The zeros on the night finally ended in the Baltimore seventh. But up until then, Texas right-hander Jordan Lyles was keeping the Orioles off the board. And to that point, four O’s pitchers were doing the same.
Then the O’s struck with the bottom of their order doing the damage as they beat Texas 3-2, and they’ve taken two of the first three in this four-game series. The Orioles improved to 4-2 versus Texas, 9-15 in September and 50-105 on the year.
Lyles, who entered at 9-12 with a 5.36 ERA, held the O’s scoreless through six innings on 79 pitches.
But he walked Trey Mancini, who took some close pitches to reach first with one out in the seventh. Then Pat Valaika, batting sixth, drilled a 3-2 slider into the left-field corner and Mancini came around to score the game’s first run for the 1-0 lead. After pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins grounded out, third baseman Kelvin Gutiérrez produced his first Orioles homer for a 3-0 lead.
Gutiérrez got a high fastball on an 0-2 pitch and hit the 94 mph heater out to right. It just made it to the top of the grounds crew shed for homer No. 1 with Baltimore in his 127th plate appearance with the club. It was his second homer this year, his first coming with Kansas City. And it was his third major league home run in his 360th plate appearance.
But the three-run lead didn’t survive one batter.
Batting ninth, Texas catcher Jose Trevino homered off Brooks Kriske and it was 3-1 on No. 4 for Trevino. That denied the Orioles what would have been a third shutout over the last six games.
The Orioles missed some scoring chances early on tonight. Ryan McKenna started the game with a double to left and Ryan Mountcastle was hit by a pitch. But a lineout and double play followed. The Orioles grounded into another double play versus Lyles in the second.
In the third, the inning ended with a runner cut down at the plate. Gutiérrez led off the inning with a ground single to left, advanced to second on a groundout and to third on McKenna’s infield single. Mountcastle then lined a ball into center field. Leody Taveras ran the ball down and fired home as Gutiérrez tagged and tried to score. He was tagged out at the plate as he went in standing up and failed to slide. It was a very close play, and the out call was confirmed after a video replay review.
Through the fifth the O’s had four hits but no runs versus Lyles, who was at 62 pitches.
The Orioles were 90 feet from breaking the scoreless tie with one out in the sixth, but didn’t get the run in. Catcher Nick Ciuffo, playing his first game with the team, led off the frame and doubled down the third-base line. McKenna’s grounder to the right side advanced him to third. But Lyles fanned Mountcastle and Austin Hays with nasty sliders and his pitch count reached 79 through the sixth, which ended with a 0-0 score.
The Orioles have been struggling to score runs recently, scoring three runs or fewer in 10 of 13 games coming into tonight. They had scored eight runs the first two games of this series and 42 runs in those 13 games.
Orioles starting pitcher Chris Ellis was making his first start since Sept. 16 due to a bout of arm fatigue. And possibly because of that he was limited to three innings tonight. He kept Texas off the board on two hits. He walked one, fanned two and threw 46 pitches, 28 for strikes. He lowered his ERA to 2.15 overall and to 2.49 with the Orioles.
Righty Dillon Tate fanned Adolis García on a slider to end the Texas eighth with the Orioles leading by two runs. Tate allowed a leadoff homer in the ninth to Nathaniel Lowe and a two-out walk, but he got the third out for his third save of the year.
Hays was hitless on the night when he doubled in the eighth to extend his hitting streak to 11.
The O’s will try to take the series finale on Sunday afternoon when lefty John Means (6-7, 3.25 ERA) faces right-hander Dane Dunning (5-9, 4.34 ERA).
Manager Brandon Hyde on the win: “Yeah, we had quite a few guys down today, so it was going to be a game of a lot guys that we just acquired that are new to us. Really impressed with how they pitched. They did a great job. Kind of pieced it together there. Kriske did a nice job, Krehbiel did a nice job. You know, Diplán two huge innings, did a really nice job out of the ‘pen. Pitched extremely well, threw a lot of strikes. Could have done without the two-out walk in the ninth, but you know, really pleased with how we pitched tonight.
“Guti with a huge homer. Opposite-field homer. Go back to that inning though. Started with a Trey Mancini walk, which everybody knows I’m really into. And then Valaika with a great at-bat on the double down the line, led to the Guti homer. Lot of good stuff tonight.”
Hyde on Ellis pitching just three innings: “He left with a little bit of arm fatigue. So, we’re not sure exactly. We’re going to kind of see how he feels the next couple of days. I loved the way he threw the first couple of innings. Mid-90s fastball with a really good breaking ball tonight. Little bit of arm fatigue there after the third inning, so kind of cut his outing a little bit short and made us go to the bullpen little bit early.”
Gutiérrez on his homer, through team translator Ramon Alarcon: “It felt great. I was anxious to hit one with the Orioles, so finally I’m able to hit one. And hopefully, let’s get some more.
“I know the power is there. I just need to make a few adjustments. But I really know that the power is there, and with this opportunity it’s just a matter of adjustments.”
Gutiérrez on getting to play every day with the O’s: “I see this as a huge opportunity for me. This is something I’ve been working at pretty hard. So, now its time for me to work hard at and try to take advantage of this situation.”