As the Orioles were preparing for their game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, they received news that the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds voted not to play their game to voice their protest against the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin last weekend.
The Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners-San Diego Padres games also were postponed.
These actions came after three NBA playoff games weren’t played on Wednesday night. Games also weren’t played in the WNBA and Major League Soccer.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said he spoke with the Orioles’ Black players before the game, but none voiced an objection to playing.
The Orioles lost their second straight at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, 4-3, to the Rays and finished the first half of the 60-game season with a 14-16 record. The Rays’ Michael Perez broke a 3-3 tie with an eighth-inning home run against Mychal Givens.
Hyde said the Brewers-Reds postponement news came less than a half-hour before the 6:40 p.m. start time.
“We had players already out on the field when we were hearing what was going on,” Hyde said in a video conference call. “I met with our African-American players along with people who travel with us and I wanted to hear their thoughts.”
Hyde concluded his discussion with the players, including leadoff batter Cedric Mullins, about 12 minutes before game time.
“We did talk a little bit about it in a small group,” he said.
Hyde said he and the players would discuss it more extensively before Thursday’s scheduled game.
“It was such a rush before the game,” he said. “I would have loved to address it before the entire team. There were already people on the field. I wanted to make sure I talked to all the African Americans that are in our clubhouse and see what their thoughts were, see if they had heard what was going on first, then talk about it, and get their thoughts and opinions. We just had a great conversation. We have some high-character clubhouse guys that are very thoughtful … We’ll continue to talk about it as a team, probably [Thursday.]”
The Orioles have four Black players on their 28-man roster — Mullins, Givens, relief pitcher Dillon Tate and outfielder Mason Williams. They also have a Black first base coach, Anthony Sanders, and a trainer, Patrick Wesley.
No one expressed reservations about playing, Hyde said.
The play on the field was sloppy and lackluster, particularly in the early innings. Hyde concurred with the idea that the day’s events could have affected the quality of the game.
“Very possibly, there was a lot going on,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are bigger than our game right now.
“It was a lot of looking at your phone, watching the news on TV and seeing what’s going on. It definitely could have played a part for some. I can totally understand why …”
Major League Baseball issued a statement supporting the actions of the players in the three postponed games:
“Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight. Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice.”
Hyde said that there’s a possibility that Orioles players might not want to play on Thursday.
“I have no idea, no idea, and I will support them in whatever they want to do,” he said.
Mullins, who said he participated in peaceful protests in Newport News, Virginia after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, said that he sympathized with the teams and players who boycotted the game.
“I fully support those teams and individual players that decided to not play today,” he said. “My support for them goes beyond just playing a game because I know why they’re standing up for what they believe in.”
Mullins, who was 2-for-4, said it was difficult to concentrate on the game.
“It was tough,” he said. “Before the game, after having the discussion, I felt frustration, sadness for Blake and his family and his community. It was definitely hard to push through.
Givens gives up winning run: Perez’s eighth inning-home run broke a 3-3 tie. Givens has historically dominated right-handed hitters (.183) and had less success against left-handers (.254).
Perez, a left-handed hitter, hit his first home run of the season and the second of his career. Givens was 2-for-10 against left-handed hitters before Perez’s homer.
Wojciechowski’s night: Orioles starter Asher Wojciechowski allowed three runs on four hits in four-plus innings. Wojciechowski walked three and struck out three.
He allowed a two-run home run to Brandon Lowe, his 10th of the season and his sixth in 18 games against the Orioles, in the third.
“Just not my best night,” Wojciechowski said. “I didn’t have my best stuff.”
Orioles’ offense struggles against bullpen: Trevor Richards allowed two unearned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, but the Orioles had just two hits in the last 4 2/3 against four Rays relievers.
Ryan Sherriff got the win and Diego Castillo the save.
Ryan Mountcastle got two more hits and is hitting .375.
Iglesias, Severino nearing returns: Shortstop José Iglesias was eligible to return Wednesday from the injured list where he’s been rehabbing a sore left quadriceps muscle.
“You can see the kind of club we are when he’s in the lineup and when he’s not in the lineup,” Hyde said.
“He did some stuff earlier today, ran bases, took ground balls, he is very close. I think that’s going to be a tomorrow or the next day decision if he responds well to the work he put in today.”
Catcher Pedro Severino hasn’t played since Sunday when he left the game with tightness in his right hip flexor.
“He is much improved,” Hyde said. “He’s still day-to-day, and we’re hoping in the next day or two to have him in there. To get him and Iglesias back in the lineup, that’s a big deal, and that’s important. We’re a lot deeper with those guys taking at-bats. We’re hoping to have both of those guys back very shortly.”
Akin in bullpen: The Orioles have to replace Wade LeBlanc in the starting rotation when his turn comes up on Saturday. Hyde probably will not turn to Keegan Akin, who was recalled on Tuesday.
“I’m in a ‘win now’ mode right now,” Hyde said before the game.
“For us, right now, Keegan fits in the bullpen best,” Hyde said. “I might not use him as a long guy. I might use him as a one-inning guy here, too. Long-term, is he a rotation piece? Is he a long guy? That’s something that we’ll find out, but at this moment right now, I’m going to try to win games and utilize Keegan the best way we can.”
Akin retired the only batter he faced on Wednesday.
“I feel like putting him in the bullpen right now,” Hyde said. “I’m not sacrificing development in his case. He’s getting a taste in the big leagues.
“That doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a starter or a long reliever down the road. We’re in just a little bit different scenario right now. We’re hovering around .500.
“Our team has stayed competitive. I’m trying to win as many games as possible and, in Keegan’s case, I’m not sacrificing him by pitching him four innings out of the ‘pen, giving him a start or two innings out of the bullpen. I’m don’t feel like I’m sacrificing his development because this year is different, anyways. He’s already been built. He did a nice job with getting him in starter routine through summer camp, and he’s thrown quite a bit of innings. This is just a different year.”