Wells fed leadoff hitter Kiké Hernández a fastball and it landed in the left field seats. An immediate deficit against a team in the thick of the wild card race.
One bad fastball didn’t spoil the whole start.
Wells worked a career-high six innings, and retired 10 of 11 batters and 16 of 18. Ryan Mountcastle hit his 33rd home run of the season, a three-run shot in the third inning, and the Orioles defeated the Red Sox 6-2 before an announced crowd of 13,012 at Camden Yards.
Tyler Nevin collected his first major league RBIs with a two-run single off Garrett Richards in the sixth, and the Orioles improved to 52-107 overall and 6-13 against the Red Sox, who threw four wild pitches on the night.
“It was awesome,” said Nevin, who played his first game in Baltimore. “It was great to be able to come through in that moment. It’s just fun when the games really matter. We’re out of it, but we can still have an effect on how the season goes.”
Nevin also helped his father, Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin, whose team is jockeying for wild card position.
“We kind of joked about it,” Tyler said. “I told him I got called up again and he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you try to help us out a little bit.’ I said, ‘If I get in there I’ll do my best.’ I’m sure we’ll talk about it later, especially if they hold on later tonight. It will be funny.”
Mountcastle’s home run against Nick Pivetta came one pitch after a disputed third strike call on Cedric Mullins, who argued with plate umpire Manny González. Nevin drew a leadoff walk, moved to second base on a wild pitch and took third on Pat Valaika’s single. Valaika raced to second on a pitch in the dirt, but Jahmai Jones and Mullins struck out to nearly extinguish the rally.
Instead, the major league’s rookie leader in home runs undressed a 95 mph fastball.
The 33 homers are tied for the ninth-most by an American League rookie in a single season.
Trey Mancini led off the sixth with a single, Kelvin Gutiérrez continued his impressive month with a single, the runners moved up on a wild pitch and Nevin singled into left field - pumping his fist on his way to first base. Nevin moved to second on Alex Verdugo’s throwing error and to third on another wild pitch, and Valaika’s sacrifice fly increased the lead to 6-1.
The Orioles went 27-54 at home this season, the fewest wins in the majors. The Diamondbacks are 30-48.
“We had no idea what to expect this year coming off last year, being such an unusual year,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Great to have fans back in the stands, great to play a full schedule. We obviously have a long way to go, but there’s some special things that happened for me with the team this year. Got some individual performances, young players that we’re excited about going forward.
“In a tough year we had some bright spots, which was exciting.”
Starting pitching is going to be the No. 1 priority again as the Orioles shift into offseason mode. They’ve been providing opportunities to their prospects, including Bruce Zimmermann, Zac Lowther and Wells the last three nights. They will attempt to pull a few veterans from the free agent market and engage in trade talks.
“A lot of them are still so early in their careers and this is a tough division to evaluate starting pitching,” Hyde said, “just because the lineups that you face are the premiere offensive lineups in the game.”
Cue the Red Sox, who tend to feast on inexperienced arms. They especially like their pitchers raw.
Wells threw 20 pitches in the first inning, walking Xander Bogaerts with one out and allowing a single to Rafael Devers before escaping the jam. He retired the side in order in the second on 13 pitches and Kyle Schwarber’s single with one out in the third was followed by a 4-3 double play on Bogaerts’ ground ball.
That began a streak of eight players retired in a row before Schwarber walked with one out in the sixth.
“I thought to escape that first inning only giving up that one run, that was an enormous key to the game,” Hyde said. “He looked a little nervous to me. The command was spotty. I thought he threw too many fastballs, he was kind of up in the zone a little bit, maybe he was over-excited. But once he got through that first inning, his pitch mix was so much better the rest of his outing. He was using his changeup more, he was using a good slider more, he was dumping in some breaking balls there early in the count. So I thought he started pitching better after that first inning.
“That team’s got a lot to play for and they came out swinging the bat right away and he did a great job of settling down and settling in once he got through that first inning.”
“It’s fun to watch him pitch when he’s on,” Nevin said. “He doesn’t light up radar gun, but it’s fun to watch him carve up hitters and just watch them turn away like, ‘How did that happen?’ “
Wells allowed one run and three hits, with two walks and two strikeouts, and left after 80 pitches. He kept getting ground balls - six straight beginning with Bogaerts’ double play.
“It’s huge to finish up like that and take some confidence into the offseason,” Wells said. “It’s fun. It’s good to take into the offseason and take it into spring training next year and get ready to roll.
“I knew they were in the hunt and I wanted to go out there and compete to the best of my ability, to go out and put a good outing together and I did that. It’s incredible.”
Wells gave himself a little pep talk after his brief encounter with Hernández.
“The first pitch obviously getting hit for a home run is never good, but just to get back into the zone, go compete,” Wells said. “It was only the first pitch, so plenty of game left, just go out there and compete with all my stuff.”
The Orioles tried to pad the lead for Wells. Gutiérrez was stranded after a two-out single in the fourth. Valaika led off the fifth with a double and Mountcastle was given an intentional walk with two outs before reliever Ryan Brasier entered the game.
Austin Hays grounded into a force. He singled with two outs in the seventh and was caught stealing.
Mullins struck out in each of his first three at-bats to tie his season high.
Joey Krehbiel allowed his first major league run in his seventh appearance. J.D. Martinez led off the seventh inning with a double, the ball deflecting off Mullins’ glove, and later scored on a wild pitch to reduce the lead to 6-2.
Dillon Tate induced a double play grounder from Bogaerts to end the eighth.
Cole Sulser stranded Renfroe in the ninth inning for his ninth scoreless outing in a row and 12th in 13 appearances.
“I just really want not stay competitive through the rest of the year, knowing going into September we were going to face a lot of teams that were going to be in playoff contention and playing must-win type of games,” Hyde said. “I thought it was going to be a great experience for our guys. We just threw three extremely young, inexperienced left-handed starters against the Boston Red Sox and they’re in a playoff race and we won two out of three, and all three were really good starts. So I’m really encouraged by that.
“We’ve pitched extremely well the last 10 days to two weeks and that’s the name of the game for me. We’ve got to improve our pitching and these last couple weeks we’ve pitched well and stayed in so many games. ... I’m encouraged by how competitive our guys were and how we answered tonight and beat a good club.”
The Orioles announced their season attendance at 793,230.