When the ball nestled in Cedric Mullins’ glove in center field, right-hander Jorge López finally let out his emotion. The closer entered with two outs in the eighth inning Saturday, because there are times the biggest moments don’t occur in the final inning.
This was one such moment. Faced with the bases loaded in a one-run game against the Cleveland Guardians, López held the game there. Then he came back out for the ninth and shut the door.
The Orioles’ bullpen had creaked to that point, with left-hander Keegan Akin allowing two runs and right-hander Dillon Tate allowing two runners. Even López hit the first batter he faced in the eighth. But those blips didn’t lead to a full-on collapse, as the relievers held on long enough to secure the bounce-back 5-4 victory at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Right-hander Tyler Wells put together another smooth performance, even if he didn’t work as deeply into the outing. And the long ball did all the damage for Baltimore (23-32) behind that pitching staff, with first baseman Trey Mancini, left fielder Austin Hays and second baseman Rougned Odor accounting for three of the four hits.
Hays’ blast in the third inning — scaling the left field wall to drive in three runs — was the major catalyst, but the solo shot from Odor one inning later gave López a one-run lead to hold onto. And that’s what he did, setting up a rubber match Sunday afternoon.
Eutaw Street check-in
There was no question the ball off Andrés Giménez’s bat in the second inning would leave the yard — only how far it would go. It wound up sailing 418 feet, leaving his bat at 109.3 mph, according to Statcast, landing on Eutaw Street before one bounce caromed it off the B&O Warehouse.
Giménez became the first player to hit a ball on the fly to Eutaw Street this season, but he was quickly followed in the fourth inning by Odor, whose blast traveled a shorter distance but left his bat with just as little doubt attached to its destination.
The pair of Eutaw Street homers marked the third time in the history of Oriole Park at Camden Yards that multiple homers reached that brick walkway beyond the right field fence. The last time also came against Cleveland on June 29, 2012.
A shorter leash
Perhaps the calculus to withdraw Wells after 61 pitches and four innings had more to do with his last start than Saturday’s. Against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, Wells blew through scoreless six innings in what became the best start of his career, as he allowed two hits across 88 pitches.
The low-stress innings there allowed his pitch count to rise to the highest it has been since he underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in 2019. The buildup has been slow, and after that arduous outing, manager Brandon Hyde turned to the bullpen earlier than usual for Wells.
The right-hander’s outing wasn’t as crisp as his performance against the Red Sox, but Wells limited the damage after allowing a solo homer to José Ramírez in the first — the slugger’s 14th this season — and Giménez’s bomb an inning later.
Even with just three swings-and-misses forced, Wells left with the game firmly in hand. The two runs off Akin drew the score closer, but López completed his seventh save of the season.
When the Orioles needed a spark Friday against right-hander Shane Bieber, it was Mancini who delivered the crucial knock, breaking up a no-hit bid in the sixth inning. And Saturday, when Baltimore found itself trailing immediately in the first inning, Mancini struck again.
The last month-plus for Mancini has gone this way — a torrid stretch at the plate that has righted the bad luck he experienced for much of April. Since May 3, Mancini is hitting .364 with four homers. His 438-foot blast into the bullpen — the longest for an Oriole this season — raised his slugging percentage in that period to .517.
Entering Saturday, Mancini’s .477 sweet spot percentage ranked second in the majors behind Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. He’s making a case for a second consecutive All-Star Game appearance — if not another Home Run Derby — as his power numbers continually tick skyward.
Around the horn
>> Infielder Jahmai Jones passed through unconditional release waivers and was released. Jones, who underwent Tommy John surgery last week, could still return to the club on a new deal, but the Orioles removed him from the 40-man roster while he recovers.
>> The Orioles will announce Sunday’s starting pitcher the morning of the game. Hyde said the spot starter could come from the current 26-man roster or from Triple-A Norfolk. Right-hander Bryan Baker started Tuesday for Baltimore, pitching 1 1/3 innings as an opener.
This story will be updated.
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