by demolishing a 93.5 mph fastball from Jeff Hoffman. The ball cleared the seats in left field and bounced on the concourse.

The thin air only explains so much.

A bullpen that’s thin in proven commodities helped to explain why a losing streak kept growing. And why smiles can vanish quickly

Broxton provided a lead that held up until Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado hit back-to-back home runs off Shawn Armstrong in the seventh inning to tie the game, and Story belted a two-run homer of Mychal Givens in the ninth to give the Rockies an 8-6 win over the Orioles at Coors Field.

The losing streak has stretched to seven games and dropped the Orioles to 15-36. They’ve lost 14 of 16.

Givens has taken the loss in his last three appearances and in back-to-back games. Ryan McMahon led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, moved to second base with one out on a passed ball and scored on Story’s long fly ball to right. Givens has allowed eight runs and three home runs in his last three outings over 2 2/3 innings.

Armstrong replaced Richard Bleier after Raimel Tapia’s two-out single near shortstop that was vacated by the shift. Armstrong had allowed only one run in 9 1/3 innings with the Orioles, but the lead slipped through his fingers on two pitches.

Arenado homered off John Means with two outs in the first inning to give the Rockies a 1-0 lead. Three batters into the game and the Orioles had surrendered another one. There would be three more to raise their season total to 111.

Thanks to Story’s shot in the ninth, a multi-homer game against the Orioles has occurred 19 times this season.

Daniel Murphy tripled and was stranded, and Means stuck around for five innings and 100 pitches. Means allowed three runs and seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Opponents have scored three runs in five innings in his last two outings.

Branden Kline struck out the side in the sixth inning and Renato Núñez batted for him in the seventh and homered for the fourth time in five games to give the Orioles a 6-3 lead.

Núñez had his first career pinch-hit homer, the ball traveling 426 feet off Jairo Diaz, and became the first Orioles player to connect in three straight games since Jonathan Schoop on July 22-24, 2018.

The move worked because Núñez delivered, but it also caused manager Brandon Hyde to dig deeper into his bullpen.

The Orioles wasted future All-Star Trey Mancini’s two-out triple in the first, but the first four batters reached in the second against Hoffman, one of the players sought by the Orioles after the Blue Jays tried to hire executive Dan Duquette as team president and CEO during the 2015 off-season.

The Orioles were pushing for Hoffman, the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft, catcher Max Pentecost, the 11th overall pick, and infielder Mitch Nay, the 58th selection in 2012. The sides never came close to an agreement because the Jays weren’t willing to surrender that much.

In another small world moment, Hoffman and current Orioles reliever Miguel Castro were included in the package sent to the Rockies in July 2015 for former Orioles reliever LaTroy Hawkins and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Anyway, Hanser Alberto and Pedro Severino hit back-to-back doubles after Broxton’s home run and Dwight Smith Jr. drove a 91 mph fastball 437 feet to center field in the third inning for a 4-1 lead.

Broxton-Arms-Extended-Gray-Sidebar.jpgAccording to STATS, the last player before Broxton to hit a home run on the first pitch he saw in an Orioles uniform was catcher Javy Lopez off the Red Sox’s Pedro Martinez on April 4, 2004.

Going 474 feet enabled Broxton to tie the Pirates’ Josh Bell for the second-longest home run of the season. The Rangers’ Nomar Mazara is first at 482 feet, per Statcast.

Broxton hit 20 home runs with the Brewers in 2017, but otherwise isn’t known for flexing muscle. With his plate appearances reduced from 463 to 89 the following year, he totaled only four in the majors and hadn’t homered since Sept. 21 in Pittsburgh.

The next two at-bats for Broxton ended in strikeouts, but he reached on an infield hit in the eighth. He was 4-for-11 with a home run at Coors Field before tonight.

Means contributed at the plate in the fourth with an eight-pitch walk off Hoffman, concluding with the rookie starting the lawnmower at first base as the dugout erupted. Jonathan Villar doubled to score Severino, who reached on a fielder’s choice, and move Means to third base with one out.

Perhaps due to exhaustion or being rusty on the bases, Means held at third on Stevie Wilkerson’s bouncer up the middle and was caught in a rundown after Villar broke from second. Two outs recorded and the Orioles settled for one run and a 5-1 lead.

