For the second time in the last five games, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn’t play first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Those two games are the only ones Mountcastle hasn’t played this season. He’s 4-for-26, and hitting .231, his lowest average since April 27th.
Some of Mountcastle’s stats aren’t bad. He has 11 home runs and 39 RBIs, and if he kept on the same pace, could hit more than 30 homers and drive in more than 100 runs.
His career highs are 33 home runs, which was an Orioles record for rookies, and 89 RBIs, both in 2021.
Last year, Mountcastle hit 22 homers and drove in 85 runs.
Some of his other stats aren’t as favorable. He has struck out 61 times and walked 12 times. Mountcastle has walked in just 4.7 percent of his plate appearances, a career low.
He’s hitting line drives in 22.5 percent of his at-bats, also a career low.
When he has made contact, Mountcastle hasn’t experienced good fortune. His expected batting average is .271, 40 points higher than his current mark. Last season, his expected batting average was .277, 27 points higher than his .250 average.
Mountcastle’s splits are jarring. He’s hitting .311 with a 1.017 OPS against left-handers. Against right-handers, Mountcastle is hitting just .195 with a .551 OPS, and despite the belief that he has been affected by the deeper dimensions of left field at Oriole Park, he’s hitting better at home (.250) than on the road (.215).
He’s going with the pitch more. In 2021, he pulled the ball 39.7 percent of the time, and this year, it’s 30.8 percent.
On Tuesday night in the Orioles’ 10-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan O’Hearn started at first base.
The Orioles don’t have a viable alternative to Mountcasttle on the roster. O’Hearn is a role player, and so is Josh Lester, who was called up on Saturday.
O’Hearn and Lester were both added to the Orioles in the offseason because Mountcastle didn’t have a true backup in the final two months of last season after Trey Mancini was traded.
O’Hearn, Lester, Lewin Díaz and Franchy Cordero were all in spring training, each a left-handed hitting first baseman, none on the 40-man roster.
None made the team out of spring training. Cordero opted out of his contract and signed with the New York Yankees. The others went to Norfolk and each hit well. Díaz remains with the Tides.
None is likely to get much playing time at Mountcastle’s expense, and the Orioles don’t have a top minor league prospect at first base.
Late in spring training, the Orioles decided that Heston Kjerstad would get some playing time at first base with Double-A Bowie, but late last month executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias downplayed Kjerstad as a full-time first base possibility.
“I think he’s a better outfielder than first baseman, but as you’re seeing with his team right now, it’s really helping us that everyone on this team can play like three positions,” he said.
“There’s weird stuff with the lineups some nights and it gives Brandon the ability to do some creative things to keep bats in the lineups, so I think this will be a great thing for Heston in his career if he can play a little first base, so that’s all that is, and also we’ve got a lot of prospects and it helps other people get those outfield reps when he’s playing first.”
Outfielder Anthony Santander has started twice at first base, his first action there since 2016 when he was in High-A with the Cleveland organization. It doesn’t seem likely that Santander will receive much more playing time there.
The Orioles could always try to add another left-handed hitting first baseman via trade, but an additional starter and bullpen depth are higher priorities.
Second straight loss: Starting pitcher Dean Kremer (6-3) allowed six runs on nine hits in the Orioles’ 10-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
Joey Weimer had four hits, including two home runs, and drove in five runs. Willy Adames, who was just reinstated from the concussion injured list, also homered.
Corbin Burnes (5-4) allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings.
Bruce Zimmermann allowed four runs in the seventh.
Hyde was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. It was his second ejection this season and 11th in his career.
The Brewers (34-28) have won the first two games of the series. The final game is Thursday afternoon.
The Orioles (37-24) have lost three of their last four series.
Kyle Bradish (2-2, 4.13) will face Colin Rae (3-3, 4.94) on Thursday at 2:10 p.m.
Minor league update: For the second straight night, Norfolk’s game with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was postponed because of poor air quality.
Designated hitter Shayne Fontana drove in three runs, leftfielder John Rhodes drove in two and second baseman César Prieto had three hits, raising his average to .363, in Double-A Bowie’s 8-7 win over Erie.
Shortstop Jackson Holliday and catcher Creed Willems homered in High-A Aberdeen’s 8-6 loss to Asheville.
Shortstop Carter Young and third baseman Anderson De Los Santos each drove in two runs and leftfielder Elio Prado homered as Single-A Delmarva beat Down East, 9-7.