HOUSTON - Orioles manager Brandon Hyde keeps challenging his younger and less experienced players to seize an opportunity. Run with it. Do what’s necessary to become established at the major league level.
Anthony Santander has played only two games for the club this season. He homered last month in the second game of a doubleheader in Chicago and doubled and scored in the first inning tonight.
Gabriel Ynoa, staying in the rotation, shut out the Astros in five of his six innings and produced his first quality start by definition.
It’s almost enough to make a manager forget about the bizarre sequence of injuries on the trip that have stretched his roster as if made of Silly Putty. Or the latest walk-off loss.
Robinson Chirinos doubled off Branden Kline with two outs in the 11th inning to score Yuli Gurriel and give the Astros a 4-3 victory over the Orioles, who failed in their attempt to claim a fourth series opener in a row.
The Orioles fell to 19-44 and continue to search for their 20th win, which came last season on June 17.
Kline replaced Mychal Givens, who recorded five outs and twice stranded a runner in scoring position. Gurriel lined a single into left field with one out. Josh Reddick flied out, but Chirinos lined his double down the left field line with the count full and Sisco was unable to apply the tag and hold onto the ball, which bounced in front of him.
The Orioles challenged the call but it wasn’t overturned.
Twenty-five of the last 27 Orioles were retired and they struck out 17 times without drawing a walk.
Ynoa allowed one hit through four innings, deflecting a comebacker from Tyler White in the third and firing the ball past Chris Davis. But Reddick led off the fifth by homering on an 0-2 slider and Tony Kemp added a game-tying two-run shot.
Two walks also marred the inning, which came after Ynoa retired the side in order on only eight pitches in the fourth. He threw 11 in the sixth while again retiring the side in order to finish at 88, with three runs and three hits allowed.
Sisco flashed the leadership skills that the Orioles have tried to pry out of him after Ynoa followed the throwing error by falling behind in the count to the next batter. Sisco headed to the mound for a conference and Ynoa retired the next three hitters on two ground balls and a strikeout.
Davis saved Ynoa from another embarrassing error by somehow keeping his foot on the bag while pulling down a high throw after Myles Straw bounced to the mound. Davis fell backward after securing the ball and White held at third base.
The start unraveled in the fifth, with Ynoa extended to 28 pitches and a three-run lead reduced to dust. But he left with the score tied, his final inning including only his second strikeout of the night. His ERA slipped below 5.00
Ruiz, the former Astros fourth-round draft pick, landed a jab with a two-run single off Gerrit Cole in the top of the first inning after the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs.
Cole threw 31 pitches in the inning, striking out Sisco on a 97 mph fastball after showing him a knuckle curve and Keon Broxton with 98.5 mph heat. But Santander celebrated his return to the majors with a double down the right field line, Trey Mancini reached on an error by third baseman Gurriel and Cole drilled Stevie Wilkerson with two outs.
Santander also singled in the fifth inning for his first two-hit game in the majors since May 5, 2018.
Sisco drove a knuckle curve over the out-of-town scoreboard in left field for his first major league home run since May 11, 2018.
Making contact against Cole grew more difficult. He had 14 strikeouts and no walks in seven innings. Hanser Alberto was the only starter who didn’t whiff.
Cole generated 29 swings and misses, the most in the majors this season and most by the Astros since baseball began tracking pitches in 2008. His 130 strikeouts put him atop the leader board.
The Astros came within 90 feet of ending the game in regulation. Richard Bleier retired the first four batters he faced before Reddick singled with one out in the ninth. Givens replaced him and retired Chirinos on a fly ball, but Reddick stole second base and moved to third when Sisco’s throw bounced into center field.
White struck out and the Orioles were headed to extras for the second time on the trip.
They’d confront another tough loss, again left to search for the positives.
Update: The Orioles optioned Kline to Triple-A Norfolk after the game. A corresponding move will be made Saturday afternoon.
Kline has been scored upon in his last five appearances.
Hyde on play at the plate: “We’re still waiting to see (Gurriel) touch the plate. I’m waiting for us to tag him and I’m waiting for him to touch the plate. I don’t think that’s happened yet. Maybe it is right now.”
Hyde on being in game despite Cole: “It’s like the same game all the time. It’s a pretty good club over there and we just faced Gerrit Cole. Jumped on him early and played really well and had some nice plays defensively and nice start by Gabby. Our bullpen is throwing the ball better. Rich was fantastic. Army (Shawn Armstrong), Rich and Givens threw the ball great and Kline had two outs there and got beat, but I like the way we’re throwing the ball. I love the way we compete against good clubs.”
Hyde on difficult play for Sisco: “I think anytime it’s like an in-between hop it’s not an easy play. He’s got the runner coming right in your face and it’s kind of a do-or-die situation. It looked like it just went in the web and just trickled out. He tried to stay with it, and when the umpire motioned safe he kind of gave up on it after that, but I don’t think he’s touched the plate yet.”
Hyde on the swings and misses from Cole: “Gerrit Cole’s a top-five pitcher in the game, so there’s a reason why he’s pitching in All-Star Games every year and pitching in postseason, because he throws 95-100 and he’s got secondary stuff that he can throw at any time, and he elevates his fastball so well and it’s just tough to get on top of it at 96 right here.
“Santander’s really the only one who did that all night. Twice, actually. A double down the line and a two-strike hit. But it’s just tough to get the barrel to the ball when he elevates like he is. He’s a real competitive dude. He’s just good, and I’m proud of our guys for scoring three runs off him.”
Hyde on some guys taking advantage of opportunities: “I’m just taking that off the whole year so far that, obviously, we haven’t won nearly as many games as we’d like, but we will at some point. At some point we’re going to get better, and I think we’re in the part of this process that we’re in right now, organizationally, I think these games that we’re playing are awesome for these guys. They’re playing in tight, on the road, postseason-atmosphere type of games against postseason pitchers and hanging in there and that’s just going to help them develop and help us the next three or four years.”
Sisco on play at the plate: “Ball down the line, Wilky made a good throw, quick turn by (Jonathan) Villar and kind of just a do-or-die play there, really. It’s one of those that you have throughout the season. It’s either you pick it and you get that out, or you miss it, and unfortunately tonight I didn’t make that pick. Wish I could take that back and pick that ball, but it’s kind of one of those do-or-die plays.”
Sisco on whether he had the runner easily: “The throw was on time, for sure. It’s just one of those picks. Like I said, it’s a do-or-die. Unfortunately, it didn’t come up clean.”
Sisco on whether the runner touched plate: “No, I don’t think he touched home plate.”
Sisco on what it says about the team competing: “All our guys looked really good out there. Gerrit Cole, obviously, was tough. He was throwing out really good numbers. We were hanging in there and our pitchers kept us around, definitely long enough to get another run on the board.”
Sisco on home run: “I feel comfortable. Just trying to put together good at-bats. Feel comfortable right now, so just trying to keep that going.”
Sisco on difficulty of in-between hop: “I mean, yeah, it’s definitely challenging. Like I said, it’s one of those do-or-die plays. You get a couple throughout the year. They don’t come very often. Pick it, it’s an out. You don’t, obviously, he was safe.”
Ynoa on outing: “I feel good. I was attacking the hitters and executing my pitches, and I think that was what allowed me to go deep.”
Ynoa on frustration of these losses: “Obviously, we’re trying to win. Unfortunately, we have come up short in the past few games, but hopefully we can change that.”
Ynoa on benefits of games like these: “Every game is an opportunity to get better, so the games that we’ve been losing are pretty close all the way to the end, so it’s just a matter of continuing to play.”