Jorge López still doesn’t have a smudge on his first-inning work this season, stranding a runner tonight and pumping his sinker at 96-98 mph. Opponents have four hits in 25 at-bats.
How far would he venture into his latest start? That’s always the curiosity with López.
Ryan Mountcastle attacked the first pitch thrown to him leading off the second inning and drove it deep into the left field seats.
How far it traveled wasn’t as important as the way he’s climbed back into the cleanup spot.
López completed five innings for only the second time in seven starts and held the Red Sox to one run. Mountcastle had two more hits, Trey Mancini homered in the sixth to break a tie and the Orioles avoided the sweep with a 4-1 victory before an announced crowd of 6,826 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles head to New York at 16-19 overall and 5-13 at home. They had lost six in a row to the Rex Sox at Camden Yards, but the bullpen churned out 3 1/3 perfect innings.
“So happy for Lopie,” manager Brandon Hyde said on his Zoom call. “Got over the hump tonight, got through five and got into the sixth inning. Probably could have gone longer, but he hasn’t gone that far so far this year.
“We pitched so well tonight. I was so impressed with Lopie’s stuff, once again throwing 97 (mph) sinkers, utilizing all pitches, even throwing some sliders tonight. And then the other guys who came in just did a great job on the mound.”
A key insurance run scored in the eighth when Cedric Mullins tripled on a pop up to shallow left field, the ball deflecting twice off Xander Bogaerts’ glove before dropping. Matt Andriese walked Austin Hays and Mancini lined a single up the middle.
“That’s going to be probably the shortest distance triple we’ll all see,” Hyde said.
“This was a great triple and you should put this on an educational film for all young players on how to get out of the box, because it was ball hit and eyes up and incredible hustle. He got to third base so fast. Great heads-up play. We needed it. Just a good baseball play by a good player.”
“The way they were shifted, he hit it, I immediately knew it had a chance to drop,” Mancini said. “And Cedric went super-hard out of the box. I think everything had to happen like it did for him to get to third. Xander almost had it the first time, almost had it the second time and then it drops finally the third time, it kind of bounced. And then at that point nobody was really covering third, Cedric had already noticed that and he took off and it was electric and got that inning started. It was a huge inning for us.”
Mountcastle has accumulated seven hits, including a double and two home runs, and four RBIs in the last three games. He’s hit safely in 11 of 14, batting .321 (17-for-53).
Martín Pérez threw him a cutter in the second and the ball left his bat at 106.5 mph. Pérez was left with a 1-0 deficit.
Left-hander Tanner Scott replaced López after Bogaerts doubled with two outs in the sixth, Mullins coming up short on his diving attempt. López hadn’t exceeded five innings this season and earned the applause that accompanied him to the dugout.
Scott struck out Rafael Devers after a wild pitch to keep the score tied. Travis Lakins Sr. retired the side in order in the seventh inning, Paul Fry did the same in the eighth and César Valdez went 1-2-3 in the ninth for his eighth save.
López retired 10 of the first 11 batters, with J.D. Martinez lining a single into left field in the first inning. He struck out three of the first six and needed only six pitches to dispose of the Red Sox in the third.
Martinez singled again with one out in the fourth and López hit Bogaerts. A wild pitch advanced the runners, and almost nailed Devers, who lifted a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
López stumbled but remained upright through four innings, which wasn’t unusual. The issue has been the fifth.
He began the night with a 42.43 ERA, a.571 average against and 1.914 OPS in the inning over his six starts. Hunter Renfroe led off with a double tonight. The flashbacks were blinding.
Except López retired the next three batters, striking out Bobby Dalbec on a changeup and Marwin Gonzalez on a 96 mph sinker. His pitch count stood at 64. López was still upright.
“I was obviously hoping he would get through that,” Hyde said. “I had Tanner up just in case it got a little squirrely on him there, but I was going to do anything I could to get him through that inning.”
The final line read one run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings, with no walks, five strikeouts, a wild pitch and a hit batter. López threw 71 pitches, 52 for strikes.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “Their lineup, how they’ve been doing, they’ve been really incredible. I’m just really excited the way I got them out and give us a good chance to keep that ballgame close.
“I know it’s been frustrating getting to that fifth inning and not getting outs like I want, but just keep focused, keep that rhythm and one pitch at a time.”
Pérez stranded two runners after the Mountcastle home run, as well as Severino in the fourth and Ryan McKenna in the fifth after singles.
Andriese entered in the sixth and Mancini greeted him with a 440-foot shot to center field - the second-longest home run of his career. Mancini has 11 hits and 12 RBIs this month. His seven home runs and 29 RBIs lead the club.
“Since maybe the last game against the Yankees here before our West Coast trip, I felt as good as I ever have,” Mancini said. “I just feel like I lined out 50 times. That’s the name of the game. But I’m trying to do what I can up there and just focus on my approach and not the result and I think that’s produced hard contact pretty consistently. So I feel really good about my at-bats lately.”
Maikel Franco went 0-for-3 with a walk and is in a 3-for-41 slump.