The Orioles finished their batting practice rounds today and retreated to the clubhouse, still a few hours left before they’d take the field again and continue their series against the Mariners.
An important part of their future was scattered on the center field roof deck, where various minor league award winners were made available to fans and the media.
The hardware would be delivered to them later in an on-field ceremony, before Mychal Givens surrendered a three-run homer to J.P. Crawford in the eighth inning, Austin Hays tied the score with a two-run shot in the bottom half and Mallex Smith scored from second base in the 13th inning on Tim Lopes’ infield hit to give the Mariners a 7-6 win before an announced crowd of 22,556 at Camden Yards.
Shawn Armstrong retired all six batters he faced and Dillon Tate retired all seven. Orioles relievers set down 15 in a row before the error, Jonathan Villar was stranded at third base in the bottom of the 13th and the Orioles fell to 50-105.
Hanser Alberto drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, but Crawford lifted a 96 mph fastball onto the flag court with two outs in the eighth.
Givens had a 0.89 ERA in the eighth this season and a 6.69 ERA with nine home runs allowed in the ninth. A leadoff single and two-out walk set up Crawford’s shot.
Hays answered it with two outs, his fly ball off Sam Tuivailala landing in the Orioles’ bullpen.
Stevie Wilkerson began the fifth inning with his second double and Richie Martin reached on an error by pitcher Justus Sheffield. Alberto followed with an RBI single into left field for a 4-3 lead and Sheffield hit Mancini to load the bases with no outs.
The Orioles didn’t score again, squandering a chance to break open the game. They also wasted Alberto’s one-out single in the seventh because of a strikeout/caught stealing.
They can never find the easy path.
The expanded September roster doesn’t include Ryan Mountcastle, 22, the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year who earned the same recognition in the International League.
“I thought going into the year I had a good shot at making the team at some point,” Mountcastle said. “It didn’t happen. I mean, I’m moving on to next year. I’m ready to go next year if the opportunity presents itself.
“I feel like I could help this team win some ballgames whenever they need me up here. I’m going to be ready when opportunity comes.”
Mountcastle moved across the diamond to first base and also played left field, the position that seemed to earn him the most praise within the organization.
“I got about 20-25 games out there and I started to feel pretty comfortable toward the end. I feel like I did well out there,” he said.
“Moving from third to first, it wasn’t too much of a challenge because I was playing corner infield before. But outfield was a little different. I started to pick up on some things. I had guys like Hays making some crazy catches and helping me out with some different stuff in the outfield. And (coach) Butch Davis and those guys getting me some extra work out there.”
His work at the plate always has impressed.
Mountcastle batted .312/.344/.527 with 35 doubles, one triple, 25 home runs, 83 RBIs and 81 runs scored in 127 games with Triple-A Norfolk. He led the league with 162 hits.
“I went out there, played hard every day, tried not to get too down on myself, just tried to stay even-keel,” he said. “Baseball’s a pretty mental game, so as long as you can stay even-keel and keep your head on straight, you can do pretty well.”
A mature approach for someone who’s only 22 and playing at the highest level of the farm system.
“I felt pretty young out there this year compared to some of the other guys I’ve grown up seeing play,” Mountcastle said. “It’s pretty cool to see that I can compete with those older guys, as well.”
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias was on the field to assist in the award presentations, then took his usual spot to watch the Orioles in their penultimate home game of the season.
His attention always shifts from present to future and back again.
“I think by all accounts we had a terrific year in the farm system, maybe even beyond what I might have hoped for” he said. “The energy level throughout the year was palpable. I think it resulted in some wins and some playoff runs by some of our teams and some really historic seasons for the franchises. You’ve got the 90 wins in Delmarva, you’ve got Delmarva and Aberdeen setting wins and strikeout records. It was just a lot of good things going on.
“Our big prospects for the most part all took steps forward. The pitching side in particular. We had more guys with 100 strikeouts in a season than I can even count. I think it was a tremendous success and that’s why we’re honoring the players and the coaches here for the work they put in.
“Really, there were more people. It was actually a tough choice picking the award winners this year. So with where we’re at the big league level, with where we’re at organizationally with what we’re trying to do, it’s exactly what you want to see and we’re just going to try to build on that and keep doing the same thing. Keep seeing the farm system rankings go up and the talent level increase.”
Elias watched Asher Wojciechowski load the bases on 20 pitches in the first inning and use four more to strike out Daniel Vogelbach. Shed Long homered on Wojciechowski’s first pitch of the third inning after the Orioles gave the right-hander a 3-0 lead.
Wojciechowski’s pitch count stood at 64 after only three innings. Aaron Brooks threw 83 over seven relief innings last night.
A 12-pitch fourth was encouraging, with the side retired, but the Mariners had four straight one-out hits off Wojciechowski in the fifth. Crawford’s single scored Long and reduced the lead to 3-2. Branden Kline inherited a bases-loaded, one-out mess and retired Tom Murphy on a popup, but Severino’s 10th passed ball of the season tied the game.
Kline retired all five batters faced with two strikeouts. The Mariners put runners on the corners against Paul Fry with no outs in the seventh, loaded the bases with two and didn’t score.
It got a little crazy in the eighth.
It wasn’t decided until the 13th and the Orioles lost again.
The future couldn’t fix the present.
Hyde on decisive play: First, we kind of botch a PFP play to allow the batter to reach first base. Then don’t hold him and he steals second. That’s a heads-up play by Mallex Smith, who’s a plus-plus runner. It was kind of a tough play for Rio because it was a chopper that he either has to come get or play back and if he plays back he really has to get rid of it. It was bang-bang at first base, safe, and Mallex continued.
“Tough play but the runner shouldn’t have been on first base in the first place.”
Hyde on bullpen: “This team has more tough losses I think than I have ever witnesses in a season. Way more. I feel like we’re due to win more of these games and it just doesn’t happen. I thought for the most part our bullpen did a really nice job. Branden Kline threw the ball great, Paul Fry wiggled his way out of a tough inning, Shawn Armstrong with two great innings, Dillon Tate threw the ball outstanding. So I thought we did a lot of good things out of the ‘pen.”
Hays on how he’s swinging bat: “I’m just trying to put together productive at-bats. Just try to be consistent with swinging at balls in the zone and finding barrels as much as possible.”
Hays on odd way to lose: “It’s definitely a tough way to lose, but you’ve got to give them props on that play. They had speed at the plate and speed at second and they were both digging hard. Rio caught that ball, quick release, it was a good throw to first, Trey caught it, threw home. It was just, those guys were too quick on that play.”
Hays on intensity of game in September: “Both teams were trying to win right there. We were doing everything we could to try to get somebody on base and get the guys in we had in scoring position. Just couldn’t get it done tonight late in the game.”
Hays on how much these games mean to him knowing he belongs: “Yeah, it meant a lot to get called back up here and it definitely means a lot to me to just get the opportunity to play every day. And I’m just trying to put my best self out there every day.”
Wojciechowski on start: “I felt pretty good. I just got into some deep counts and fouled off some good pitches. Didn’t quite execute some pitches to get quick outs. Just a lot of deep counts, but I felt good. I thought I competed well. That fifth inning, didn’t execute quite as well.”
Wojciechowski on bullpen: “It was great. Those guys came in and competed their tails off. They threw the ball really well. It was just a frustrating game when you play 13 and you come out on the losing side.”