The bullpen game plotted tonight by Orioles manager Brandon Hyde began to live up to its definition perhaps a bit sooner than anticipated.
Conner Greene couldn’t give the Orioles a second inning as the opener, his 24 pitches in a scoreless first against the Phillies beginning the parade of relievers.
Marcos Diplán tossed two scoreless innings. Thomas Eshelman stranded a runner in the fourth, retired the side in order in the fifth and struck out two batters in the sixth around J.T. Realmuto’s double. Dillon Tate got ahead of Andrew McCutchen 0-2 and allowed a game-tying double, the quest for back-to-back shutouts vanishing.
Tate stranded a runner in the seventh, and Fernando Abad and Eric Hanhold combined for a scoreless eighth. Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells, working on back-to-back nights, retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out Ronald Torreyes to win an 11-pitch battle. The parade was gaining steam rather than losing it. But how much longer could it go?
Automatic runner Kelvin Gutiérrez scored with one out in the 10th on Austin Hays’ double against Ian Kennedy, but César Valdez, recalled today from Triple-A Norfolk and more than a month between major league appearances, allowed a two-out, two-run triple to Realmuto in the bottom half and the Phillies won 3-2 at Citizens Bank Park.
Valdez failed to earn his first save since May 10 and the Orioles fell to 48-103 overall and 1-53 when scoring two runs or fewer.
Hays and Trey Mancini, given an intentional walk, were stranded in the 10th. Torreyes stood at third base with one out in the bottom half and Valdez struck out Jean Segura, issued an intentional walk to Bryce Harper and watched Realmuto lined his walk-off triple into right field, just past Anthony Santander’s reach.
The 12 walk-off wins are the most for the Phillies since 2013.
“We had Valdez and (Brooks) Kriske left, and I would like to get Kriske a little bit better situation in his first outing with us, a 10th-inning situation,” Hyde said. “Went with Valdez, who’s done it before, and we’re a couple pitches away. But I didn’t want Harper to beat us there. Realmuto is an All-Star, superstar type player. Didn’t want him to beat us there as well. Just made pitches too close to the plate there on Realmuto with their pinch-hitter on deck.”
Ramón Urías, a late scratch from the lineup due to soreness in his right upper leg, pinch-hit for Diplán with two on and two outs in the fourth and lined a single up the middle to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. Adonis Medina, in his second major league start and third appearance, got into trouble by hitting Richie Martin and walking Gutiérrez, and Urías was the last batter he faced.
Harper greeted Abad in the eighth with a left-on-left double into the right field corner, moved to third base on Realmuto’s grounder and was thrown out at the plate on pinch-hitter Matt Vierling’s grounder to Pat Valaika. Hanhold induced a popup from McCutchen to carry the tie into the ninth.
Greene wasn’t going to last long as the opener, and he ran up his pitch count in the first inning on Odúbel Herrera’s leadoff single and two-out changeup that hit Realmuto. Herrera reached third base with one out after a wild pitch and ground ball, but Harper struck out and Greene followed the hit-by-pitch and Realmuto’s stolen base by striking out Brad Miller with the count full.
Fifteen strikes among 24 pitches and a seat on the bench.
Hyde went to his vulnerable bench in the top of the second with two runners on base, two outs and Greene due to bat. Ryan McKenna grounded into a force.
Chris Ellis, whose start is pushed back due to right arm fatigue, pinch-ran for Urías.
Mountcastle was on deck to bat for Eshelman in the sixth, but the reliever came to the plate with two on and two outs after Valaika singled for his second hit of the night and Gutiérrez reached on an error. Eshelman hit a dribbler in front of the plate and was thrown out.
With Hanhold due to bat in the ninth, Mountcastle pinch-hit with two outs and hit a foul popup.
Hyde said he was “very close” to using Mountcastle in the sixth.
“I pinch-hit him there if we’re down for sure, possibly tied,” Hyde said. “We never got into a double-switch situation until late in the game. I knew Mountcastle was going to come up potentially late in the game, and being just the sixth inning with the lead and trying to stretch Esh for one more inning, that was a tough call.”
Cedric Mullins didn’t crack the 30/30 club, but he lined a leadoff double into the right field corner for his 49th hit in the first inning, the most in the majors.
Medina drilled Hays in the lower back with a 92 mph fastball and Archie Bradley began warming just four pitches into the game.
The Orioles didn’t score. Santander lined out to left field and Mancini grounded into a double play.
More important than any at-bat was how Mancini reached the one-year mark of his final chemotherapy treatment.
Mullins apparently came within inches of hitting his 30th home run in the third inning. The ball appeared to nick the right field foul pole and the Orioles challenged the foul call, but it was upheld, forcing Mullins to settle for an infield single later in the at-bat.
No 30th home run and no 1-0 lead for the Orioles.
“We didn’t have a real good angle in our video room for that,” Hyde said, “so left it to New York to decide.”
Segura drew a four-pitch walk against Diplán with one out in the third and Harper singled, but Santander threw him out going for the double. Realmuto chased a high 95 mph fastball and Segura was stranded at third base.
Pedro Severino singled with one out in the eighth and Valaika grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
“We pitched extremely well,” Hyde said. “We had a tough time mustering much offense. We had an unusual situation three times with first and second, two outs and the pitcher’s spot. That doesn’t happen ever. So it was a challenging night.”
The Orioles began the night with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 5.70 and the Phillies were sixth from the bottom at 4.70. They just didn’t pitch like it.
“I think the mindset is pretty standard for most relievers, just going out there and trying to put up zeros,” said Wells, who’s pushing through fatigue in late September in his first 162-game season. “We all know that a lot of us are probably going to end up pitching, and we’re just trying to go out there and give our team the best shot to win the ballgame. It’s a tough loss tonight, but I think all the pitchers did very, very well. Unfortunately, it just didn’t go our way in that last inning.
“Whenever that phone rings, adrenaline kicks in for a lot of people and they’re just kind of waiting for their name to be called. I think that the mindset for a lot of the guys is just go out there and get outs. I think we all are pretty aware that even if you don’t have a starter or you do have a starter, every out of this game is important. We all definitely share the same mindset that we just have to go get outs, put up zeros and do the best that we can every time we get out there.”
Notes: Double-A Bowie opened the best-of-five Northeast Championship Series with a 5-1 loss to Akron at Prince George’s Stadium. Jordan Westburg hit a leadoff home run in the first inning and the Baysox didn’t have another hit.
Gray Fenter surrendered a two-run shot to catcher Bryan Lavastida in the fourth. Fenter allowed two runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings, walking two batters and striking out four.
Heston Kjerstad, the first-round pick in 2020 who hasn’t played in any games following his diagnosis of myocarditis, took batting practice today in Sarasota, Fla.
Kjerstad was cleared to resume light workouts in August.