The Orioles slugger mashed a two-run double in the sixth to give Baltimore a late spark against the surging Rays at Tropicana Field, then hustled home on Pedro Severino’s single to score the game-tying run on the next play. Unfortunately, the O’s offense faded soon afterward, while Tampa Bay had just enough left in the tank to earn a 5-4 win on Tommy Pham's walk-off single in the 10th.
“[Trumbo’s] was a big hit; he’s done that his whole career,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Nice to see Mark get some at-bats today, and it was awesome to have him in there.”
Trumbo’s strike came after Hanser Alberto opened the inning with his 11th home run of the season, and it continued a rally that saw Baltimore score four runs while forcing Ryan Yarbrough to throw 35 pitches in the frame.
Trumbo pushed hard to be able to rejoin the Orioles come September, battling through a few flareups during his stint in the Minor Leagues. While his activation on Monday morning may have been an important mental boost in reward for sticking with the rehab process -- Trumbo hadn’t played since Aug. 19, 2018, and had season-ending surgery on his right knee last September -- he added that rejoining the squad allowed him to help fulfill a commitment to the team and O’s fans.
“I’m getting paid to play,” said Trumbo, who is in the final season of a three-year, $37.5 million contract. “I think that’s always weighed on me pretty heavily. It’s something that I feel like I owe it to the team to get out there and do what I can.”
On Monday, Trumbo’s first contribution of 2019 was crucial. With two men on in the sixth inning, the designated hitter clubbed a two-out, two-run double that rolled to the wall in right to bring the Orioles to within one run. His extra-base knock also led to Severino battling Yarbrough for 13 pitches -- including a hard foul off the inside of his left knee -- before slicing a single to right that scored a hustling Trumbo to tie the game at 4.
“It was one of our better at-bats of the year for me,” Hyde said of Severino's knock. “I’ve said all along that the two-out RBI single to right is a beautiful thing. Sevy really worked hard and battled that at-bat. It was a big hit to tie the game.”
O’s starter Asher Wojciechowski did his part by avoiding a big frame against Tampa Bay, which is fresh off a three-game sweep vs. Boston as the teams jockey for position in a tight American League Wild Card race. Baltimore’s righty yielded a two-run homer to Austin Meadows in the third and a two-run double to Pham in the fifth, but in both cases, he was able to rebound and end the frame without allowing another hit.
“I’m satisfied in going deep like that, I’m just frustrated with the couple of mistakes I made for runs,” Wojciechowski said. “Especially the hanging slider to Pham. … It was just poor execution on that with two outs.”
Wojciechowski allowed just three other hits -- all singles -- while walking one and striking out five in his longest outing (seven innings) since July 26.
“I thought he got stronger as the game went on,” Hyde said. “He just made a couple bad pitches. … You go seven innings against this club, a playoff-type club, it’s a nice outing, obviously. I was hoping we could add one more [run] there late, but it just didn’t happen.”
Though Baltimore ultimately came up short in the opener, Trumbo’s return was a reason to celebrate anyway.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “You know, with this, I had pretty high hopes going into surgery, and then there’s been a few roadblocks along the way, some stops and starts. All the while, I kept thinking that once we got far enough out, things can kind of come around, and I think at this point, it’s cooperated enough that I can get out there.”
Last season, the two-time All-Star slashed .261/.313/.452 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 90 games. Trumbo experienced a few setbacks in his comeback attempt as knee issues flared up. After stalling rehab assignments at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, he received a platelet-rich plasma injection on June 13.
While Trumbo said he likely won’t play first base because of the extra bending the position requires, the sight of him hustling to score from second on a single on Monday was definitely an encouraging sight. He’s found so far that it’s less a specific activity that irritates his knee than longer-term activity, like playing on consecutive days.
“Some days are better than others. Some days are really good,” Trumbo said. “If I do a lot, or if I’m heavily involved, I can kind of predict the next day there’ll be some soreness and some swelling. We’ve got a great team here to try and manage the symptoms, and with any luck, we’ll have a lot of productivity.”
Hyde was just as happy with the emotional boost his returning slugger adds to a clubhouse stocked with youth as he was with the product on the field.
“It’s a big deal for a lot of people,” Hyde said. “It was awesome to catch him this morning, and just to have him here -- in uniform, in the lineup -- is going to be a great feeling.
“He’s been a great teammate in the clubhouse a lot this year, supporting our guys in the dugout. It’s also a big deal for our training staff that put in a lot of time. I know it’s a great feeling for everybody involved to have him back on the field and in the lineup.”