Few games this season have started so well for the Orioles on offense. They had a 5-1 lead in the third inning after Hanser Alberto singled in a run. To that point in the game, they were 10-for-16 at bat and 5-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Well, we didn’t know then that the Orioles would go 0-for-7 with RISP the rest of that game and score just one more run. It opened the door for a New York Mets comeback and they beat the Orioles 7-6 at Citi Field.
Right-hander Jorge López gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings as the recent run of O’s good starting pitching came to at least a one-night halt. Pete Alonso’s homer in the eighth off Hunter Harvey broke a 6-all tie.
But the biggest play was the great catch in right field by Michael Conforto when he robbed Rio Ruiz in the O’s sixth. The bases were loaded with two outs and the O’s lead had been cut to 6-5. That ball was headed for the wall, and with two outs probably unloads the bases, providing a 9-5 lead.
But it didn’t happen and now it’s on to the Bronx for four big games.
Here are the stakes. The Yankees (22-21) ended a five-game losing streak Wednesday night and lead the O’s (20-22) by 1 1/2 games for the No. 8 American League playoff spot. If the O’s go 3-1 or better, they will leave New York leading the Yankees for a playoff spot.
Lefty Keegan Akin, who pitched so well versus New York on Saturday, faces them and right-hander Gerrit Cole again. The O’s scored five runs in the sixth that night and beat Cole and New York 6-1.
How will the team respond after a tough loss last night and how will Akin respond facing the same team five days later?
It is going to be a fascinating weekend in the Bronx.
Elias talks prospects: If O’s fans needed any reminding, they got some this week from Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. That is that seeing prospects come up like Ryan Mountcastle, Akin and Dean Kremer and have instant success is not the norm.
But on the “Inside the Yard” podcast with O’s broadcasters Geoff Arnold and Brett Hollander, Elias was asked if it is validation for the O’s player development program and what has been going on this year in Bowie.
“I think it’s a validation of the players and the work that they’ve put in,” said Elias. “We’re not going to see this every time. Usually, even extremely good prospects who end up having great careers will come up and struggle. That is typically the case. But I do think these guys are good and they’ve put in a lot of work. Both in the minor leagues last year and at Bowie, our alternate training site this year, knowing that they were getting ready and they were getting close.
“We’ve had some good timing and some good fortune with the way that we prepared them and timing the moves. But it speaks to their confidence in themselves to just come right up and really go right at people. Especially the pitchers, and I mean that even for Mountcastle, too. We just haven’t seen any apprehension from these guys and it’s impressive because that’s usually not the case.”
Elias admits to one surprise from Mountcastle and it’s not how productive his bat has been.
“I think the thing that has probably been the most surprising is how well he’s running,” he said. “This is a big young, gangly guy, and last year, he was still coming into his body. And when he showed up in Sarasota this spring, he was noticeably more coordinated and put together. You forget how young this guy is - he was 22 last year. And he had been going through growth spurts and his coordination and overall athleticism really kicked into a higher gear this year.
“The swing decisions have been very impressive. He’s a very natural hitter, so I’m not surprised that he’s figuring out how to pick his pitch a little bit better. We’ll see, the league is going to adjust to him and develop a book on him. That is kind of the next step when you come up and have success is that second time through, that second year in the big leagues. But he’s doing a good job in left field and is doing everything we ask of him and he’s a great kid.”
According to Statcast, Mountcastle ranks in the 81st percentile in the majors in sprint speed, meaning he’s in the top 19 percent. On the Orioles in sprint speed (feet per second), he ranks tied for third.
No game tonight: Tonight’s scheduled series opener against the Yankees in New York has been rained out. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Friday beginning at 4:05 p.m. Both games will be seven innings.