In critical inning, control eluded O’s hurlers in New York

For 31 innings to start the 2021 season, Orioles pitchers were throwing a lot of strikes. But in the fifth inning tonight, they didn’t at Yankee Stadium. And it led to their first loss of the year.

Right-hander Jorge López was mostly rolling through four innings tonight, just about matching Yankees lefty Jordan Montgomery in a pitchers’ duel. It was 1-0 Yankees in the opener of a three-game series.

Aaron Judge hit a 344-foot homer - a Yankee Stadium special - to right field on a 2-0 fastball in the fourth as New York moved ahead 1-0. Their next homer would not be a cheap one.

The Orioles’ 3-0 run to begin the new season ended as they got shut out 7-0 by New York tonight at Yankee Stadium to begin the series.

López was at 55 pitches with five strikeouts through four innings. But he walked Jay Bruce to start the fifth. He was erased on a fielder’s choice grounder and when No. 9 hitter Clint Frazier grounded to third, López was an out away of wrapping up the fifth down 1-0.

Instead, the roof caved in on him and the Orioles.

He walked leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu and Judge on five pitches each to load the bases with two outs. O’s manager Brandon Hyde called for right-hander Shawn Armstrong, who missed the Boston series while on the paternity leave list. He rejoined the team Sunday, temporarily going on the injured list while he underwent intake. He was activated before today’s game and Cole Sulser was optioned to the Bowie alternate site.

This was a tough spot for a pitcher who had not thrown in a game since spring training. He faced switch-hitter Aaron Hicks. Armstrong didn’t get a call on a close 2-2 pitch just off the outside corner and then walked in a run on a 3-2 pitch.

It was 2-0 with the bases still loaded and the Orioles very much still in the game. But not for much longer.

Armstrong Allows Slam to Stanton Sidebar.jpgAn 0-1 fastball at 92 mph found the middle of the plate and Giancarlo Stanton crushed it. Absolutely crushed it. With an exit velocity of 115 mph, the ball traveled 471 feet to left-center, deep into the New York night.

It was 6-0 Yankees in the last of the fifth.

The Orioles walked six batters in the first three games and first four innings. And then walked four in a fateful fifth tonight.

There was a pitching highlight, however, when Rule 5 pick Mac Sceroler made his big league debut in a very, very tough spot. And then got out of it.

After LeMahieu’s RBI single off Paul Fry made it 7-0 in the sixth, Sceroler came in to face Judge with the bases loaded and one out. Sceroler threw him eight straight fastballs, getting a called third strike on No. 8 at 94 mph. He then got Hicks to pop out and got out the inning. That was some escape act. In Yankee Stadium with the bases loaded. A nice moment for Birdland and his uncle, Ben McDonald, watching at home.

Sceroler would pitch 2 2/3 scoreless innings on 48 pitches. According to Statcast, he got 11 whiffs on 20 swings, including on all seven of his splitters. Seven swings and seven misses. Nice debut.

But otherwise the O’s didn’t do much right after the early innings.

Lefty Jordan Montgomery threw six scoreless innings on four hits with seven strikeouts. The O’s were blanked after scoring 18 runs and batting .304 in Boston.

In Game 2 of this series on Tuesday night, right-hander Dean Kremer (1-1, 4.82 ERA in 2020) faces right-hander Gerrit Cole (0-0, 3.38 ERA in 2021).

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