With his team playing so many close games, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde keeps relying on the same set of relievers rather than diving into the expanded area of his bullpen.
It works at times. Tonight wasn’t one of them.
The Orioles couldn’t hold a two-run lead in the seventh inning, with Paul Fry unable to throw strikes and Shawn Armstrong unable to save him. And the quest to match last season’s win total stalled again.
The Rangers scored three times in the seventh after Dylan Bundy exited the game and held on for a 7-6 victory before an announced crowd of 10,596 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles are 46-95 overall and 22-48 at home. They’ve lost six of their last seven games.
Mark Trumbo flied out as a pinch-hitter to strand two runners in the eighth. DJ Stewart snapped an 0-for-17 streak with a leadoff bunt single against José Leclerc in the ninth. Rio Ruiz walked and Hanser Alberto laid down a sacrifice bunt to put the winning run at second base, but Trey Mancini struck out and Anthony Santander popped up.
Bundy retired 10 of 11 batters after struggling in the first three innings, but Scott Heineman led off the seventh with a double and Hyde was burned while playing the matchup game.
Fry walked left-handed hitting Ronald Guzmán on four pitches and did the same with Jose Trevino. He fell behind 2-0 to Shin-Soo Choo, worked the count to 2-2 and allowed a run-scoring single.
Elvis Andrus followed with a two-run single off Armstrong for a 7-6 lead. Pedro Severino threw out Andrus trying to steal as Willie Calhoun struck out - the first caught-stealing for the Orioles since July 29.
Severino cut down another runner in the eighth after Tanner Scott replaced Armstrong and struck out Guzmán.
This could have been Richie Martin’s night.
The at-bat lasted eight pitches and included four foul balls, a tease down the left field line and a take that nearly sent him back to the dugout.
Martin did not go gentle into that good night.
The Rule 5 shortstop put wood to a 90 mph fastball from Rangers starter Brock Burke in the second inning and drove it into the left field seats for a tiebreaking three-run homer.
Highly unusual, unlike the manner in which the Rangers responded to it. By hitting their own three-run shot, the 273rd homer surrendered by the Orioles this season.
The big boys were taking over, with Santander’s two-run homer breaking another tie in the fifth before the Rangers seized control.
Calhoun produced his first career multi-homer game and four-RBI night, all within three innings. But the Rangers expect the bursts of power from him.
Martin hadn’t homered since June 25 against the Padres. His average hadn’t reached .200 all season until his plate appearance in the second inning, which lifted it to .201.
Burke thought he had a strikeout on a pitch that plate umpire Alan Porter considered too high. Martin sent a fly ball toward the left field corner that hooked foul, dug in again and gave the Orioles a short-lived 4-1 lead.
Calhoun and Mancini hit solo home runs in the first inning for a 1-1 tie. Mancini drove a fastball 417 feet to center field, with an exit velocity of 109.1 mph per Statcast, for his 30th homer of the season and first since connecting in both ends of an Aug. 12 doubleheader in New York.
Mancini hit 24 homers in each of the last two seasons. His next RBI will tie his career high of 78 set in 2017.
Santander’s home run total climbed to 18 and his hitting streak to 11 games with a 435-foot shot that gave the Orioles a 6-4 lead. Alberto doubled with one out, his latest hit off a lefty, Mancini flied out and Santander nailed the rotating advertisement sign in the bullpen.
Bundy and David Hess are tied for the team lead in homers allowed with 28. Bundy escaped a second-inning jam after consecutive singles by Danny Santana and Rougned Odor with no outs, but Trevino led off the third with a single, Choo doubled and Calhoun homered again.
With better command of his secondary stuff and a firmer commitment to pitching inside, Bundy had surrendered only three homers in his last six starts.
He was in line for the win before the bullpen developed another crack.
Hyde is trying to use Hunter Harvey only with leads or in a tie game. He’s hesitant to call upon the batch of relievers brought up again from Triple-A with such slim margins.
Fry has allowed 11 runs in his last 13 appearances totaling nine innings and has failed to record an out in four of them. Four of seven inherited runners have scored.
Dillon Tate struck out two batters in a scoreless ninth, but it was too late.
Hyde on Fry: “Left, right, left, bottom of the order and he had a tough time finding the strike zone. Pretty good matchup for him there and it just didn’t happen.”
Hyde on Bundy: “He really just had a tough time with Calhoun. Besides that I thought he threw the ball great. Another good fifth and sixth and left with the lead in the seventh inning with the bottom of the order coming up. We just didn’t get it done out of the ‘pen.”
Hyde on last few innings: “Trumbo just missed that ball. I’ll take second and third with Trey up and Santander coming up any day of the week. It just didn’t happen tonight. We did a nice battling. We scored some runs and did some nice things offensively.
“Dillon Tate threw the ball great. Scott came in and punched out a left hander. Those are some positive signs going forward. They’re going to continue to get opportunities. The seventh inning was a rough one.”
Hyde on Martin: “I think Richie’s been swinging the bat off left-handed pitching. He got one on the barrel out front, which is great to see. Just missed a home run foul, then launches one in the stands in left-center. That was a big hit for us, a big hit for him. He hasn’t hit one in a while. I feel really good for him about that.”
Hyde on Santander’s even splits: “He’s just a good hitter. He’s got a real balanced swing from both sides of the plate, stays through the ball from both sides of the plate, swings are fairly similar, which is rare. He really stays through the ball well. His bat stays in the zone a long time. He’s got huge power from both sides, which is pretty rare, also. You like him versus left-handers and right-handers the way he’s swinging the bat, so that’s awesome.”
Martin on his at-bat: “I was just fighting the whole at-bat and luckily I got a good pitch, 2-2 count and over the plate, and just put the barrel to the ball.”
Martin on whether he thought about time between homers: “No, not at all. My job’s to get on base and just square the ball up anyway I can. Fortunately it happened to go out today.”
Martin on differences from first to second half: “Just a lot of hard work with Don (Long) and Howie (Clark) and just getting adjusted to the league. Everybody out here, you’re going to have a tough at-bat, so I think it’s just preparing and continuing working every single day to continue to improve.”
Martin on whether he’s shown what’s needed or more to prove: “To be honest, no. I definitely think there’s a lot more in the tank with me personally. I’m not satisfied whatsoever.”
Martin on how he’s hit against lefties: “I’m comfortable against lefties or righties, but I just do what I’m told.”
Martin on whether last few losses especially tough: “I thought we played a pretty good game, to be honest. We just had that one bad inning, but other than that we swung the bats well. Dylan pitched really good and we played good defense. They just happened to score more runs than us, but I don’t think we should hang our heads. We played a good ballgame.”
Bundy on home runs: “Yeah, it’s usually the same thing, pitches right down the middle. A slider trying to go backfoot and a heater trying to go up and in, just middle, middle. These guys can hit those pitches out. Just can’t throw it there.”