ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Mark Trumbo stood on the on-deck circle today in the top of the first inning, waiting for an opportunity that was a year in the making. A chance to bat again in a major league game. No longer a prisoner to the pain in his surgically repaired right knee.
Just putting on the uniform and checking the lineup card felt like a win for Trumbo. Finding his name in it, grabbing a bat and walking past the indoor cage and onto the field was the greatest reward.
The Orioles left two runners on base and Trumbo led off the second inning against Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, grounding out on a 2-0 pitch and heading back to the bench. He’d wait again, but only for his turn to come around.
Also a win for Trumbo, and the feeling grew exponentially with the two-run double he lined into the right-center field gap in the sixth inning and the tying run he scored on Pedro Severino’s single.
Mychal Givens struck out two batters while retiring the side in order in the ninth and sending the game past regulation. Dillon Tate walked Joey Wendle with one out in the 10th, Wendle moved up on a ground ball, with Jonathan Villar taking the out at first base with the shift on, and Tommy Pham singled to give the Rays a 5-4 win at Tropicana Field.
Pham sent a sharp grounder past a diving Rio Ruiz and Tate had his first major league decision.
“Pham hit that ball hard, so that’s a really tough play and because of the shift we’re not in great position for the double play there,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “It’s just hit soft enough where we can’t do anything with it. You just can’t walk guys in extra-inning games. That was little bit of an unfortunate inning.”
Austin Meadows hit a two-run homer off Asher Wojciechowski in the third inning and Pham delivered a two-run double in the fifth before the Orioles rallied. They’d end up losing their third game in a row and falling to 45-92, still two victories shy of matching last year’s total.
Pham’s double was the last hit for the Rays until his walk-off single.
Hanser Alberto interrupted Yarbrough’s shutout bid with a leadoff home run in the sixth inning, his 11th of the year and a continuation of his dominance over left-handers. Renato Núñez and Villar singled with two outs, the latter on a bunt, and Trumbo collected his first RBIs with the Orioles since Aug. 15, 2018.
The fifth pitch of the at-bat, a cutter, split two outfielders and brought the Orioles within 4-3. Trumbo pulled into second base and stayed in the game. No apparent issues with the knee.
Severino hung with Yarbrough through 13 pitches, grounding the last into right field to tie the game. Trumbo rounded third base, crossed the plate and accepted congratulations in the dugout.
“That was a special hit and I’m sure it felt good for him,” Hyde said. “He was at second base during that long at-bat from Sevie, I was getting a little nervous that he was working hard on his secondary for about 11 pitches in a row. But yeah, he gave us a lift and nice to see Mark in the lineup.”
Trumbo went 1-for-4 in his first game with the Orioles since Aug. 19, 2018 in Cleveland. He grounded into a 4-3 double play to end the fourth inning, the ball zipping past Yarbrough and into the shift, and flied to shallow left field in the ninth.
“It was really nice,” he said. “I was kind of hoping to do something today and help the cause. But yeah, being out there in itself was a good feeling, but it feels much better if you can do something to help the team, especially against a good opponent like this.”
Rounding the bases is just one test for Trumbo’s knee.
“I’ve done some of that already,” he said. “It’s kind of back-to-back days, it’s when it accumulates to a pretty heavy workload. Stuff like that should be pretty manageable.”
The box score will reflect the importance of Trumbo’s return, but not necessarily what it meant to other players who gladly tell the story.
“It’s incredible,” Trey Mancini said earlier in the day. “It speaks of the person he is and the teammate he is because it was a pretty extensive and pretty serious surgery.
“I remember his last game in Cleveland last year and he was just having a tough time even really walking at the end of that day. I saw him in Nashville this offseason when we were both there. I remember right after the surgery I went over there and he was on crutches and at that point it’s a little tougher to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to work and rehab and get back. Especially the way that he put the work in this entire year with us not competing for a division title or anything and coming back, I think that says a ton about him.”
Trumbo might choose to retire after the season. How the knee responds to playing this month will drive the decision. So, too, will a market that has been leaving veteran power hitters unattended.
No matter what the future holds, Trumbo felt like he had to come back this month as the Orioles close out another season stacked with losses.
“I think it just speaks to the person that he is and the character, what he’s about and what he represents,” said Jace Peterson.
“Mark’s a guy who every day comes in and works. He’s a guy who’s willing to help, who loves to help the guys, leads by example. He’s a guy who you want to try to have that same career. You want to show up to the field every day and be the same guy. Help guys out, work hard. He’s a great teammate and a great guy to have around. He’s a guy who instantly comes on a team and makes you better.
“We’re definitely happy for him. For him to come back and play this last month, I know that no matter what he says, he’ll be going through a little bit of pain. It will probably be good days and bad days, but for him to come back and play just speaks a whole heck of a lot about the kind of guy that he is.”
