Aaron Brooks got called third strikes on Delino DeShields and Ronald Guzman tonight in the top of the first inning and the crowd erupted. Jeff Mathis went down swinging for the final out, but the reaction was a bit more subdued.
The fans must have been running low on sarcasm.
Brooks wasn’t fooled, of course. He understood the reasoning behind the enthusiastic response. Six runs already had scored and 31 pitches were thrown before the first out. Forty-one were needed for Brooks to make it back to the dugout and Chandler Shepherd to stop warming in the bullpen.
The Orioles scored three times in the bottom half of the first, an inning in which each team committed a costly error. Plate umpire Jim Reynolds came out of the game after being nailed on the right hand by a Brooks’ pitch that also struck leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo.
That must have been one magic baseball.
It wasn’t a classic game.
The Orioles committed three errors by three different players and the offense slowed down in a 9-4 loss before an announced crowd of 11,796 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles have lost seven of their last eight games and are 46-96. The series concludes on Sunday.
The first inning almost bled into it.
The starters combined for 71 pitches, including 30 by the Rangers’ Jonathan Hernández, whose body of major league work before tonight was three relief appearances this season. The teams totaled nine runs and five hits with two throwing errors and a wild pitch.
The inning lasted 48 minutes.
Anthony Santander extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a run-scoring single in the first after Jonathan Villar singled and Trey Mancini reached when third baseman Danny Santana fielded his ground ball and fired it past second.
Mancini came home on a wild pitch and Mason Williams lifted a sacrifice fly.
Yohander Méndez entered in the third and struck out six batters in 2 1/3 innings. Rio Ruiz hit a solo home run leading off the fourth.
Brooks made it through the second on only 10 pitches, but the first was exhausting. He hit Choo, walked Elvis Andrus and gave up a single to Willie Calhoun that loaded the bases. Brooks knocked down Nick Solak’s comebacker and made a wild throw toward the plate, almost hitting Reynolds in the head.
Santana followed with a two-run single and Rougned Odor hit a three-run homer onto the flag court in right field for a 6-0 lead.
The six runs, five of them earned, were the most surrendered by Brooks since the Astros scored nine in three innings in a 23-2 win on Aug. 10. And the Rangers weren’t done with him.
Odor doubled with two outs in the third and scored on DeShields’ single for a 7-3 lead. Shepherd began to warm for a third time and finally replaced Brooks.
Shepherd, named the International League’s Player of the Month after posting a 1.62 ERA in August, retired the first eight batters. DeShields singled with one out in the sixth and scored when Guzman singled and Dwight Smith Jr. overran the ball for the Orioles’ third error of the night.
Jeff Mathis lined an RBI double into left field for a 9-4 lead, Smith made a sliding catch to rob Choo and Ryan Eades entered the game for his first appearance since Aug. 30.
Shepherd and Eades made their Camden Yards debuts.
Smith had crashed into the fence face-first to deny Willie Calhoun in the fifth, a dangerous move for a guy who suffered a concussion in Texas.
Ruiz’s homer was his 10th of the season. Ten Orioles have reached double digits in dingers to tie the club record set in 1998 and 2000.
Austin Hays pinch-hit for Williams in the sixth inning, his first major league at-bat in two years, and struck out against left-hander Jeffrey Springs. He struck out again in the eighth against right-hander Shawn Kelley.
Hays raced back to the warning track to run down Calhoun’s fly ball in the seventh and made a diving catch in right-center to rob Solak.
Update: Manager Brandon Hyde said Hays will be in Sunday’s lineup.
Hyde on what happened to Brooks in first inning: “It was kind of similar to his last start in Kansas City where he just didn’t really have his command to start off the game. He hits Choo, a walk and he had an opportunity to get out of the inning or at least help himself out with the comebacker that potentially could have been a 1-2-3 double play, or at least a force out to give himself a chance to get out of the inning. But he threw the ball away, and a three-run home run later and it’s 6-0.”
Hyde on Hays: “He made that nice play in center field, a couple of nice plays. He got his feet wet a little bit. I am going to play him tomorrow, so I just wanted to get him an at-bat at least when the left-hander was in there. That was a good time to get him an at-bat and he got two. “
Brooks on first inning: “Just a little out of sync. It’s one of those days that was a struggle to get the ball where I wanted it to go. Fall behind that early in the game, it’s tough to come back.”
Brooks on comebacker: “I think as pitchers, as players in general, we try to go out and battle each and every pitch. I’d love to get a few that we didn’t get, but that’s baseball.”
Hays on what he showed club in center field: “The ball definitely finds you when you come in off the bench. That old metaphor holds true tonight. I know I got a lot of plays out there and didn’t lose too much rest in the last week or anything. It was fun to chase some balls down tonight.”
Hays on whether surprised to be tested so quickly: “No, I wasn’t surprised at all, to be honest. I’ve had that happen quite a few times, so I had to legs loose and I was ready to go, ready for anything.”
Hays on whether any nerves in first major league game in two years: “Oh yeah, always. It’s exciting, this is what we work for, this is what I’ve worked the last two years for, to get back here and be in Camden Yards and play for this team again. So there was excitement, nerves, it’s all mixed in.”
Hays on what’s the more difficult play: “I think it’s that one that’s hit right at you. The ones on the sides, I think, they’re a little bit easier to read. It’s those low line drives that they just take off on you. Those are the hardest ones to read in center.”