BALTIMORE—In a lost season, the Orioles gave their fans a final home series to cherish. Against the Boston Red Sox, who desperately wanted to sweep the Orioles in their pursuit of an American League wild-card berth, the Orioles won two of three.
On Thursday night, Alexander Wells pitched six strong innings, allowing just one run on three hits as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 6-2, before an announced crowd of 13,012 at Camden Yards.
“We just threw three inexperienced left-handers against the Boston Red Sox, and they’re in a playoff race, and we won two out of three, and all three were really good starts,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
Bruce Zimmermann pitched the first four innings in the Orioles’ 4-2 win on Tuesday night, allowing just a Kyle Schwarber solo home run. Zac Lowther pitched five innings on Wednesday night and surrendered just a solo homer to J.D. Martinez. Wells’ only mistake in six innings came on his first pitch, which Kiké Hernandez hit for a home run.
“I’m really encouraged by that,” Hyde said. “We’ve pitched well the last 10 days-two weeks, and that’s the name of the game. We’ve got to improve our pitching, and these last couple of weeks we’ve pitched well and stayed in so many games and had so many winnable games.”
The Orioles (52-107), who play their final three games at Toronto this weekend, were led by Wells (2-3), who hadn’t pitched six innings in the majors before.
“Good, quality lineups, especially when you play against AL East teams,” Wells said. “You’re facing one-through-nine hitters. Don’t take your foot off the gas. Go out there and attack.”
Nick Pivetta (9-8) retired the first six Orioles. Tyler Nevin walked to begin the third and took second on a wild pitch. Pat Valaika singled, and moved to second on a wild pitch. Jahmai Jones was caught looking at a third strike and so was Cedric Mullins, although the pitch appeared to be high. Mullins angrily voiced his displeasure. On the next pitch, Ryan Mountcastle hit his 33rd home run for a 3-1 lead. He hit his 32nd against Chris Sale on Monday.
After a shaky start, Wells retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced.
“To escape that first inning, only giving up that one run, that was an enormous key to the game,” Hyde said. “He looked a little nervous. The command was spotty. I thought he threw too many fastballs in the zone. Maybe he was overexcited. Once he got through that first inning, his pitch mix was so much better the rest of his outing.
“That team’s got a lot to play for, and they came out swinging the bat right away. He did a great job of settling down, settling in once he got through that first inning.”
The Orioles scored three more runs in the sixth. Trey Mancini led off with an opposite-field single against Garrett Richards. After Pedro Severino fouled out, Kelvin Gutiérrez singled, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch.
That brought in the Boston infield, and Nevin drove a two-run single through it. Nevin took second on the throw home by leftfielder Alex Verdugo and to third on a wild pitch. He was replaced by pinch-runner Ryan McKenna, who scored on Valaika’s sacrifice fly.
The two runs driven in by Nevin were the first in his major league career, and they gave the Orioles a 6-1 lead.
“That was awesome,” Nevin said. “You could feel it in the crowd. You could feel it watching them play. It was great to be able to come through in that moment. It’s fun when the games matter this much to somebody. We’re out of it, but we can still have an effect on how the season goes.”
These games matter to the New York Yankees, who lead the AL wild-card race by two games over the Red Sox and Seattle Mariners. Toronto, which Baltimore plays next, trails Boston and Seattle by a game.
Nevin’s father, Phil, is the Yankees’ third-base coach.
“We kind of joked about it,” Nevin said. “I told him I got called up again. He said: ‘Hey, why don’t you try to help us out?’ ‘If I get in there, I’ll do my best.’ I’m sure we’ll talk about it later.”
Oriole relief pitcher Joey Krehbiel allowed his first run in the majors in the seventh on a double by J.D. Martinez, a walk to Hunter Renfroe, an infield out, and a wild pitch.
Dillon Tate and Cole Sulser pitched scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth.
Boston (89-70) finishes its season with three games at Washington this weekend.
“We’re really inexperienced on the mound,” Hyde said. “We don’t have a ton of veterans in the lineup, either, and they’re playing hard, and I’m happy with how we played this series.”
Notes: Right-handed pitcher Isaac Matson will accompany the Orioles to Toronto as a member of the taxi squad. … Thomas Eshelman could be the starter on Friday night when the Orioles open their final three-game series against the Blue Jays. Steven Matz (13-7, 3.88 ERA) will pitch for Toronto. On Saturday, John Means (6-8, 3.32) will face Alek Manoah (8-2, 3.35). On Sunday, Bruce Zimmermann (4-4, 4.66) will face Hyun Jin Ryu (13-10, 4.39). Saturday and Sunday’s games will begin at 3:07 p.m.
Mullins was the first unanimous choice for Most Valuable Oriole since at least 1998. …For the season, the Orioles drew 793,230, their lowest since 1965 when they drew 781,649. Until June 1st, the team was permitted to sell only 25 percent of its seats. … The Orioles won their final home game for the seventh straight season. … Kevin Smith (3-6) walked six batters and recorded just five outs in his start for Triple-A Norfolk as the Tides lost to Charlotte, 8-0. Norfolk had just three hits.
Elias on 2022: Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias says the Orioles will be competitive in 2022.
“We think that this team will continuously get better from this point forward,” Elias said on Thursday. “We have a lot of young talent. Young talent tends to get better. We know we’re far away from the other competitors in our division. We’ve got a ways to go to get back in that fight. We’re being mindful that first and foremost the ultimate goal … is to get to that level of play and we’re going to need to compete consistently in this division.
“We don’t want to do anything to derail or shortchange that, but I think there are ways to simultaneously allow our internal players an opportunity to continue getting playing time and not being blocked when we have an interesting player who we want to see for a while that can help bolster this team so it’s better on a night-to-night basis.”
He also said that top prospects Adley Rutschman and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, the top position player and pitcher in the minor leagues, would be in spring training and that both would have a chance to make the Orioles’ Opening Day roster. Elias said that it wasn’t necessary for Rodriguez to pitch in Triple-A.
Elias added that the Orioles will announce their prospects for the Arizona Fall League on Monday. Outfielder Kyle Stowers, who shared the organization’s top position player award with Rutschman, will be one of them.