The first batter of the fourth inning got Chris Ellis again, except he kept going tonight. Kept himself in the Orioles’ pitching plans that otherwise are in their familiar unsettled state.
Ellis didn’t allow a run against the Blue Jays until Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered to lead off the fourth and tie the game. He went a career-high 4 2/3 innings, allowing just the one run and two hits.
A fourth consecutive loss, punctuated by Guerrero’s three-run homer off Marcos Diplán in the seventh, dropped the Orioles to 40-90 overall, 3-24 in August and 3-7 against Toronto.
George Springer singled to begin the bottom of the sixth, Marcus Semien walked and they advanced on Guerrero’s high chopper to Tate. Bo Bichette singled into right field to tie the game and Teoscar Hernández had a two-run double to chase Tate.
Hernández was thrown out at the plate on Alejandro Kirk’s bouncer to Jorge Mateo.
“Just like a lot of our relievers, just inconsistent,” manager Brandon Hyde said of Tate. “His stuff’s there, execution’s not all the time. Just a poor pitch selection there to Hernández on the bad slider after getting him 0-2. Need a ground ball there. He’s a ground ball guy. Leaves a slider up and in.
“The walk before that with Semien, when he was kind of running the ball off the plate there, which led to the big inning. It’s just inconsistent command. Some nights, it’s good; some nights not.”
Diplán walked two batters in the seventh and Guerrero’s 112.1 mph liner slammed into the left field seats for a 7-2 lead. Diplán has been scored upon in three of his last four appearances, allowing seven runs and raising his ERA to 4.02.
Mountcastle hit his 25th home run, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the first inning and moving him past Trey Mancini for third place on the club’s single-season list for rookies. Cal Ripken Jr. holds the record with 28, followed by Eddie Murray with 27.
Mountcastle claimed the team lead, with five of his homers coming in 10 games batting second. He entered the night slashing .349/.386/.762 (22-for-63) this month with five doubles, seven homers, 14 RBIs and 13 runs scored, with his slugging percentage ranking second among rookies and his 1.148 OPS third. The homers were tied for second.
He had four hits yesterday and two tonight. He drew an eight-pitch walk leading off the ninth and scored with one out on Pedro Severino’s single.
If Mountcastle isn’t in the Rookie of the Year discussion, it’s the wrong discussion.
Cy Young candidate Robbie Ray had surrendered only one home run in his last six starts. He bounced back to strike out the side in the second, twice freezing Severino when the catcher thought he earned a walk.
Kelvin Gutiérrez drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, Austin Hays singled and Mountcastle broke the tie with a ground ball that Bichette could only prevent from going into left field.
A chance at a much bigger inning fizzled when Mancini grounded into 4-3 double play and Anthony Santander became Ray’s eighth strikeout victim.
There would be two more in the seventh inning, and Ray lowered his ERA to 2.71 while holding the Orioles to two runs and four hits.
“We were aggressive, but he was in the strike zone, and he’s got really good stuff and he’s been doing that to the league this year,” Hyde said. “I thought we had a chance there, we made it 2-1, first and second, nobody out and don’t push another one across. That hurt.”
Ellis retired the first eight batters before walking Jarrod Dyson on a close pitch with the count full. Dyson stole second base, Springer was hit by a pitch, they executed a double steal and Semien flied out.
The only real damage for Ellis was his pitch count jumping to 47.
In his first major league start and Orioles’ debut, Ellis threw one pitch in the fourth inning and the Angels’ Jared Walsh homered to bring a pitching change. He stayed in tonight’s game and retired the next three batters after Guerrero’s 423-foot bomb - exit velocity 109.2 mph, per Statcast - while running his count to 60.
“Man, he’s a really good hitter,” Ellis said. “Obviously he’s putting up an MVP type season. He’s smashing baseballs. I tried to throw a fastball away and kind of leaked it over the inner part of the plate, he turned on it. That’s what good hitters do, they hit mistake pitches, and he’s certainly one of the best in the league, so hat’s off to him.”
Dyson singled into center field with two outs in the fifth and Tate replaced Ellis, who threw 69 pitches and didn’t do a good job holding runners. Tate picked off Dyson and made a diving tag in the rundown.
“I’ll tell you what, he (Ellis) did everything we could ask him to do tonight,” Hyde said. “Went through the lineup twice. We were kind of thinking the 75-pitch range if everything worked out great and it did. He only gave up one run, getting two outs there in the fifth. He kept us in the game and went through the lineup twice. Everything we could ask.”
“It’s been a weird year for me,” Ellis said. “I’m just trying to go out there and make quality pitches for as long as they’ll let me. They haven’t really given me a game plan of like, ‘Hey, you’re going to have this many pitches today.’ I’m just going out there and trying to let it rip in the zone and whenever they decide its time to pull me, it is what it is.”
Keegan Akin and Matt Harvey also are starting in the series and Thursday’s off-day could allow manager Brandon Hyde to temporarily go with a four-man rotation. Spenser Watkins was optioned yesterday and left-hander Alexander Wells is on the taxi squad.
Wells eventually could replace Watkins, though the parts never really stop moving and rosters expand on Wednesday.
Ellis isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m extremely blessed to be in this situation,” he said. “It’s been a weird minor league career for me, bounced around a lot. Had some good years, had some bad years. Thankfully, Tampa Bay took a shot at me, calling me up and kind of set things in motion. And now that I’m here, I’m extremely grateful that Hyde is giving me the opportunity to take the ball every fifth day so far.
“If it stays that way, great. And if not, and I go back to the bullpen, great, too. But I’m extremely fortunate and I’m just trying to make the best of my opportunity here.”