BALTIMORE—The Orioles continue to take baby steps in their long rebuild. After a 5-4 road trip, they lost the first two games of a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays and were outscored, 16-4.
In the final two games, they won taut contests that featured gutty late-inning relief performances.
On Sunday, after having a four-run lead in the seventh, they held on for a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays.
Shawn Armstrong picked up his fourth save of the year, allowing singles to Vladimir Guerrero and Randal Grichuk, a new Orioles tormentor and an old one. Armstrong struck out three.
Guerrero was 3-for-5 on Sunday and 10-for-17 in the four-game series. Grichuk, who’s hitting just .236 this season, is a lifetime .370 hitter against the Orioles.
Since June 28, the Orioles are 16-15 and their record is 38-73, putting them 21 games ahead of last year’s pace when they didn’t win their 38th game until the season’s 132nd game.
“We sure have played a lot of close games,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“I would love to have a 10-2 game one time. I think we stick together in the dugout real well. I don’t think guys give away at-bats. Our bullpen has done a nice job for the most part holding on to a lead, which is really important, obviously. And we’ve been scoring some more runs. We’re getting some more experience and some guys are improving.”
The Orioles took a 4-1 lead in the first two sloppy innings. Jimmy Yacabonis opened for the Orioles and after three batters, loaded the bases. Guerrero smashed a ball to Chris Davis at first, who fired home for a force out on Bo Bichette.
Justin Smoak flied to left, and Anthony Santander threw to third, where Lourdes Gurriel was tagged out ahead of Cavan Biggio scoring.
“I tried to anticipate the play,” Santander said through a translator. “I had it in my mind before it happened. First and second, a deep fly ball to left field. There’s a good chance that the runner from second is going to advance. I was thinking of making the throw, making an accurate throw, and I did, and we got the out.”
Yacabonis wasn’t anticipating the play.
“I was backing up home plate because I just figured he’d throw to the cut and then I saw him take off and they waved off the run at home, so I was pretty stoked about that,” Yacabonis said.
Santander quickly attracted the admiration of 4,000 Scouts from the United Kingdom, who began cheering and chanting for him.
“I tried to respond back with balls and just clapping and smiling,” Santander said. “It was an unbelievable experience.”
Toronto starter Sean Reid-Foley walked three of his first four batters, but Trey Mancini’s double play kept the Orioles from a big inning. Jace Peterson’s pop to short left dropped in, scoring Santander, but Peterson was tagged out trying for second.
Yacabonis was relieved by Tom Eshelman, an inning ahead of schedule. Teoscar Hernandez’s run-scoring single tied the score.
Chance Sisco singled with one out in the second, and Davis walked. With runners on second and third and two outs, Jonathan Villar grounded to short, but Bichette booted it, allowing Sisco to score. Mancini doubled to left, scoring Davis and Villar, and the Orioles led, 4-1, after two.
Leading 4-2, the Orioles scored two runs as rookie Yennsy Diaz walked four batters, including two with the bases loaded, giving the Orioles a 6-2 lead after five.
The Orioles walked a season high nine times.
Eshelman allowed consecutive home runs to Bichette and Biggio to begin the seventh. It’s the ninth straight game the Orioles have allowed multiple home runs in a game, matching a major league record.
In his sixth major league appearance, Eshelman allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings and recorded his first win.
“Everything was working for me throughout the first couple innings and some bleeders came in and they capitalized on that,” Eshelman said. “But to be able to do that with this group of guys, it’s pretty special. And although the record doesn’t show it, it’s a great clubhouse to be a part of.”
Dillon Tate replaced him with a 6-4 lead. He threw two wild pitches, and barely escaped the inning with the Orioles leading, 6-5.
Tate left runners on second and third after he struck out Teoscar Hernandez and got Brandon Drury on a fly to left.
After the game, Tate was sent to Triple-A Norfolk. In three appearances with the Orioles, Tate had an 10.50 ERA. He was promoted from Double-A Bowie. This will be his first stint in Triple-A
“I put him in a tough spot, facing the meat of their order in the seventh inning,” Hyde said. “He did a nice job pitching out of it, minimizing damage and getting a big punch-out with a runner on third base with one out and leaving the runner stranded. Good experience for him.”.
Givens’ role: Mychal Givens is Hyde’s choice to face tough opposing hitters.
This season, Givens has pitched better in the eighth inning than in the ninth. In the eighth, opponents are hitting just .137 (7-for-51) against Givens. In the ninth, they’re hitting .250 (24-for-96) with seven home runs. He’s retired all six batters he’s faced in the seventh.
“I do feel Mike turns it up against premier hitters,” Hyde said. “He gives a little extra when he’s facing [them]. I don’t know if it’s the inning or what it is. I feel like Mike’s our best kid against their best hitters.”
On Saturday night, Hyde used Givens to get the last out of the seventh and because Vladimir Guerrero was due to lead off the eighth, he wanted him there, too.
“I think going forward, it’s going to be the same sort of thing,” Hyde said. When [Aaron] Judge and the big boys come up, Mike’s probably going to pitch that inning.”
Givens was not used on Sunday.