The Orioles’ 2022 season was always going to be a tough start. Some of the players who could be fixtures for Baltimore’s next good team are probably already in place, but a lot of the organization’s prospects aren’t ready to arrive until midseason.
There is a clear need on the pitching side, where nearly half of the Orioles’ bullpen choices came in the form of waiver claims in Baltimore. That’s only because, less than a week before Friday’s season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles traded high-leveraged relievers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulcer for the Miami Marlins. The pair could very well have served as manager Brandon Hyde’s primary setup man and were close, in some combination, available to him.
But in the Orioles’ first regular-season game of 2022, and their first since that trade, the hole in the back of their bullpen was clear. The Rays opened Baltimore’s season in a 2–1 loss by scoring runs to advance to the bottom of the eighth inning. It marked the Orioles’ 13th consecutive loss to Tampa Bay, going 1-18 against the American League East champions in 2021.
“Really tough, but at the same time, really good game,” said right-hander Jorge Lopez, who was on the mound when he scored the winning run. “We know they have really good hitters. My plan was just to attack, and unfortunately, I didn’t get the plan.” [to be] successful.
“It’s really hard. But we just keep our heads up and just keep thinking about tomorrow.”
With Tyler Wells moved into the rotation, Hyde is the only two players in the bullpen who earned a save for Baltimore last season in Dillon Tate and Paul Fry, who booked Lopez’s outing in eighth. Tampa Bay claimed relievers Brian Baker and Seonel Perez after Orioles starter John Means completed four innings of a one-run ball – offseason exemption claimed to make his Orioles debut – next With Tate to retire the Nine Rays. But when Tate allowed a leadoff single in the eighth, Hyde brought on Lopez, who struggled in the Orioles’ rotation last season but showed potential in a relief role.
After an eight-pitch fight with Ji-Man Choi followed a walk and a 49.9 mph run, Francisco Mejia made a sacrificial flight off Lopez for the decisive run. Another outing reloaded the bases in 2021 with Fry entering and trapping three runners after a desperately struggling against Tampa Bay.
“I wanted Lopi for the biggest part of the game, when it mattered,” Hyde said. “He got a swinging bunt single that was safe at first base, costing us a lot this game. Just bad luck on our part.”
The game was tied after Anthony Santander also scored in sixth, but the Orioles failed to capitalize on their other opportunities, finishing 0-for-7 with the runners up in the scoring position. He loaded base with a first out against Tampa Bay starter Shane McClanahan, but was unable to score a run. The Baltimore-born McClanahan dismissed seven Orioles in a 4 1/3 no-scoring innings.
The Baltimore Batsmen lost 14 times at the start of the season, the last of which was struck by All-Star Cedric Mullins to end the game, when pinch-hitter Rugnade Odor singled out his first at-bat as the Oriole. .
“I thought we had some really good pitching and credit goes to him,” Hyde said. “He has really good weapons. It’s been known for a long time, and he bowled the ball very well, so it was a difficult batting. We had an early chance, not cashing in for a run or two, and he Let him get off the hook first. Maybe that changed a few things, but he bowled the ball very well.”
making means work
With the league’s 99-day lockout of spring training shortened by two weeks, pitchers are not about to start as they usually are. So as Means watched his pitch count climb into the second long innings, he knew his time in the game would be brief.
According to Baseball Savant, Ray pushed Means on 84 pitches in four frames, 24 of them for the highest percentage of foul balls allowed by Means in any start lasting more than an innings.
He needed only 25 pitches to record five outs, but needed 19 more to finish the second inning, with Ray named hitter Josh Lowe working a 10-pitch walk. A 25-pitch third followed, with the Rays making the first sacrificial flight of the game from Brandon Lowe (Maryland).
“I knew, especially with those long, long innings that I was probably going to be limited to four or five, and then the next one was longer and I was like, OK, let’s get through to fourth,” Means he said. “It was a mill for the first time.”
Means inspired 11 swing-and-misses through three innings, the second-most at any start at the time. Six of them came on his change, and he finished with five strikes in his four innings.
It wasn’t as crisp as the start of his first day, when he held the Boston Red Sox on one hit in seven scoreless innings last year. But Hyde was pleased with the performance, even though Means felt it matched the “five-and-dive” performance he posted during his all-star rookie season.
“As far as we were allowing them to go on 80-ish pitches,” Hyde said. “He got out of trouble a little bit, and I thought he had a really good turnaround today. Glad to have scored a run in four innings against a good club.”
first replay announcement
Earlier this year, MLB umpires will make in-ballpark announcements for the results of the replay review. The Orioles were the first beneficiary with whom they were involved.
With Tate pitching in seventh, speedster Kevin Kirmeyer hit a groundball to third baseman Calvin Gutierrez, in which his throw temporarily pulled first baseman Ryan Mountcastle out of the bag. First base umpire CB Buckner ruled that Mountcastle did not return to base before Kirmeyer arrived.
The Orioles challenged the call, and after a review, home plate umpire and crew chief Jeff Nelson’s voice came through Tropicana Field’s booming sound system.
“After the review, the call is reversed,” Nelson said. “The runner is out.”
Saturday, 1:10 p.m.
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