NEW YORK—During Orioles manager Brandon Hyde’s pregame press conference, he fielded question after question about the Orioles’ playoff chase.
Hyde did his best to acknowledge that he follows the contending American League teams and caution that there are still many games to be played.
Things looked promising for the Orioles when they took a 5-1 lead over the Mets in the third inning, but New York chipped away and made several outstanding defensive plays. The biggest was a sensational game-turning play by Mets rightfielder Michael Conforto, whose improbable running and leaping catch prevented three Oriole runs in the sixth and kept New York in the game.
Pete Alonso homered on the first pitch from reliever Hunter Harvey in the eighth to break a 6-6 tie and send the Orioles to a 7-6 loss on Wednesday night at Citi Field, breaking their four-game winning streak.
The Orioles are 20-22, and trail the New York Yankees, who beat Toronto, 7-2, by 1 ½ games for the final playoff berth in the American League. They begin a four-game series with the Yankees on Thursday.
The Orioles had 14 hits, 12 singles, and left 13 runners on base.
DJ Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle each reached base in all five of their plate appearances. Mountcastle is hitting .383 in his first 60 at-bats and savoring being a part a postseason contender.
“It makes it a lot easier to play hard to go out there and try to win every day,” Mountcastle said in a postgame video conference. “When you’re trying to win, I think everybody’s going to play better.
“The last week or so, we’ve been playing really well. Seeing some other teams fall back a little bit, seeing how close we are, we’re definitely hungry for a playoff spot.”
Cedric Mullins led off the game with a single against Rick Porcello. He moved to second on José Iglesias’ infield out and scored on Renato Núñez’s bloop single. Stewart and Mountcastle followed with base hits. Mountcastle’s scored Núñez.
New York scored against Orioles starter Jorge López in the second when Dominic Smith led off with a double. Smith moved to third on Alonso’s single and scored on Jeff McNeil’s base hit.
The Orioles scored three in the third to take a 5-1 lead. Stewart hit an opposite-field roller to third base with one out, Mountcastle singled, and both scored on Rio Ruiz’s double, which extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
Ruiz’s double followed eight Oriole singles. Ruiz scored on Hanser Alberto’s single.
In the fourth, Alonso singled on an 0-2 pitch with two outs, and McNeil homered to left, his fourth in as many games. The Orioles lead was down to 5-3.
Stewart hit his fifth homer in four games in the fifth against left-handed Chasen Shreve. His first 11 career home runs came against right-handers.
After going hitless in his first 17 at-bats, Stewart is 8-for-13 with those five home runs.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen really anybody as hot as he is right now,” Mountcastle said. “It’s sort of insane, but last year at Triple-A, he had a really good month. I remember thinking, ‘He’s hot.’ Now, he’s on a whole other level.”
Porcello allowed five runs, four earned, on 10 hits in four innings.
Conforto homered against López with two outs in the fifth. Hyde pulled López after he walked J.D. Davis and replaced him with Paul Fry.
Smith greeted Fry with a single to right. Stewart fumbled the ball, allowing Davis to reach third. Davis scored on Robinson Canó’s single, which snapped an 0-for-19 streak, and the Orioles’ lead was 6-5.
López worked 4 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits.
“I had a good plan,” López said through a translator. “Unfortunately, I was not able to execute today, too many mistakes, credit to the opposing hitters. They did a good job against me.”
Conforto prevented the Orioles from extended their lead to 9-5 in the sixth when they loaded the bases on two outs when Núñez walked, and Stewart and Mountcastle were hit by pitches by Mets right-hander Jared Hughes.
Against Justin Wilson, Ruiz sent a long drive to deep right that Conforto ran down and leaped for, snaring the ball in the web of his glove and securing it at the fence.
“The play that Conforto made had to be one of the best plays of the year, especially in that spot,” Hyde said.
“We definitely left runners on base, but I thought we took good at-bats again. I wish we could have pushed a couple more across, but give credit to the Mets, the defense they played. That was an outstanding defense effort that stopped a bunch of rallies and saved a bunch of runs.”
Andrés Giménez homered against Fry to tie it at 6 with one out in the sixth.
In the eighth, Stewart reached on a walk against Jeurys Familia. Mountcastle singled, and pinch-runner Mason Williams advanced to third and stayed there as Ruiz grounded back to Familia to end the inning.
Honoring Clemente: Besides López, infielder Andrew Velazquez, third base coach José Flores and assistant hitting coach José Hernandez wore No. 21 on Roberto Clemente Day.
“On the way here, on the bus, I had to look up some of the numbers and reassure just how good he is,” Velazquez said. “Fifteen-time All-Star, -time Gold Glove. Crazy numbers, 3,000 hits, and to be that type of player and be as humble as he was off the field, amazing.”
Coming up: Keegan Akin will face Gerrit Cole in the opener of the four-game series at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles haven’t decided on their other pitchers while the Yankees have scheduled Masahiro Tanaka, Jordan Montgomery and J.A. Happ.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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