CLEVELAND—The Orioles went into Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Guardians knowing that they’d need to win to ensure that the Tampa Bay Rays wouldn’t cut into their lead in the American League East.
Tampa Bay scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Los Angeles Angels, 5-4, on Thursday.
The Orioles’ offense, which scored 17 runs in their first two games at Houston but scored just one run on Wednesday, produced just seven hits, and their bullpen was again shaky, leading to three runs in the bottom of the eighth in a 5-2 loss to the Guardians before an announced crowd of 25,226 at Progressive Field on Thursday night.
With the loss, the Orioles’ lead over the Rays is 1 ½ games, and their magic number to clinch the AL East remains at seven.
Cleveland (73-81) played little ball and had a big inning in the eighth.
Oriole reliever Cionel Pérez (4-2) hit Josh Naylor with a pitch to start the inning. He stole second and Tyler Freeman walked. Andres Giménez singled to load the bases. Jacob Webb was summoned by manager Brandon Hyde and walked Ramón Laureano to force home Naylor and break a 2-2 tie.
Pérez had not allowed an earned run since July 26th and hadn’t allowed a walk since August 22nd. He couldn’t get an out on Thursday night.
“We’re in a tough stretch,” Hyde said.
The Orioles are playing 17 games in 17 days. They have three more games against the Guardians before a Monday offday.
“A lot of these guys have thrown more than they have before,” Hyde said. “Cionel has been absolutely excellent for us this whole second half. Lights out. He just had an off night, and that could have possibly been fatigue.”
After Will Brennan hit into a force play at home, Bo Naylor’s bloop to short right field that eluded second baseman Adam Frazier after a long run scored Giménez. Gabriel Arias’ grounder to Webb scored Laureano, and suddenly it was 5-2.
“Three balls not hit very hard,” Hyde said. “They scored three runs there. Just the way our games have been the last week, our guys have had a lot of appearances. I give them a ton of credit for getting out there and trying to get big outs for us.”
Oriole starter Grayson Rodriguez struggled through five innings, throwing 99 pitches. Cleveland fouled off 37 balls and scored twice in the fifth on José Ramirez’s RBI single and Naylor’s sacrifice fly to left.
Rodriguez allowed two runs on five hits in five innings. In his previous start on September 16th, he threw eight. In the five Orioles’ starts since then, just one has been six innings.
“I only threw five innings. My goal is to go out there and cover some innings for the bullpen,” Rodriguez said. Overall, it was a difficult night for Rodriguez.
“Not attacking like I wanted to,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t very efficient. Some walks there, a lot of foul balls, need to do a better job of being in the strike zone, attacking the hitters.
Rodriguez has thrown a combined 157 2/3 innings at Triple-A Norfolk and with the Orioles.
“Getting a little better. Still not where we want to be,” Rodriguez said. “I think there’s a lot of areas to improve.”
Cleveland starter Hunter Gaddis retired the first eight Orioles, then loaded the bases on a 13-pitch walk to Jordan Westburg, another walk to Gunnar Henderson and an infield single by Adley Rutschman that hit off Gaddis’ right leg. Anthony Santander flied to center, ending the third.
“Disappointed in our at-bats early in the game, Hyde said. “We made some quick outs. We normally don’t. We didn’t really work the count very well. It became a bullpen game, which is not easy, and they have a good bullpen.”
Eli Morgan retired each of the six batters he faced, and Sam Hentges threw a scoreless sixth, allowing only Rutschman’s double.
Reynaldo López gave up Hicks’ two-out single in the seventh.
The Orioles (95-58) scored against Trevor Stephan (7-7) in the eighth when Heston Kjerstad hit for Westburg and singled, and Rutschman doubled with one out, his third hit. Santander’s grounder to short scored pinch-runner Ramón Urías, and Ryan O’Hearn’s double scored Rutschman, tying it at 2.
Emmanuel Clase walked Austin Hays in the ninth, and Hicks singled, but he struck out Adam Frazier and Urías. Gunnar Henderson flied to left, and Clase had his 42nd save.
“Give our guys credit for coming back and scoring two there and bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning off a guy that’s got great stuff,” Hyde said.
Notes: Second baseman Connor Norby had four hits, including his 21st home run, as Norfolk lost to Buffalo, 7-6. Bruce Zimmermann (4-7) allowed five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. … Dean Kremer (12-5, 4.17) will face Shane Bieber (5-6, 3.77) on Friday at 7:10 p.m.