The losses are easier for Orioles manager Brandon Hyde to stomach when his team is playing crisp baseball. When the mental and physical mistakes are removed from the equation.
They were front and center tonight in the first inning in the second game of the doubleheader.
The Orioles weren’t charged with an error, but fielding data is influenced by other factors. So are outcomes.
The Yankees responded to the latest DJ Stewart homer with four runs in the bottom of the first, chasing rookie Keegan Akin in the process, and completed the doubleheader sweep with a 10-1 victory in the Bronx.
Three losses in a row drop the Orioles to 20-24 and 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the final playoff spot in the American League.
Luke Voit hit three-run homers off Asher Wojciechowski in the fourth and fifth innings for a 10-1 lead. Wojciechowski lasted only 1 2/3 innings and his ERA rose to 6.43.
The Orioles need a roster spot for Alex Cobb, the 29th man in the doubleheader. Wojciechowski is out of minor league options.
Stewart hit his sixth home run in six games, reaching the bleachers in right-center field in the first inning. Masahiro Tanaka’s eighth pitch of the at-bat, an 85 mph slider, wasn’t coming back.
Stewart struck a familiar pose since his return from the alternate camp site. A pronounced uppercut. Releasing the top hand on the bat. Admiring the flight of the ball before jogging up the line.
“I was able to clear my head (in Bowie) and I’m mentally in a better place, not trying to do too much and staying within myself and trusting the work that I’ve put in during the offseason and while I was down there in Bowie,” Stewart said. “It was kind of a reset for me, and just getting an opportunity now and going out there and trying to do the best I can.
“I’ve had times where I’ve been locked in. When I earned my promotion last year I was pretty locked in then, as well, but as far as the home runs, never really as many as it’s been, honestly. And that’s the work we were able to put in at Bowie, understanding my swing and also during the offseason not trying to do too much but letting my body generate the power as opposed to over-swinging.”
Tanaka retired the last 12 batters he faced and the Orioles were outscored 16-1 in the doubleheader. Stewart doubled off Luis Cessa in the sixth.
“It’s big,” Stewart said. “Everyone in that locker room knows the significance of this series. It’s a big opportunity for us and we just didn’t come out and execute today. Tomorrow is another day.”
The Yankees manufactured the tying run in the bottom of the first, beginning with DJ LeMahieu’s leadoff walk and Voit’s single, and they kept going, with Akin recording only two outs and leaving after 39 pitches.
Akin didn’t surrender an earned run in his first two major league starts. He was charged with four tonight despite a serious lack of support in the field.
Ruiz had ample time to adjust and make the tag. It was a friendly hop. But he failed to do it.
Gleyber Torres lined a single into center field to break the tie. Frazier raced to third and Torres hustled to second after Cedric Mullins missed the cutoff man by a substantial margin.
Both runners scored on Miguel Andújar’s double and the Yankees led 4-1.
“Wasn’t our best inning defensively,” Hyde said. “Keegan’s pitch count was up there and I just couldn’t let him go past 40 pitches in an inning, a young guy we care about. Unfortunately, his outing was cut extremely short and put us in a tough position in the second game of a doubleheader when we have game tomorrow, etc. Just think they were on his fastball and a lot of foul balls and there were some balls in the middle of the plate he could have located a little better. But just a pitch-count issue because of a lot of factors.”
Gary Sánchez struck out and Akin headed to the bench, squeezed by plate umpire Pat Hobert and crushed by his defense.
“Obviously, it wasn’t good. I went out there and couldn’t execute a few pitches and things didn’t go my way,” Akin said.
“I think they made some adjustments from the last time I faced them. They came out swinging today. ... I didn’t mix my pitches that well from the start. I just stuck with the fastball and trusted that. Obviously they adjusted to that.
“They knew I was going to come with the fastball and changeup and made some adjustments there. You’ve just got to look at that and move on.”
If that scene wasn’t painful enough, Tanaka drilled Renato Núñez on the left hand after Ruiz’s leadoff single in the second. The MASN camera showed some discoloration on the back of the Núñez’s hand as he stood on first base.
Núñez was able to stay in the game for his next at-bat, but Bryan Holaday pinch-hit for him in the seventh inning. Holaday was called out on strikes and ejected.
Hyde said he thinks Núñez will be fine, but precautionary X-rays have been taken.
Travis Lakins Sr. threw 43 pitches in 2 1/3 scoreless innings, making him a candidate to be optioned later tonight. Wojciechowski also has become vulnerable, though he’d have to be designated for assignment.
Carson Fulmer became the 44th player used by the Orioles when he replaced Wojciechowski and retired all four batters he faced.
“It’s been a few weeks since he pitched, so I was trying to find a spot,” Hyde said. “I definitely didn’t want to bring him in during an inning. I was trying to give him a clean inning for his first outing and give the guy a chance to show what he could do.
“It had been 20-plus days since he’s been on a mound pitching in a game. I was impressed. I’ve seen him before with the White Sox. It’s been a few years. He’s got a really live fastball and the changeup is excellent, so I thought he did a really nice job.”
Update: The Oriole designated Mason Williams for assignment after the second game. The 40-man roster and 60-man player pool have one opening.