Ryan Mountcastle was thrown out trying to steal second base tonight, absorbed a hard tag to the side of his head and left the game in the top of the third. Trey Mancini fouled a ball off his crotch in the fifth, dropped face-down in the dirt and didn’t move for several seconds.
The Orioles were trying to win a game while in full survival mode, with Nelson Cruz doling out more punishment.
Mancini lined his second double of the night on the next pitch and scored on Jorge Mateo’s triple to center field - Mountcastle’s replacement collecting his first hit as an Oriole and flashing his trademark speed.
Mateo wasn’t supposed to debut at third base, but the Orioles were full of surprises and suspense, the drama building when Cruz hit a game-tying three-run homer off Conner Greene in the sixth.
Cruz wasn’t done. Batting again in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs, he lined a two-run double into left field off Dillon Tate and Wander Franco followed with a two-run single in the Rays’ 10-6 victory before an announced crowd of 11,320 at Camden Yards.
Tate inherited Paul Fry’s mess after a single and two walks. Cruz’s line drive sailed under Mateo’s glove as he leaped for it, and the Rays scored five runs in the inning to lower the Orioles’ record to 38-70.
The Orioles are 1-9 this season against the Rays, who also had an RBI single by Manuel Margot in the eighth. Four of five batters reached against Tate.
John Means allowed one earned run and two total in five innings, his pitch count reaching 94 and forcing the bullpen into action. Greene walked Kevin Kiermaier and gave up a single to Jordan Luplow with one out in the sixth and Cruz hit his third home run as a Ray for a 5-5 tie - exit velocity 107 mph, per Statcast.
“It was the definition of a grind of a start,” Means said. “That’s what happens when the fastball command isn’t just quite there. I wasn’t commanding in well, I wasn’t commanding going away well. I had to use every pitch from pitch one to pitch 94. I wasn’t able to get in a groove and this team is pesky. They’ve got me the last couple times. But I’m proud that I grinded it through.”
Mateo is going to start at shortstop or second base Saturday night. He had to play tonight, his single in the seventh producing his first multi-hit game since April 28, because Mountcastle lasted only two innings and created a position ripple effect.
Mountcastle should be fine, his removal done for evaluation per concussion protocols. The unexpected events and the scrambling are common occurrences on a team that can’t relax. It just hopes for a positive result at the end.
Maikel Franco moved from third base to first in the top of the third inning, with Mateo replacing him to become the 51st player used by the Orioles this season. Reliever Marcos Diplán became the 52nd after replacing Tate in the eighth, and the 14th to make his major league debut.
Diplán struck out Ji-Man Choi, who fanned four times. He retired all five batters faced and had three strikeouts.
Cedric Mullins extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a leadoff single in the first, his 131st hit of the season. Mullins stole his 21st base and scored with two out on Mountcastle’s single.
Mountcastle tied his career high with an eight-game hitting streak. He’s driven in a run in seven consecutive games. But he got up wincing after Wander Franco’s glove slammed into his head, and his steps were deliberate as he walked to first base.
Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel checked on Mountcastle, who smiled after getting back on his feet.
Mancini couldn’t replace Mountcastle without the Orioles losing their designated hitter. Pat Valaika is at least temporarily out of the organization. Franco became the backup first baseman, his 14th career appearance at the position.
The RBI streak by Mountcastle is the second-longest for a rookie in Orioles history. The record is eight games, also by Mountcastle, from May 31-June 9.
Tyler Nevin could be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk if Mountcastle goes on the seven-day concussion list and the Orioles decide they need a first baseman.
Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t have an update, saying that Mountcastle is being evaluated and monitored.
Mateo was making his ninth major league appearance at third base, none of them starts. He’s most comfortable at shortstop but said he’ll play anywhere.
Hyde noted how Mateo was sitting in the dugout in a sweatshirt after making a cross-country flight and suddenly had to enter the game in less-than-ideal circumstances.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Mateo said. “I’m going to try to do the best I can to help the team.”
Cruz’s line drive past Mateo was clocked at 89 mph.
“That was a hard hit and that was a tough play,” Mateo said. “I tried to do the best, but those things happen in the game.”
Catcher Pedro Severino hit a game-tying, opposite-field home run in the second inning, and doubles by Franco and Martin followed to give Means his second lead of the night.
Martin had his first hit since Sept. 29, 2019 and first double and RBI since Sept. 28.
Austin Hays led off the third inning with his 12th homer of the season for a 4-2 lead that stretched to 5-2 in the fifth on Mateo’s triple.
Franco reached with one out on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners, his blazing ground ball deflecting off Maikel Franco’s glove and rolling to Martin. Hays raced into shallow left-center field and made a diving catch to rob Yandy Díaz, with Luplow failing to tag up, and Brandon Lowe grounded out.
A lot of action for Means in only 13 pitches in a scoreless inning.
Plenty of action in the second, as well, but Means threw 21 pitches and allowed two runs.
Margot reached on a bunt single and Mike Zunino doubled with one out. Margot slipped and barely made it back to the bag, but he scored on Kiermaier’s infield hit and Zunino followed him home when Means was late getting to first and missed Mountcastle’s throw.
Severino knotted the score with two outs in the second, driving a cutter to right field for his ninth home run of the season and fourth in his last seven games. The two doubles gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead and Means stranded two runners in the third, throwing 20 pitches before getting back to the dugout.
Two strikeouts enabled Means to strand a runner in the fourth. He also struck out his last batter, Choi, with the count full to end the fifth after Díaz doubled and Margot walked.
Means was trying to earn his first win against a division opponent since April 2 against the Red Sox. Cruz blew up that plan. But Means didn’t allow a home run for the first time since May 11.
“I just thought John really grinded without his best stuff,” Hyde said.
“He left with a three-run lead and we’ve got to do a better job of holding it.”
Lowe kept the score tied in the seventh with a diving stop and throw to rob Ramón Urías after Mancini walked and Mateo singled. But cracks kept appearing in the bullpen.
“That was definitely a disappointing loss,” Hyde said.
Notes: Mike Baumann shut out Jacksonville on one hit in six innings, with two walks and six strikeouts. Dean Kremer replaced him and was charged with three runs in 2 2/3 innings, all of them scoring in the ninth in a 3-2 loss. Kremer walked three batters and struck out four.
Catcher Maverick Handley had three hits, including his fourth home run, three RBIs and his 12th stolen base.