BALTIMORE – A late home run that erases an Orioles lead is nothing new.
Allowing Seattle’s Mallex Smith, one of the fastest men in the game, to reach on an error, steal second and score from there on an infield single to third base?
That’s the latest in a long line of Orioles losses, 7-6, to the Seattle Mariners before an announced crowd of 22,556, that will go down as one of the most bizarre defeats of the season.
Smith’s late-inning sprints came after a pair of eighth-inning home runs turned the game on itself twice. The Orioles led 4-3 before Mychal Givens allowed an eighth-inning home run to J.P. Crawford to give Seattle a 6-4 lead, only for rookie Austin Hays to drill a line drive into the Orioles bullpen and tie the game.
Neither team threatened much before Smith hit a ball to second baseman Hanser Alberto, who flipped it to reliever Tanner Scott, only for Scott to mishandle it. Smith’s 45th stolen base put him into scoring position, and when pinch-hitter Tim Lopes grounded to third baseman Rio Ruiz, Smith was off.
Ruiz’s throw didn’t make it to first in time to get Lopes, and Smith beat Trey Mancini’s throw home for the go-ahead run to drop the Orioles to 50-105 in their penultimate home game of the season.
Jonathan Villar was left at third base, representing the tying run, in the 13th inning.
The foundation of the Orioles’ offensive night was a three-run second, which began with a Renato Nunez single. He scored on a Stevie Wilkerson double, and Wilkerson and Pedro Severino scored when Richie Martin doubled.
Asher Wojeciechowski gave runs back in the third on a home run by Shed Long and on a fifth-inning single by Crawford that scored Long after a one-out double. A third run scored on Wojciechowski’s account on a passed ball charged to Severino after Branden Kline came in in relief.
But it wasn’t tied for long, as Wilkerson doubled, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Martin, and scored on a single by Hanser Alberto. That held up thanks to a scoreless sixth from Kline and a nervy but scoreless seventh from Paul Fry before Givens served up a three-run home run in the eighth.
Shawn Armstrong retired all six batters he faced in the ninth and 10th innings, followed by seven straight retired by Dillon Tate before he gave way to Scott.
The three bases-loaded situations in the first five innings of the game produced no runs, making for a much more tame affair than it could have been. Wojciechowski clinched a scoreless first inning by striking out Daniel Vogelbach with the bases loaded in the Mariners’ first, and he left the bases loaded for Kline with one-out in the fifth.
Kline got a pop-up but had a run score on a passed ball before a strikeout to end the inning with just one in. The Orioles scored a run in the bottom half before loading the bases with no outs, but didn’t push another run across. Fry stranded the bases loaded in the seventh inning as well.
On the occasion of minor league awards night at Camden Yards on Saturday, it’s fitting that a former participant in Hays, the 2017 Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year, starred again.
When he got that award that September, he’d come off a dominant minor league season but was struggling in the majors. This September has been quite different, as he’s now batting .308 with a .960 OPS and two home runs while providing highlights in center field.
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