O's reiterate trust in López after two blown saves

July 3rd, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the second time in less than 24 hours, Jorge López had to face the cameras and do what nearly every professional athlete hates most -- talk about failure, specifically, his own failure. And for the second straight day, López said all the right things, even if he’d rather have said nothing at all.

López arrived in Minnesota on Friday having converted his previous nine save opportunities and 13 of 15 this season. But after relinquishing a 2-1 lead in the ninth on Friday night, he came back and blew another save in the ninth on Saturday afternoon, allowing two runs as the Twins rallied for a 4-3 victory.

On Friday, López was stung by a Byron Buxton homer after Luis Arraez singled. López got right to the home run on Saturday, giving up Jorge Polanco’s game-tying shot to center field on his third pitch of the inning, a 2-0 sinker that caught too much of the plate.

After striking out Nick Gordon, López gave up a booming double to Alex Kiriloff, a broken-bat single to Gary Sánchez to put runners on the corners and finally a line-drive single to Jose Miranda to end the game.

López didn’t look for any excuses.

“It’s all on me. I’ve just got to figure it out,” he said. “These things are going to happen. It’s the first time it’s happened to me. I knew something was coming. I’ve got to figure it out.”

In his past two outings, López faced seven Twins hitters and gave up six hits, including a double and two home runs, allowing four earned runs while retiring just one batter. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde reiterated he isn’t worried about his first-year closer.

“He’s had an unbelievable first half, he’s hardly made a bad pitch all half, and he’s just had two tough games,” Hyde said. “It’s going to happen. Long season. I’m assuming he’s going to bounce back.”

López’s teammates have his back as well, especially Saturday’s starter, Jordan Lyles, who pitched into the seventh inning for the third straight start and was on track to earn his fifth win of the season before the ninth-inning collapse.

“He’s been one of the best relievers in baseball. He’s just had a tricky 24 hours. It is what it is. Those are going to happen during the season, but everyone in this clubhouse has faith in him,” Lyles said. “He’s been great for three months. Two outings is two outings. He’ll bounce back.”

Hyde has touted López’s credentials during All-Star discussions, and it’s not hard to see why. In June -- the Orioles’ first winning month since August 2017 -- López went 7-for-7 in save opportunities, allowing no earned runs and just four hits and one walk while striking out 17 in 13 2/3 innings.

Now the converted starter has to learn how to bounce back from his first true rough patch as a reliever. It’s a lesson that all closers end up learning, whether they want to or not.

“This is part of pitching at the back end of the ‘pen,” Hyde said. “You’re gonna have your good days and not-so-good days, that happens, but it’s how you deal with some adversity and come back from it.”

With the camera rolling and reporters’ recorders in his face, López kept his chin up, sounding like a pitcher who’d already begun to learn from his failures.

​​”They’ve got a really good lineup,” he said of the Twins. “They had a really good plan … and I couldn’t just command it where it should be. I just have to keep concentrating, keep focusing on my execution. It’s part of the game.”