The ninth inning began perfectly for the Orioles. Cedric Mullins, who earlier in the day had been named to his first All-Star team and tied the game with a pinch-hit single in the sixth, put the Orioles ahead with his 15th home run. It appeared to be a storybook ending for Mullins and the Orioles.
However, the Orioles ruined the ending. Reliever Cole Sulser allowed four consecutive batters to reach in the bottom of the ninth, the last of whom drove in two runs to give the Los Angeles Angels a walkoff win and a three-game sweep of the Orioles. The Angels also had a walkoff victory on Friday night when Shohei Ohtani scored the winning run.
The Orioles’ bullpen had pitched four hitless innings before Sulser blew up in the ninth.
Sulser walked José Iglesias to the start the inning. Sulser got Kurt Suzuki to hit a ground ball, but shortstop Ramón Urías was playing Suzuki to pull and the ball went through the middle. José Rojas then picked up two strikes trying to bunt before hitting a single to load the bases. Juan Lagares doubled to right-center to score Iglesias and Suzuki.
“Sulser had been pitching pretty well for us,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He had a tough time in the ninth inning. He walks Iglesias. Iglesias doesn’t walk. That can’t happen, and then got hit after that.”
Mullins, who received more votes on the players’ All-Star ballots than any other outfielder, had a day he’ll remember even if it didn’t end in triumph. He hit what appeared to be the game-winning homer off reliever Rasiel Iglesias (6-3), who was pitching for the third straight game.
“It was an All-Star performance,” Hyde said. “Got a day off, comes in, pinch-hits in the sixth, huge hit for us, and then he’s facing an elite closer, and homers for us in the ninth inning. It’s a game we should have won.
“I’m really proud of our guys, how we battled back, our hitters. I thought we did some nice things on the mound until that ninth inning. Got the lead, didn’t hold up.”
The Orioles (27-57) ended the 10-day road trip with a 4-6 record.
“This has been a tough road trip for us, facing the lineups that we had,” said Thomas Eshelman, Sunday’s starting pitcher. “We’ve shown that we can fight and hang with these teams. It’s going to be nice to return to Baltimore, but we fought and we were in every single game of this road trip. It was nice to see.”
The Orioles loaded the bases in the first when Patrick Sandoval walked Ryan McKenna, Ryan Mountcastle and Urías, but DJ Stewart struck out on a 3-2 pitch with two outs.
David Fletcher led off the bottom of the first with a double, extending his hitting streak to 18 games. After Ohtani struck out, Jared Walsh doubled to score Fletcher. With two outs, Phil Gosselin singled against Eshelman to score Walsh, and the Angels led, 2-0.
In the third, Ohtani hit his major league-leading 31st home run and third in the series. After Walsh flied to center, Anthony Rendon homered, and the Orioles trailed, 4-0.
“I didn’t bury that slider that he hit out,” Eshelman said about Ohtani’s home run. “I got him the first time around. He’s a special player. He’s definitely a special player in this league right now. He’s doing things that have never been done before. For me to face that type of player is fun, but at the same time, I wish I had that pitch back and got it in the dirt.”
Ohtani, who is the first player in Major League Baseball history to be named to the All-Star team as a position player and a pitcher, homered twice on Friday night.
Eshelman allowed four runs on seven hits in four innings.
The Orioles scored four runs in the sixth to tie it at 4.
Austin Hays led off with an infield single and Trey Mancini walked. Aaron Slegers replaced Sandoval, who gave up two runs on two hits in five-plus innings.
After Mountcastle lined out to left, Urias doubled to score Hays. Stewart doubled to right, bringing in Mancini and Urías.
With two outs Mullins pinch-hit for Austin Wynns and singled to left, scoring Stewart to tie the score.
Mullins stayed in the game in to play center, and McKenna, who started there, moved to left. In the bottom of the sixth, McKenna made a diving catch on a liner by Suzuki.
The Orioles were facing a long flight home and have Monday off before facing Toronto on Tuesday.
“Pretty irritated right now,” Hyde said. “We swept Houston, we get left on the field the first night, lose by three the second night, get left on the field here in the third game. Definitely in two of the three games here, so it’s frustrating to not win these sorts of games.
“When we have the lead, with our record, it’s nice to win, so it’s disappointing giving a game like this away.”
Notes: Hyde hasn’t decided on a pitcher to oppose the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Steven Matz (7-3, 4.60 ERA) will pitch for Toronto. Matt Harvey (3-9, 7.34) will face Hyun Jin Ryu (7-5, 3.65) on Wednesday, and Keegan Akin (0-4, 7.46) is scheduled to pitch against Alek Manoah (2-0, 2.70). Hyde said he would try to give some of his starting pitchers a rest before the All-Star break. … Right-hander César Valdez was activated from the 10-day injured list after recovering from a lower-back strain. “I hope it’s a little refresh for him, a little restarter for him,” Hyde said. Valdez has a 5.74 ERA and had lost his role as the closer as hitters adjusted to his assortment of changeups. “We’re hoping we get the Valdie we got in September last year for the second half of the season,” Hyde said. … Isaac Mattson, another right-hander, was returned to Norfolk to make room for Valdez. Mattson threw a hitless 1 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out one in Saturday night’s game.
Means’ first rehab: John Means pitched two innings and allowed a run on a hit, a home run, striking out two for High-A Aberdeen in his first rehab start. Means threw 25 pitches.
He allowed a home run to Brooklyn’s Luke Ritter.
Means, who’s on the 10-day injured list because of a left shoulder strain, told MASNsports.com that he expected to make rehab starts for Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk before rejoining the Orioles after the All-Star break.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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