How would Means respond to his trip around the bases? He walked Murphy and went 3-0 on Ian Desmond before running the count full and getting a 5-4-3 double play. David Dahl cleared Broxton’s head for a double and scored on Brendan Rodgers’s single, and Tony Wolters’ double cut the lead to 5-3.

Núñez padded it, the bullpen lost it and the Orioles must try again to regroup.

Update: Hyde said the Orioles would discuss whether to bring up a fresh arm for the bullpen.

Hyde on concerns about stretching bullpen thin: “Yeah, it’s concerning. I don’t want to overuse guys and I don’t want to abuse guys. We have an eight-man ‘pen. We’re just throwing a lot of pitches every single night and we’re having a tough time putting people away. We’re having a tough time getting early contact outs. It seems like we’re just not getting guys out in a timely fashion where they can go back out the next inning. It’s just a little bit of a rough patch for sure for our bullpen.”

Hyde on Givens: “Maybe not locating like he was. His fastball velo’s good. His slider is sharp at times. I don’t see any drop in stuff-wise. Yesterday, he was erratic after the two strikeouts and tonight it was like he (wasn’t) able to locate. I saw some arm-side misses, so obviously I have to give him some time off.

“Paul Fry, I’ve got to give time off. Because we’re in all these games and it’s ... I just want to take care of these guys. We’re not getting blown out, we’re in a lot of baseball games. You try to use your guys when you’re in games and we just haven’t done it the past couple of games. “

Hyde on whether he had a good feeling earlier: “Yeah, once again our at-bats first two-thirds of the game were really good. Loved the way we came out swinging the bat. Obviously, Broxton gave us a lift there early and Noonie off the bench with a pinch-hit homer off a right-hander, so I felt good about how the game was going.

“I feel really good about pitching Shawn Armstrong there. Given up one run since he joined us and just had a bad inning. So it’s set up perfect to be honest with you. Armstrong and then we had Bleier in a lot of left-hander situation. Then you go with Givens with the lead and it just didn’t work out.”

Hyde on whether guys might feel pressure used in winning situations: “I would hope that they want to be in those situations. I think they do want to be in those types of games and those types of situations. We’re in a lot of really close games, which is awesome. It’s a lot of fun. And I hope that we continue to play that way. I would love to see us start extending leads a little bit more and being able to give our bullpen a breather. I’d love to see our starters go a little deeper. But I don’t know, I’ve got to start taking care of some of these guys.”

Hyde on Broxton home run: “You saw the raw power. Yeah. It was a big smile and everybody was pumped up in the dugout and that was an awesome moment for him. Love that last hit, too, where he was able to put the ball in play and watch him run. You can see how he controls the outfield and how he moves out in the outfield. It’s a really athletic guy and we’re fortunate to have him.”

Means on starting in Coors Field: “It’s a little different, but baseball’s baseball. You get the swings and misses, you do well. If you don’t, then you don’t do well. I felt OK. I felt like I’m trying to figure some things out and there’s definitely stuff to build on.”

Means on whether running bases led to giving up two runs: “Nah, that’s not an excuse. I’ve got to go out there, I’ve got to compete. I mean, you can’t put it up to that.”

Means on loss harder after things seem to be going well: “I don’t think we think about it like that. We kind of come in every day and it’s a new day. We have energy, we’re ready to go. I think we’re going to improve. No one here is worried.”

Means on most frustrating part: “I mean, it’s just frustrating to lose, but at the end of the day it’s baseball, we play 162 games. We come tomorrow, we have energy and we’re having a good time.”

Broxton on home run: “It feels amazing. I haven’t hit a home run in a while. I think the last one I hit was when I was here in the playoffs last year. To be able to spray a ball like that, it felt amazing. It’s everything I dream of.”

Broxton on his first at-bat: “I was actually going to bunt right then. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Arenado back. A couple seconds before the pitch came, I saw him creeping up, so I was like, ‘Ah, I’m swinging.’ But walking up to the plate I thought, ‘If I get a good pitch, I’m definitely going to let it loose.’

“I haven’t seen a pitch in a while. I want to see where I’m at and I got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it.”

Broxton on being in dugout: “It’s awesome, man. There’s a lot of energy here. You can tell guys care and you want to win and we’re prepared and it’s awesome. I think the vibe in the dugout is awesome. I love it.”

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