HOUSTON — Brandon Hyde has shown his sarcastic side this week.
The Orioles manager’s bullpen entered Wednesday’s game having covered 14 1/3 innings over the previous three nights. He joked after Monday’s hectic win that his bullpen was in “excellent shape, fresh as all could be.” On Wednesday morning, he once again quipped his taxed bullpen, which needed two innings from starting pitcher Jack Flaherty the night before, was “fresh.”
The dire state of the Orioles’ bullpen was never more evident than in the late innings of Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros. An exhausted relief corps blew a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning and allowed a walk-off single in the ninth to spoil another gem from ace Kyle Bradish.
Shintaro Fujinami was erratic in the eighth, walking two batters, and Mike Baumann followed to allow one of Fujinami’s runners to score. With the game tied in the ninth, left-hander Danny Coulombe allowed a leadoff double to Yainer Díaz and the winning hit to Mauricio Dubón.
In his third career start against Houston, Bradish was as unhittable as his first two, pitching six shutout innings. In 22 2/3 innings against the Astros, the right-hander has not allowed a run, giving up just six singles while striking out 25.
Aside from an RBI single from Anthony Santander in the first, Baltimore’s bats didn’t back up Bradish against Houston starter Cristian Javier, who struck out 11 in five innings. The Orioles managed just six hits and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position after a four-game winning streak in which the club scored 30 runs.
The Orioles’ best chance to score came in the sixth when Santander doubled to lead off the inning and Ryan O’Hearn followed with a single off reliever Hector Neris. But Cedric Mullins, the team’s best hitter with runners in scoring position, lined out with his teammates on the corners, and Heston Kjerstad and Austin Hays followed with a shallow flyout and a groundout, respectively. The Orioles managed just one hit in the final three frames against Kendall Graveman, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly.
“We had a tough time making contact,” Hyde said. “Thought he had a good fastball, kind of a sneaky fastball. Just kept us really off-balance. What killed us was that first and third, nobody out situation where [Mullins] lines out unfortunately. We could’ve broken it open a little bit there and give us a little bit of breathing room, knowing where our ’pen is right now.”
Baltimore (95-57) is up two games on the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League standings. With 10 games remaining, the Orioles’ magic number remains at eight with the Rays playing Wednesday night against the visiting Los Angeles Angels.
Second baseman Adam Frazier said taking two of three from the AL Central-leading Astros is a “big deal” coming off two emotional wins in Baltimore over the Rays, even though Wednesday’s loss feels “bitter” because the club was two innings away from a sweep.
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