BALTIMORE—Ever since Félix Bautista became the Orioles’ closer when the team traded All-Star Jorge López on August 2nd, he’d been nearly perfect.
On Saturday night, Bautista had his worst performance of the season, first blowing a one-run lead in the eighth, and then giving up four runs in the ninth after the Orioles had taken a two-run lead on a home run by Anthony Santander.
Bautista (4-4) allowed a game-tying double to Kyle Tucker and was charged with two more runs on a single by Yuli Gurriel against Jake Reed in Houston’s wild 11-10 win before an announced crowd of 22,546 at Camden Yards on Saturday night.
Rougned Odor homered against Ryan Pressly to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but Pressley hung on for his 31st save.
The Orioles (79-72) are four games behind Seattle for the final American League wild-card spot with 11 games to go.
Rafael Montero (5-2) allowed Santander’s two-run home run in the eighth.
After three outstanding starts by the Orioles, with two complete games, their bullpen fell short, allowing nine runs in five innings.
“We did so many good things tonight offensively, and the bullpen has been the backbone of our team,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It was one of those nights where we didn’t have our best night out of the bullpen against a really good offense.”
Christian Vazquez singled to begin the ninth. Jose Altuve walked and, after Aledmys Díaz flied to right, Yordan Alvarez singled to load the bases.. Vazquez scored on a force play on Alex Bregman, and then Tucker doubled, and Gurriel singled against Reed.
“The hitters started to pick up on my pitches and what I wanted to do out there,” Bautista said through a translator. “I couldn’t execute the way I wanted to, so it was just a really rough outing overall.”
Bautista threw 33 pitches, the most he has thrown all season. He’d converted 12 consecutive save opportunities since assuming closer duties.
“We’ve got our best reliever on the mound who’s been almost perfect for us,” Hyde said. “He’s not going to be perfect. That’s a hiccup. His numbers the last five months, four months, have been unbelievable. He was one out, one strike away there in the ninth inning. They just got enough of the bat on the ball there on him in the ninth inning.”
In his first season in the major leagues, Bautista is pitching in intense games later in the year than he ever has.
“It’s been a really long season. I’ve never pitched this many innings,” Bautista said. “I do feel a little bit tired right now, but I have no doubt that I can finish this season off strong.
“It was difficult, for sure, but I couldn’t go out there and complete the job. At the end of the day, it’s an experience I’m going to learn from. I know next time I go out there, I’ll be better.”
Altuve hit a two-run home run, his 26th, against Oriole starter Mike Baumann in the fourth, ending the Orioles’ scoreless streak at 22 innings.
The Orioles scored five runs against Houston starter Framber Valdez in the fourth, though three were unearned.
Adley Rutschman led off with a single. Ramón Urias followed with a slow roller for a single. Austin Hays grounded to shortstop, but Jeremy Peña booted it, loading the bases with none out.
Odor singled for two runs to tie it at 2, and Hays scored on a Jorge Mateo roller to Valdez.
With two outs, Cedric Mullins hit his 15th home run to right, a two-run shot, and the Orioles had a 5-2 lead.
Baumann allowed two runs on three hits in four innings.
Joey Krehbiel started the fifth, faced five batters, and four scored. A two-run double by Peña, an opposite-field single by Alvarez and a sacrifice fly by Bregman in foul territory in right put Houston ahead, 6-5.
Santander hit his 28th home run in the bottom of the fifth made it 6-6.
In the bottom of the sixth, Mateo led off with a single. Robinson Chirinos walked and Mateo scored on a single by Ryan Mountcastle to put the Orioles ahead, 7-6.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Orioles blew a chance to add on. Urías, Hays and Odor began the inning with singles. Odor was sacrificing, but his bunt eluded pitcher Hunter Brown, and first baseman Gurriel threw to third when he could have forced Hays at second.
Mateo was called out on strikes, pinch-hitter Gunnar Henderson hit into a force play, and Mullins grounded to second.
“I think that was our hardest-fought game of the year,” Hays said. “So many lead changes, bouncing back, able to continue putting runs on the board. Our bullpen’s been amazing for us all year. We just couldn’t get them enough runs late in the game.
“They [the Astros] just wouldn’t go away. That was a tough one to swallow for us tonight.”
Even though the Orioles scored 10 runs, they were just 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
“You’ve got to score as many runs as you can against these guys because it’s a really great offense,” Hyde said. “When you leave the bases loaded and nobody out, and you don’t score, you hope it doesn’t come back to bite you.”
Oriole reliever Dillon Tate began the eighth with a walk to Alvarez, and after Bregman flied out, Bautista struck out Tucker but allowed a game-tying double to Gurriel, and it was 7-7.
Santander’s two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth gave the Orioles a 9-7 lead.
“Every game that you lose right now hurts,” Hyde said. “We’ve got to rebound and we’ve got a day game tomorrow and try to win a series tomorrow.”
Notes: Austin Voth (5-3, 4.32) will face Cristian Javier (10-9, 2.77) on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. … Second baseman Joey Ortiz, designated hitter Connor Norby and third baseman Tyler Nevin homered for Triple-A Norfolk in its 10-4 loss to Durham.
Brooks honored: Many of the fans were on hand to honor Orioles legend Brooks Robinson on the 45th anniversary of his retirement from baseball. Robinson was driven around the field, waved to fans and met with the Orioles on the field. He threw out the first pitch to Henderson.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB