Robinson Chirinos flailed a glove at the pitch, but it was just a prayer, a wild swipe of his backhand to save a ball that bounced a few feet in front of the plate and quickly skipped past the catcher.
Right-hander Dillon Tate had entered in the seventh inning Wednesday, inheriting a runner and hoping to keep the Orioles within two runs against the New York Yankees. With two outs and a man on third, Tate looked poised to escape — before that misfired changeup, that is. The 0-2 offering sent to the backstop allowed Isiah Kiner-Falefa to run home, scoring the Yankees’ final run in a 5-2 victory.
One pitch later, Tate went back to the changeup. That time it worked, striking out Aaron Judge. And while the run wasn’t charged to Tate, it was another recent example of a bullpen that had been so solid suddenly forming creases under the pressure of extended work and powerful lineups.
Few Baltimore (6-12) starters have worked deep into games, although the effort from right-hander Tyler Wells was his best of the season. That has pressed the bullpen into duty early and often, and while there had been few miscues over the first month of the season, the final leg of a lengthy road trip has featured a few blips.
Over the past three games — with one against the Los Angeles Angels and two against the Yankees — the Orioles bullpen has allowed 11 runs. It’s a sudden crack in a dam that had held strong over the first homestand, and combined with a muted offense Wednesday in New York, it resulted in a series loss.
“We’re facing a really good team, a really good lineup,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Happy with the way these guys are throwing the ball, and hopefully we’ll bounce back.”
Wells quickly found himself behind, leaving a fastball over the plate that right fielder Giancarlo Stanton crushed to right-center field for a two-run home run. But Wells quickly settled down, giving the kind of length he’s never done before as a starter at this level.
This morning, Hyde texted Wells that he’d be given a longer leash. His immediate reaction to the news, he couldn’t reply — “a lot of bad words,” Wells said — so he opted for a more measured approach. “Let’s go,” he typed.
The right-hander retired 13 of the 14 batters he faced after Stanton’s blast, giving up one hit while striking out four. Against Stanton later, Wells went back to his fastball — the same pitch the slugger dug out for a long ball — for a punch out.
It was a promising development for Wells, who is still being stretched out after spending 2021 in the bullpen. He threw a career-high five innings with 72 pitches, allowing three hits and those two runs.
“Today kind of marks a milestone for me,” Wells said. “This is the most I’ve thrown in a game since I had Tommy John surgery in 2019. I guess this would be the longest since 2018. So it feels really good. I was really happy to keep the pitch count low so I could go out there for that fifth inning. That was my ultimate goal.”
And while Wells was in line for the loss when he exited, designated hitter Anthony Santander got Wells off the hook in the sixth inning. Santander extended his MLB-best on-base streak, although he only touched them all briefly as he rounded the bases.
For the second straight night, Santander left the yard at Yankee Stadium, catching a changeup in the lower half of the zone to level the game at two.
“He’s seeing the ball well, communicating with us how he’s feeling, so we can jump on the bandwagon,” center fielder Cedric Mullins said.
But the bullpen quickly lost a grip on that score, and the offense wasn’t able to produce much else, even after Santander helped chase left-hander Jordan Montgomery after he allowed four hits and two runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Right-hander Joey Krehbiel hadn’t allowed an earned run in his previous 8 1/3 innings, but he issued a four-pitch walk to lead off his outing and saw runners on first and third with one out before manager Brandon Hyde pulled him for right-hander Félix Bautista.
Hyde said he brought the hard-throwing Bautista in with the hopes of getting a strikeout of Stanton, who stepped in with runners on first and third with one out. But Stanton got enough on a low fastball to produce a sacrifice fly, and then left fielder Joey Gallo launched a solo shot off Bautista in the seventh.
“Bautista is new to the league, and we’re going to take our chances with 98 [mph],” Hyde said. “Just missed location on both those pitches.”
That, accompanied by the wild pitch from Tate, were the gut-punches for a bullpen that has struggled in consecutive losses to the Yankees. That’s always possible in matchups such as these, when pairing a power-oriented lineup with a cast of journeymen or inexperienced relievers. It’s just been especially apparent the past two games.
Around the horn
>> As right-hander Dean Kremer warmed in the bullpen of the Orioles’ season-opening series against the Tampa Bay Rays, he injured his left oblique and subsequently landed on the 10-day injured list. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Wednesday that Kremer was beginning to do long toss and throwing progressions.
“I think the oblique injury is on its way to being healed, so now it’s just building up and getting back into game shape, and I think we’re probably a few weeks away from them being in the major league conversation,” Elias said. “But I think May, the month of May, will be in play.”
>> Ryan Mountcastle was scratched from his start Wednesday because of neck tightness, Hyde said before first pitch. The tightness isn’t expected to sideline the first baseman for long; Hyde said he hoped Mountcastle would be available off the bench Wednesday if required.
Mountcastle is the second Orioles in the past week to experience neck tightness, joining left-hander Paul Fry, who was unavailable against the Angels.
“What’s up with the pillows?” Hyde joked. “We’re staying at a nice hotel. The beds are super comfortable. I don’t know. Guys are not used to the bed or the pillow or something, but yeah, we’ve had two stiff necks in the last week.”
After the game, Hyde described Mountcastle as “day-to-day,” and that the team would evaluate whether he could play based on how he felt Thursday morning.
>> Adley Rutschman went 0-for-4 in his start at designated hitter for High-A Aberdeen on Wednesday. The catcher, who’s with the IronBirds this week as part of a rehab assignment, opened his account Tuesday with a double and a walk.
Thursday, 1:05 p.m.
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