Lowther struggles in first start, Valaika pitches in 11-6 loss

The first major league start tonight for left-hander Zac Lowther also came with his first jams, runs scored and mound visits.

By the time Lowther notched his second strikeout of the evening, he had thrown 49 pitches and surrendered four runs. The game was headed to the bottom of the second inning.

The bullpen stayed quiet, with manager Brandon Hyde giving the rookie room to work and grow. A spot start, if that’s what it was, didn’t come with a short leash.

Hyde had to tighten it in the third. The first three batters reached against Lowther, ranked among the top pitching prospects in the system, and he was removed after striking out Marwin Gonzalez with a 76 mph curveball.

Shawn Armstrong let both inherited runners score and the Orioles couldn’t chase down a growing deficit in an 11-6 loss to the Red Sox before an announced sellout crowd of 10,598.

The Orioles have lost all five games against the Red Sox at home after sweeping them in Boston to begin the season. They’re now 15-18 overall and 4-12 at Camden Yards.

Infielder Pat Valaika made his mound debut in the ninth inning and threw only five pitches. The lone baserunner came on an error by shortstop Ramón Urias. Valaika was the first position player forced into emergency duty for the Orioles since catcher Bryan Holaday on Aug. 14, 2020 versus the Nationals.

Freddy Galvis led off the second inning with his fourth home run of the season and extended the Orioles’ longball streak to nine games in a row. But the Red Sox built on their 4-2 lead in the third, pitching coach Chris Holt made another trip to the mound and it was Hyde’s turn after the strikeout.

“Just not executing in the right spots,” Lowther said on his Zoom call. “When I was missing I was missing over the heart of the plate, and to a good lineup like that you’re going to get hurt.

“I made a lot of good pitches, maybe not when I needed to, but I’m going to take the good from this and kind of just dump the bad. You can always learn from this stuff. I know what I need to do to get better, so just being able to work on that between outings is something I’m going to take forward.”

Armstrong retired Hunter Renfroe on a popup for the second out, with Chance Sisco and Trey Mancini almost colliding, but Bobby Dalbec lined a two-run single into left field for a 7-2 lead.

Lowther was charged with seven runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings, with two walks, three strikeouts and a home run. He threw 65 pitches, 40 for strikes.

A 15-pitch first inning for Lowther, recalled today to make his second major league appearance, included a strikeout of Michael Chavis on a 78 mph curveball, and an Alex Verdugo single. The Red Sox made him throw 34 pitches in the second while scoring their four runs, the trouble starting with a one-out walk to Christian Vázquez.

Gonzalez followed with a double and Vázquez trotted home when Galvis couldn’t handle DJ Stewart’s bounced throw from right field. Gonzalez scored on Renfroe’s single and Chavis turned an 84 mph changeup into a two-run homer.

An infield hit, walk and Vázquez’s RBI double in the third increased the lead to 5-1 and had Lowther on the brink of exiting.

“I just thought they had a great approach. I thought that was a major league approach against a left-handed pitcher,” Hyde said during his Zoom call.

“If you noticed, the majority of the hits were up the middle, the other way. They stayed on the ball real well. ... He did throw strikes, but they just had a really good approach against him tonight.”

Cedric Mullins reached on an infield single for his 11th hit in the first inning this season, moved up on a ground ball and scored with two outs on Stewart’s single into center field. Galvis homered in the second, but the Red Sox couldn’t be slowed.

“I think I’m sticking with my plan and trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Galvis said. “At the beginning of the season I was missing a lot of fastballs right in the zone, and right now I’m putting a good swing on the baseball, especially the fastballs, and getting good results.”

Armstrong stranded 11 of 13 inherited runners last summer. He’s let seven of nine score this season and the Red Sox loaded the bases against him with no outs in the fourth.

Verdugo came home on Rafael Devers’ fielder’s choice grounder and Vázquez singled for a 9-2 lead. Armstrong struck out the last two batters, but Boston had 12 hits on the board and no intention of collapsing.

Armstrong’s ERA held at 10.80 in 10 innings.

Galvis-High-Fives-Hays-Orange-Sidebar.jpgRule 5 pick Tyler Wells, pitching on back-to-back nights, surrendered a 414-foot, two-run homer to Xander Bogaerts in the sixth. The Orioles opened the bottom half with back-to-back doubles by Austin Hays and Mancini on blistering ground balls off Devers’ glove. Mancini has 10 RBIs this month.

Urías pinch-hit for Galvis, explanation to come later, and singled to score Mancini and reduce the lead to 11-4. Maikel Franco also scalded a ball, but Bogaerts made a terrific backhanded stop and began a 6-4-3 double play that concluded with Dalbec digging the relay out of the dirt.

“I’m ok, I’m ok,” Galvis said. “I’m going to play tomorrow, too. My groin the last few weeks has been kind of tough for me to play like that, so I’m trying to take some days off or, like today, three innings off.”

“I want to try to keep Freddy healthy as much as I can,” Hyde said. “We’re down eight there, it’s cold night ... A possibility of him playing tomorrow if we get him out of the game. It’s something we’re going to manage and he’s a pro and we communicate daily about it. It sounds like he wants to play tomorrow.”

Austin Brice loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth inning, hitting his second and third batters of the night, and Hays’ two-run single completed the scoring and led to another pitching change.

The Orioles could use a fresh reliever Sunday, but the only pitchers on the 40-man roster with Triple-A Norfolk are Bruce Zimmermann, Keegan Akin and Alexander Wells. Zimmermann worked three innings tonight, allowing a two-run homer to Jacksonville’s Lewin Díaz. Akin started last night. Wells is scheduled to start Sunday now that he’s recovered from an oblique strain that kept him out of spring training games.

Michael Baumann, also on the 40-man, remains in Sarasota, Fla. with a sore arm.

Optioning Lowther would make sense with off-days Thursday and May 17.

Asked about perhaps adjusting the pitching staff, Hyde said, “It’s a little bit tough with the day game after the night game and Triple-A now is in normal swing, it’s not alternate site anymore. Those are discussions that we’re having we’re having just now and a little bit after we’re done here. It’s a possibility, but maybe not.”

Notes: The Orioles brought John Means onto the field for a pregame ceremony to recognize Wednesday’s no-hitter in Seattle. He was joined by wife Caroline and infant son McCoy.

A video tribute included a message from Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. Means was presented with his framed jersey, scorecard and newspaper clippings from the game, manager Brandon Hyde gave him a watch from the team and the Orioles donated $10,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Baltimore in the pitcher’s name.

Shortstop Jordan Westburg hit his first professional home run today, a grand slam for Single-A Delmarva. Westburg was the 30th overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Mississippi State University.

Double-A Bowie’s Cody Sedlock lasted one-third of an inning tonight in Altoona, Pa. and allowed three runs and three hits with two walks. Catcher Adley Rutschman was 0-for-4 with a walk and strikeout.

Yusniel Diaz hit his first Triple-A home run, a game-tying, two-run shot in the ninth inning. Richie Martin had an RBI single in the 10th.

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