ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the course of a 162-game season, the chances to make history are endless. Some milestones live forever; other feats get filed into the game’s annals, quirky nuggets to be unearthed again at a later date.
The Orioles made the latter type of history on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, squeezing some weirdness into their 4-2 loss to the Rays. How else to describe what they did to Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who was caught on the bases twice in the same inning?
“One of those freak things,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde called it.
Here’s what happened: Kiermaier was on first after singling to lead off the seventh against Baltimore righty Mike Wright, and itching to advance. When he ran, the throw from Jesus Sucre (2.01 pop time, per Statcast) reached Jonathan Villar in plenty of time. There was just one problem. Villar dropped the ball; the official scorer awarded Sucre the caught stealing, Villar an error, and Kiermaier got the base.
A few pitches later, Kiermaier saw the Orioles in an overshift and danced off second. That’s when Wright picked him off -- technically another caught stealing.
“I’ve been thinking about it all day,” Kiermaier said. “I can’t comprehend it. How does a player get caught stealing twice in the same inning?”
Kiermaier's beef was with the scoring of the first play, which rested on the assumption that Villar should’ve held onto Sucre’s throw. He said he won’t appeal, which means the history stands: The Orioles are the first team since July 7, 2011, to throw out the same runner stealing twice in the same inning. The last to do it was the Brewers, who caught Brandon Phillips twice in the second inning of an eventual 5-4 win over the Reds.
Amazingly, two errors allowed Phillips to escape safely both times. To find the last baserunner to be thrown out stealing by a catcher and picked off by a pitcher in the same inning, like Kiermaier was, you have to go back to April 30, 1998. Larry Walker was the culprit that time, against Mets reliever John Hudek and backstop Tim Spehr.
“Wild to be a part of,” Kiermaier said.
History aside, the play speaks to the larger effort the Orioles have made to control the running game, and their early success in doing so. Only 11 runners have attempted to steal against them over the first 18 games, tied for the second lowest in the American League. Baltimore also tops the Majors in team caught-stealing percentage, having thrown out 7 of 11 attempted base stealers (63.6 percent).
Davis sits again
Still bothered by a stomach bug, Chris Davis was out of the Orioles' lineup for the second consecutive day. He has not played since hitting his first home run of the year in Monday’s 8-1 win in Boston.
“Still has a little bit of a virus,” Hyde said. “It’s not responding like we would’ve liked.”
Though it's unclear if the ailments are related, Davis is not the only person on the Major League circuit feeling under the weather. Several members of the Rays are sick, and Tampa manager Kevin Cash is currently suffering from the flu. Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. also sat out most of the series against the Orioles this past weekend in Boston due to illness. The Mets recently pushed ace Jacob deGrom back due to a bout of strep throat.
Healed from a left oblique strain that had sidelined him since Spring Training, catcher Austin Wynns was reinstated from the 10-day injured list Wednesday and immediately optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. The move fills the Orioles’ 40-man roster, which now includes four catchers.
Wynns, 28, hit .255 with a .669 OPS in 42 games as a rookie in 2018. He was in the mix for the club’s backup role before getting injured in mid-March, and began the season on the IL while Sucre and Pedro Severino headed north with the team.
Now his return brings the potential for a roster logjam at Norfolk, where Chance Sisco will continue to play every day. Carlos Perez currently serves as Sisco’s backup.
Wednesday marked the first game in the field since Spring Training for Renato Nunez, who’d settled in as the Orioles’ everyday designated hitter in the early going while playing through a minor biceps injury. A third baseman by trade, Nunez slid across the diamond to first in place of Davis, and batted cleanup. It marked Nunez’s first career Major League game at first, though he’d started there occasionally in the Minor Leagues.