BALTIMORE—Orioles manager Brandon Hyde decided to experiment with the opener technique on Friday night, and it worked out splendidly.
After giving reliever Richard Bleier his first start in the major leagues, Hyde turned to starter Aaron Brooks for relief in the third inning.
Brooks allowed just a run and a hit in the final seven innings as the Orioles beat the Seattle Mariners, 5-3
The win broke the Orioles’ latest four-game losing streak and was their 50th this season. They’re 50-104 with eight games remaining.
Brooks allowed a leadoff double to Kyle Lewis in the fourth. Lewis eventually scored, but Brooks was untouchable after that, walking one and striking out four.
It was Brooks’ longest outing since he threw 7 1/3 innings on August 1, 2015, and the longest relief outing for an Oriole since Arthur Rhodes pitched seven innings in relief of Mike Mussina on July 13, 1995.
“We just kind of took a flyer,” Hyde said.
“I knew there was going to be a stack of lefties so we decided to pitch a left-hander to start the game and let him sit for a couple of innings and then come in the game and it worked out really well.
“I feel bad for Rich. He made one bad pitch and threw the ball OK. And then Aaron was in command from the beginning in his outing and looked under control and really threw the ball well.”
Brooks has had mixed results as a starter. He allowed nine runs in three innings on August 10 in the Orioles’ 23-2 loss over Houston. On August 27, against the Nationals, he gave up two hits in six scoreless innings to key a 2-0 win.
“That was just a fantastic performance, and we played great defense behind him,” Hyde said. “That’s the name of the game, pitching and defense. It’s been a little bit of a struggle for us, but we showed up tonight in that way.”
In the first, Bleier allowed a two-run home run to Kyle Lewis, who became just the fourth player in baseball history to hit six home runs in his first 10 games.
“I thought it was interesting,” Bleier said.“I tried to treat it as much of a relief outing as I could. I went out there pretty late, just threw my normal pitches that I do before I come in the game and went in the dugout.
“I don’t think that it was different. I felt like I was making comparative pitches the same. It was another outing. Just didn’t execute one pitch, and he hit a two-run homer off me.”
Seattle’s 2-0 lead was short-lived because the first four batters Mariners starter Felix Hernandez faced scored. Jonathan Villar led off with a single. Trey Mancini walked, and Anthony Santander hit his 20th home run of the season, becoming the fourth Oriole to do that. Villar, Mancini and Renato Nunez are the others.
Rio Ruiz doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Austin Hays’ grounder to third base.
Brooks pitched a spotless third. In the fourth, Lewis doubled, moved to third on an infield out and scored after Hanser Alberto made an outstanding stop on Austin Nola’s ground ball.
Alberto followed that play with his 12th home run in the bottom of the fourth and a diving stop on Dylan Moore’s pop to short right in the top of the fifth.
“Obviously, the defense did a heck of a job tonight picking me up and that helps us pitchers stay out there for longer,” Brooks said. “That was probably what was able to keep me in the game longer was making those plays, and I just tried to stay focused. I felt like I had some decent stuff tonight.”
Brooks retired his final 13 straight, with a big assist from Hays, who made a diving catch on Omar Narvaez’s sinking liner with one out in the ninth.
“That was major league defense tonight,” Hyde said. “That was nice to see. Alberto with a few nice plays and Hays with another great play in the big spot in the ninth inning. That ball lands, anything can happen. Situation changes a little bit with the tying run at the plate, so it was a huge play.”
Brooks acknowledged that there was a difference between starting and being the “featured” or “bulk” pitcher.
“You have more time throughout the day on your start days,” Brooks said. “But I just tried to keep my head in the game and whenever they called down there be ready to pitch.”
Hernandez, in what is expected to be his penultimate start in his distinguished Mariners career, allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings.