What they're saying about Orioles' stunning loss to Pirates - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

What they’re saying about Orioles’ stunning loss to Pirates

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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PITTSBURGH—What happened? Shortstop Gunnar Henderson thought he could have ended the game with a spectacular double play. Instead, he committed a throwing error, and the Orioles lost for the second straight time to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2, on Sunday.

Ke’Bryan Hayes and Jack Suwinski began the ninth inning with singles against Orioles reliever Yennier Cano. Connor Joe walked. Rowdy Tellez bounced to first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, who threw home for the force.

Edward Olivares hit a grounder up the middle. Henderson made a diving play to force Tellez, but his relay to first was wild, and after Suwinski scored the tying run, Joe scored the winning run.

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“I usually make that play 99 times out of a hundred,” Henderson said. “It just so happened the throw got away from me right there, and it was pretty unfortunate. We always play really hard defense, and we always err on the side of being aggressive and trying to make plays aggressively, and that’s just how we roll. We try to do that each and every day to make easier work for the pitchers.”

Manager Brandon Hyde wasn’t blaming Henderson.

“Not that many people get to that ball, chopper over the middle,” Hyde said. “Tough play, makes a great play, tried to hurry the throw.”

Hyde didn’t want to blame Cano, either.

“We’ve had so many little tappers,” Hyde said. “He has so much sink on his fastball and changeup. A lot of mishits. Besides the first two guys, it was typical Cano.”

What about Kremer’s strong start? Dean Kremer’s start was the longest for the Orioles this season. He worked seven innings, giving up an unearned run, which was set up when he made an errant throw to second on a potential double play ball. But it also appeared as if second baseman Jorge Mateo could have caught the ball if he had been in better position for the throw. Mateo is still learning to play second base.

Kremer gave up five hits and struck out six. He didn’t issue a walk.

“Dean was great, except for that throw to second,” Hyde said. “He was really, really good and love to see that splitter coming along the way it has. He had command of all his pitches.”

The Orioles won Kremer’s first start on April 1st on a two-run home run by Jordan Westburg in the ninth against the Royals. He allowed three runs on three hits in 5 1/3 innings against Kansas City.

“We had a good plan and a good mix going pretty much the whole outing and stuck to it and adjusted,” Kremer said.

Kremer got little offensive support, but he did get some help from the defense. Centerfielder Cedric Mullins made a strong throw from center to Mateo, who was backing up Henderson as the first cutoff man. Mateo then fired a perfect throw to catcher James McCann that nailed Jared Triolo at the plate in the third inning. Henderson and Mateo also made back-to-back diving plays on ground balls in the sixth.

“Every time we’re out there, somebody makes a diving play,” Kremer said. “[Saturday], all three outfielders [Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander] made an amazing catch, both guys up the middle today. We have one of the better defenses in the league. I’m not afraid to throw it down the middle and let them work.”

What about the offensive woes? The Orioles had six hits on Sunday after getting just four on Saturday. A number of their hitters, especially Hays, are struggling.

“Tough to win that way,” Hyde said. “Not making it easy on ourselves offensively right now.”

In their four losses, the Orioles have just 16 hits. They scored 24 runs in their first two games and have 23 in the past seven.

“We’re not creating any sort of traffic right now,” Hyde said. “Not taking walks. We’re getting out early in the count quite a bit. You don’t want to discredit the other team’s pitchers, but we’ve got to do a better job of putting pressure on them and getting on base.”

Henderson, batting leadoff, is hitless in his last nine at-bats while Hays is in an 0-for-19 slump.

“First two games of the season, you saw what we could do and there’s kind of a lull right now, and it will definitely pick up soon,” Henderson said. “I’m missing some balls I thought I should hit. Just clean that up a little bit, and we’ll be ready to roll.”

What about Saturday’s lineup shuffling?  In Saturday’s 11-inning loss to Pittsburgh, the Orioles pinch-hit for catcher McCann and moved Adley Rutschman from designated hitter to catcher, losing their DH. Hyde double-switched to prevent the pitcher’s spot from coming to bat.

Bench coach Fredi González is in his fifth season with the Orioles after a long career managing and coaching the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. In the days before the universal designated hitter, the leagues had separate identities. That’s no longer true.

“We are very lucky we cut our teeth in the National League game,” González said of him and Hyde. “We feel lucky we had that experience, but I think now everybody’s team is built the same.”

The Orioles scored a run in the top of the 10th but ended up losing, reinforcing how important it is to score multiple runs in extra innings on the road. The automatic baserunner, positioned at second to start each extra innings, is being used again this year.

“It’s really important [to score multiple runs on the road],” González said. “I love the rule because I’ve been around when you play 16-, 17-inning games…The home team always has an advantage.”

What about missing Bautista? Last season, closer Félix Bautista pitched two innings on the road four times when the game went to the 10th inning, and the Orioles won each time. Bautista won’t pitch this season after having Tommy John surgery. The Orioles used seven relief pitchers on Saturday.

“We knew going in how special Bautista was,” González said, “that he could go multiple innings, and he could start with the [runner] on second base, and he’d go punchout, punchout, fly ball, and the inning’s over with a man on second base … We’re going to miss him the whole year. You need to have those type of relievers in those situations … You have to score more than one for me to feel comfortable.”

What about Norfolk and the other affiliates? Leftfielder Connor Norby had two hits in Triple-A Norfolk’s 6-2 loss to Charlotte. The Tides are 7-2.

Catcher Silas Ardoin had two RBIs as Double-A Bowie beat Reading, 4-3.

Third baseman Mac Horvath had three RBIs as High-A Aberdeen beat Jersey Shore, 4-1.

Leftfielder Aron Estrada had three hits in High-A Delmarva’s 10-4 loss to Fredericksburg. The Shorebirds are 0-3.

What’s the word? “His command is a lot better. His breaking ball is a lot better. I think the velocity is going to continue ticking up a little bit. I don’t think you’ll see the Kimbrel of 98 mph.”-González on the difference between the Craig Kimbrel he managed in Atlanta a decade ago and today.

What does it mean? The Orioles will begin play in the American League East in Boston on Tuesday, and their bats need to get going. Ten hits in two games won’t win many games.

Stat of the day: 1-for-3. After going 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Saturday, the Orioles were 1-for-3 on Sunday. Two runs, though, also won’t win many games.

What’s next? After an offday on Monday, the Orioles will begin a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday at Fenway Park at 2:10 p.m. Corbin Burnes (1-0, 2.31) will start for the Orioles. Because the Orioles will have two offdays since Burnes started on Wednesday, Burnes will move ahead of Cole Irvin in the rotation. The Red Sox will start Brayan Bello (1-0, 5.40).

Call for questions: I’ll be answering at least one question, sometimes more every weekday. Send yours to: [email protected]

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