Before the Orioles began tonight’s game against the Rays, about 30 minutes later than intended, they stood along the dugout railing to watch the club’s newest inductees into its Hall of Fame. To enjoy the ceremony and see how the other half lived, rather than just gazing across the field.
The video tribute for former shortstop J.J. Hardy closed with him reaching for home plate to score the go-ahead run on Delmon Young’s bases-clearing double in the 2014 Division Series. The loudest moment in Camden Yards history.
“I’ve never heard a stadium roar like it did that day,” Hardy said.
The Orioles are trying to get back to being a winner and packing their ballpark again. Cranking up the decibel level. Creating their own indelible moments.
Fans roared as newcomer Jorge Mateo doubled in the third inning, stole third base and scored on catcher Mike Zunino’s throwing error. What speed can do. Cedric Mullins followed Richie Martin’s walk with a go-ahead home run. What power can do.
The place was rocking for one night. Or for part of it. To sustain it is key.
Nelson Cruz put Tampa Bay ahead in the fifth inning with his latest thunderous home run and the Rays pulled away on Brandon Lowe’s grand slam in the eighth for a 12-3 victory before an announced crowd of 18,545.
Spenser Watkins allowed four earned runs and five total in six innings, walking none and striking out four, and the Orioles fell to 38-71 as they try to avoid the sweep Sunday afternoon. They’ve gone 1-10 against the Rays.
The Orioles have allowed double-digit runs in the last four games for the first time in club history, according to STATS, and been outscored 45-13.
Watkins has been charged with 12 earned runs (13 total) and 20 hits in his last three starts over 15 2/3 innings. But he pushed through the sixth, permitted to throw 97 pitches, before the latest bullpen meltdown.
“It’s frustrating for me in a sense of battling for our guys to gain the lead early in on those innings and then to lose that lead later on in and my fifth and sixth innings,” Watkins said. “I want to build momentum, I want our guys to go out there, put up some runs, me put up a zero, another zero, another zero and kind of get that segued in so we can put ourselves in a good position later in the game.”
César Valdez inherited two runners from Dusten Knight in the eighth, allowed a single to Zunino and served up Lowe’s grand slam off the left field foul pole. No longer qualifying as the No. 1 prospect in baseball, Wader Franco almost reached Eutaw Street with his home run two batters later.
Pedro Severino struck out against left-hander Shane McClanahan to end the third inning and left the game with a bruised right knee. The bench was down to two healthy players.
“He’s getting checked out in the morning,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He got hit in the knee on a ball in the dirt, it sounds like, and it got to be sore throughout the game and had to come out of the game.”
Watkins surrendered two home runs, including Cruz’s two-run shot to center field in the fifth inning - the ball traveling 440 feet with an exit velocity of 111 mph, per Statcast. Lowe, who played at the University of Maryland, doubled with one out to bring Cruz to the plate and a reminder that some power hitters age gracefully.
Yandy Díaz led off the second inning with a home run, the next two batters reached on a single and double - sending pitching coach Chris Holt to the mound - and Kevin Kiermaier’s ground ball increased the lead to 2-0.
Damage was controlled with Watkins striking out Zunino and retiring Brandon Lowe on a fly ball. He set down the side in order in the third on 12 pitches.
Kiermaier was removed from the game with right knee soreness.
Joey Wendle reached with one out in the fifth on Martin’s fielding error in the shift, and he scored on a bad-hop double by Brett Phillips, who replaced Kiermaier.
“They’re pesky, they’re phenomenal hitters up and down the lineup,” Watkins said. “There’s really not a spot that you can pick out and say, ‘OK, I can take a little bit of a breath here.’ It’s full-go, as any lineup is, but even more so with this lineup how talented they are one through nine.”
Mateo, the three-time top 100 prospect, has a triple, single and double in two games with the Orioles. He scored tonight when Zunino fired the ball into left field, dialing down the speed and jogging home to cut the lead to 2-1.
“He’s the fastest man alive,” Watkins said. “That’s it. Simple.”
Martin walked and Mullins hit his 19th home run, extending his hitting streak to 15 games to tie his career high. Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander singled with two outs, but Severino struck out and came out of the game.
McClanahan, a Baltimore native, worked seven innings and allowed only one hit after the third, an infield single by Austin Hays. Hays singled again in the eighth against reliever Dietrich Enns.
Isaac Mattson made his first Orioles appearance since July 3 in Anaheim. He loaded the bases in the ninth, walked Lowe with two outs and threw a wild pitch for a 12-3 lead.
“I think everybody’s getting an opportunity to pitch, and that’s all they can really ask for,” Hyde said. “We’re not throwing the ball well out of the ‘pen, we’re inconsistent. ... I liked the way Knight threw the ball tonight. Got right-handers and left-handers out. Kind of some bad luck there, but I thought he pitched with some guts and I thought the stuff is interesting. For me, that was the highlight of the night. It was nice for me to see that because I am looking for guys to pitch.
“If you pitch well, you’re going to pitch when it’s close. All of our guys have had their moments of good streaks and bad streaks, and that’s really been the thing for three years here. ... We don’t command the ball well and so we have some good nights and some bad nights.”
Hyde also said Ryan Mountcastle likely will go on the seven-day concussion injured list Sunday morning.
Notes: Triple-A Norfolk’s Ofelky Peralta held Jacksonville to two runs and two hits in six innings. Mason McCoy hit his sixth home run. David Lebron retired all nine batters he faced, throwing four strikeouts.
Double-A Bowie’s Cody Sedlock allowed one run and struck out five batters in 5 2/3 innings. Somerset’s Brandon Lockridge homered.
Yusniel Diaz doubled and drove in two runs for the Baysox.
Jordan Westburg hit his eighth homer tonight for Single-A Aberdeen.