“It means a lot to me,” said Chris Davis. “I’m speaking only for myself because I’ve known him a little bit longer, played against him for years in the Angels organization. Seen the way that he’s carried himself as an opponent and as a teammate.
“To watch him struggle through that, if you know Mark, he doesn’t get too deep too often, but there were times when I could just tell it was weighing on him and I’m sure there was doubt in his mind. But to see him back, I’m fired up and if anybody deserves a chance to see what it’s going to look like, he’s the guy. He’s put in the work, he’s put in the time and I’m excited. I’m excited for him.”
Trumbo tried to stay near the club during periods when he had to be shut down and removed from injury rehab assignments. He occupied the same locker at the end of one row at Camden Yards. He joined teammates in the dugout during games.
Players noticed it. The holdovers and the newcomers.
“It’s hard to turn your baseball off, even when you’re not on the roster or if you’re on the injured list or you’re just not playing that day,” Davis said.
“As a veteran player you just enjoy being around the game and he’s no exception to that. He’s had to be extremely helpful to some of the younger guys and even to me at times, just being able to pick his brain and talk to him about certain things. It’s been nice to have him around and I’m glad he’s back.”
The Orioles worked Yarbrough for 24 pitches in the first inning but failed to score. Mancini and Anthony Santander singled and were stranded on the corners, with Villar taking a third strike.
Wojciechowksi threw 26 pitches and wiggled out of a jam in the bottom half after a one-out walk to Meadows and Pham single. Two Rays were in scoring position when Travis d’Arnaud struck out to end the inning.
Both starters threw eight pitches in the fourth, but the Rays already led.
Wendle singled with one out in the third inning and Meadows jumped on the third consecutive four-seamer thrown to him. Wojciechowski retired the next seven batters before hitting Wendle and allowing a single to Meadows. Pham followed with a two-run double for a 4-0 lead.
Yarbrough threw 35 pitches in the sixth and was replaced by Diego Castillo. Wojciechowski threw eight in the bottom half for the all-important shutdown inning and came back with a 1-2-3 seventh.
Wojciechowski retired the last seven batters and was removed after seven innings and 95 pitches. He allowed four runs and five hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
“I thought he got stronger as the game went on,” Hyde said. “Just made a couple bad pitches. Fastball middle part of the plate to Meadows for the homer and the double to Pham, a slider that kind of hung up there. But you go seven innings against this club, a playoff-type club, it’s a nice outing obviously. Hoping we could add one more there late but just didn’t happen.”
“I’m satisfied in going deep like that,” Wojciechowski said. “Just frustrated with a couple mistakes I made for runs, especially the hanging slider to Pham for a two-run. That’s just poor execution with two outs. But I was able to go deep in the ballgame and keeps us in the game. We battled back. Just didn’t come out on top.
“My cutter was a good pitch for me today. My slider really wasn’t that good of a pitch. It was kind of loopy today, but I was able to throw some good cutters and some good fastballs today.
“It was one of those outings where, yeah, I was happy to go deep, but I’m pretty frustrated with a couple mistakes I made.”
Hyde’s confidence in Harvey allowed him to withhold using Givens until the ninth instead of stretching the reliever through multiple frames. Givens hasn’t allowed a run or walked a batter in his last seven appearances covering seven innings.
Alberto singled off Colin Poche with one out in the 10th, another hit versus a lefty, and was erased on a double play.
“Just keeps hitting, just keeps hitting, especially against left-handed pitching,” Hyde said. “He’s doing a great job. He’s been a nice story all year.”
The top of the sixth also should be remembered for the Orioles’ hitting approach. Villar’s bunt that the Rays didn’t anticipate. Trumbo and Severino going to the opposite field. The latter fouling off nine pitches.
And there’s the image of Trumbo, already in the personal win column by returning from a brutal surgery and rehab, playing and contributing in a game that meant nothing in the grand scheme of a losing season. He just wanted it.
“I think that’s what people should think about whenever they see him out on the field,” Mancini said. “He didn’t have to do this. He didn’t have to go through the rehab and the tough process that goes along with that, but he did and that says all you need to know about him.”
Notes: I tweeted earlier today that Ryan Mountcastle won’t be part of the expanded September roster, with improvements still needed regarding plate discipline and defense. Austin Hays, as I reported earlier, will play in the Arizona Fall League, which begins earlier than usual. The start date factored into the decision.
The Orioles are trying to get him ready for 2020.
The Orioles will select outfielder Mason Williams’ contract from Triple-A Norfolk and remove a player from the 40-man roster. They’re recalling catcher Austin Wynns and pitchers David Hess, Chandler Shepherd, Ty Blach and Evan Phillips.
Pitcher Keegan Akin won’t have his contract selected.
Blach is starting Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader. Game 2 is TBD.