Kjerstad tries to kick-start Orioles' sagging offense but losing streak reaches 4 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Kjerstad tries to kick-start Orioles’ sagging offense but losing streak reaches 4

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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BALTIMORE-What happened? In the Orioles’ last three games, they’ve scored just four runs, and after their 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians on Monday night, they have their first four-game losing streak of the season.

The Orioles were swept over the weekend at Houston, losing 14-11, 5-1 and 8-1.

After getting five hits in the first three innings on Monday night, the Orioles were hitless in the final six innings.

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‘I thought we faced some pretty good arms the last three games,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought we expanded the zone a little bit more than normal, maybe there later in the game. Give them credit. They have a great bullpen. Their starter’s got really good stuff.”

Cleveland starter Tanner Bibee allowed two runs, one unearned, in six innings.

José Ramírez’s sixth-inning home run against Oriole starter Cade Povich put Cleveland ahead, 3-2.

Heston Kjerstad, who was recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Norfolk, had a double in the first and a single in the third and in the eighth, flied to center on the 13th pitch of his at-bat, with the fans standing at the end.

How did Povich throw? Povich allowed the first three Cleveland runners to reach, and the Orioles were quickly down, 1-0. He threw 31 pitches in the first innings, and 64 in the next 4 2/3 innings.

“The goal is always to go as deep in the game as possible,” Povich said. “It’s one inning, get past it and then continue to try to get outs as quick as possible.”

In his fourth major league start, the 24-year-old left-hander is feeling more comfortable.

“One hundred percent. Today was probably one of the better command games that I’ve had and also making those pitches competitive,” he said.

Hyde was impressed with his composure.

“Showed much better command this time than his last start,” Hyde said. “I thought he threw the ball great after that first inning. Scuffled a little bit there in the first inning, pitched out of trouble and only gave up two runs the rest of his outing. I thought he did a great job.”

Povich has done well against difficult competition.

“He seems pretty composed,” Hyde said. “Doesn’t get too up, too down. Hasn’t seemed rattled in any way these first four starts. Faced four pretty good teams, Toronto, Atlanta, New York and these guys. That’s a tough way to enter the big leagues. He’s shown very well.”

What was Kjerstad’s 13-pitch at-bat like? Since Kjerstad singled with two outs in the third, the Orioles had only two baserunners, walks to James McCann with two outs in the fourth and to Anthony Santander with two outs in the eighth before Kjerstad faced Hunter Gaddis.

“Right there, I’m just trying to get the at-bat to the next guy,” Kjerstad said. “Whether it’s a walk or just keep battling. Hopefully get a pitch and get a hit or something like that and get it to the guy behind me.

“It’s a good at-bat, ran up his pitch count, but at the end of the day, I want a walk or get on base or keep that inning going there in the eighth and maybe put an extra run across the board, do something to help us, get a little momentum going into the ninth.”

Kjerstad is not likely to start on Tuesday night since Cleveland is throwing left-handed Logan Allen, but Hyde liked what he saw.

“Getting a couple of hits the first two at-bats definitely makes you feel more comfortable,” Hyde said. “Took a great at-bat there late, too, fouling off a bunch of tough pitches and just missed one, so really good at-bats out of him tonight.

“Nice to see him hit a line drive over the shortstop’s head. He’s not just a pull-side power guy. It’s a unique swing, but there’s a lot of damage in there. Showed how he could really grind out an at-bat there in a really, really big spot. Put together a big at-bat there.”

Kjerstad was the only Oriole with two hits.

“Definitely felt good, controlled the zone,” Kjerstad said. “When I got my pitch, hit it pretty well and keep showing up every day and trying to put up consistent at-bats like that, be really competitive and take care of the pitch when I get it.”

Will Kjerstad play more this time? Kjerstad played sparingly in his last stint with the Orioles when he was 2-for-14 (.143) in seven games.

“Definitely tricky because you have other guys you want to play, also,” Hyde said. “We’re in this stretch right now with a limited amount of offdays. Maybe it’s a little easier to rotate guys around. Heston’s been swinging the bat real well in Triple-A. We’re going to see him get some bats up here.”

Last year’s Norfolk team won the Triple-A championship. This year, the Tides are 36-39.

“Last year, we were definitely a little bit deeper,” Kjerstad said. “We had [Jordan] Westburg, [Colton] Cowser. We had a lot more guys that are up here that were down there. For the most part, we’re still a solid team. The late innings, we lose a couple of games here and there. Last year, we’re up and we’d totally seal the deal up.”

What does Hyde think about the All-Star balloting? With Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman, and now Ryan Mountcastle leading among shortstops, catchers and first basemen, the Orioles are being well supported by All-Star voters.

“I think it’s awesome. I think they’re all so well deserving,” Hyde said. “Excited for all those guys. Very cool that fans, not just in Baltimore, that are voting everywhere are recognizing our players and seeing how talented they are. It’s a great accomplishment to get recognized the way they are.”

What does Mountcastle think about leading? Mountcastle says his family and friends are eager to see him at the July 19th All-Star Game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

“My family’s got a little group chat going, and they make sure they vote every day,” he said. “Really cool that they’re out here supporting. I’ve just got to keep playing well and doing my thing.

“Being an All-Star is super cool. Just being a big league baseball has always been the dream. To be considered an All-Star is definitely a blessing.”

What’s the word? “I want to be up here every day. This is where we want to be … This is what you work for, but you’ve also got to understand where your feet are at. There are still things you can work on and progress that can be made.”-Kjerstad on returning to the Orioles.

What does it mean? The Orioles’ bats have suddenly quieted, but the next two pitchers they face, Allen and Carlos Carrasco have ERAs above 5.

What’s the stat of the day? 22. The Orioles’ franchise record streak of homering in 22 consecutive games came to an end. Meanwhile, Henderson doubled in the first to extend his on-base streak to 31 games.

What’s going on in the minor leagues? Single-A Delmarva infielder Aron Estrada was named the Carolina League Player of the Week for July 18th-23rd after hitting .375 with two home runs and six RBIs.

What’s next? Cole Irvin (6-3, 3.45) will face Logan Allen (8-3, 5.23) on Tuesday night at 6:35.

Call for questions: Most weekdays, I’ll be answering at least one Orioles question. Please send yours to: [email protected]

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