A surprisingly sublime Orioles pitching staff wavered Tuesday night. It’s often been asked to dazzle for the club to win.
Manager Brandon Hyde, it seems, has grown tired of that arrangement. After Tuesday’s 7-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins — the fourth time in five games Baltimore has scored two or fewer runs — Hyde critiqued his team’s offensive approach.
“We have some guys that are just swinging a lot of times,” Hyde said. “They’re seeing their numbers on the scoreboard, and they’re unhappy, so they’re trying to get them up in one at-bat. You’ve got to have a pitch-by-pitch approach, try to win every pitch. And I think a lot of guys are just chasing numbers right now.”
Of the 11 hitters on their active roster with at least 15 at-bats, only one, outfielder Austin Hays, is batting above .240, with half of the others hitting .210 or lower. Trey Mancini — back in the lineup Tuesday at designated hitter after missing three games with bruised ribs — ranks fifth among that group with a meager .609 OPS. The Orioles (8-16) entered Tuesday 28th of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams in runs per game, then went out and lowered their average.
“We’re just not taking enough good at-bats to win games against good clubs and good pitching staffs,” Hyde said. “You’ve got to be able to put the ball in play, you’ve got to be able to put pressure, you’ve got to not be afraid to hit with two strikes.”
Some of Baltimore’s offensive struggles are traceable to bad batted-ball luck; on balls Statcast considers hard hit — put in play at 95 mph or harder — the Orioles came into Tuesday hitting .390, but the club’s expected batting average on such contact was .519, with that differential being the largest deficit in the league. But that doesn’t account for the lack of contact, particularly with the chance to produce runs. In plate appearances with runners on second or third, Orioles batters have struck out more often than they have reached base.
Making matters worse is that the scuffling has come when the club’s pitching staff is finally proving capable, especially with the left field wall moved back at Camden Yards. The Orioles entered play with the best home ERA in the majors and remain among the league’s leaders even after Tuesday’s seven-run dud. In half of Baltimore’s wins, the Orioles have scored less than three runs, with the pitching staff able to make those totals hold up.
Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who has 1.48 ERA through five starts after allowing two runs in five innings Tuesday before the bullpen ceded five in four frames, said the pitchers aren’t putting any added pressure on themselves with the offense’s struggles. In fact, center fielder Cedric Mullins, an All-Star in 2021 who is batting .221 after going 1-for-5 Tuesday, said it’s the opposite.
“That’s the other reason why there might be a press for our bats to kind of pick it up,” Mullins said. “We see our guys out there, working their butts off, and they’re keeping us in so many games, and us as an offense, we know we have the capability of scoring a fair amount of runs, and we’ve done it a few times. Just a matter of finding that consistency.”
Nevin exits with groin injury
Orioles third baseman Tyler Nevin, playing his fifth major league game of the year after putting up a .980 OPS for Triple-A Norfolk, exited after the fifth inning with what the team said was right groin soreness. Hyde and Nevin said the Orioles will evaluate further Wednesday.
Nevin produced Baltimore’s first run in the bottom of the fourth, hitting a ground ball with runners on second and third that Correa didn’t field cleanly for an error. Anthony Bemboom followed with a deep fly ball to center, where Byron Buxton made the catch on the warning track. Both Nevin and lead runner Rougned Odor, who stayed at second on the error, tagged up, with a relay from Buxton to Correa to second baseman Jorge Polanco getting Nevin out at second. The Orioles challenged the call, with Nevin’s left hand seemingly reaching the base before Polanco’s tag did him, but the umpires’ video replay upheld the ruling.
“They must’ve seen something different than what was on the board,” Hyde said.
Nevin remained in the game at third for the top of the fifth. Mullins led off the bottom half with a double and scored when Mancini blooped a single to left.
The Orioles continued to threaten in the frame, bringing Nevin’s spot to the on-deck circle, but Ramón Urías came out to pinch-hit. Although the inning ended before Urías officially batted, he then replaced Nevin in the field for the sixth. His ninth-inning single was the Orioles’ only hit in their final 14 at-bats.
Baltimore has an opening on its 40-man roster, should it need to add a player to it as a replacement for Nevin.
“Nothing happened where I knew something was wrong immediately, so that’s a good sign,” Nevin said. “But as I was out there, it was grabbing on me, and it was getting sore. The last thing I want to do is pull myself from the game, especially a close one at that time. I want those moments, so we’ll see how we feel tomorrow, but I’m optimistic.”
Around the horn
- Right-hander Chris Ellis, on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation, has left the team to have the shoulder examined in Texas, manager Brandon Hyde said before the game.
- Yusniel Diaz rejoined Triple-A Norfolk’s active roster Tuesday after exiting the Tides’ April 12 game with a strained right hamstring. Once ranked as Baltimore’s No. 1 prospect after joining the organization in the July 2018 trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for Manny Machado, Diaz, 25, had a 1.270 OPS at the time of the injury and went 1-for-3 in his return.
- Top prospect Adley Rutschman reported to Double-A Bowie on Tuesday to continue his progression from a right tricep strain suffered on the cusp of major league spring training. He went 1-for-4 with a double and caught nine innings. “It’s felt great so far,” Rutschman said before the game in Bowie. “I think the training staff, all the coaches, they’ve just done a tremendous job so far and helped me feel right at home and get me back in the swing of things.”
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.
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