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'Hair on fire' run burns O's as rally snuffed

@JoeTrezz
April 10, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Since well before the Orioles opened the regular season two weeks ago in New York, manager Brandon Hyde has stressed the merits of aggressive baserunning to his young group, knowing the approach will come with consequences at times. He’s encouraged his players to play “with their hair on

BALTIMORE -- Since well before the Orioles opened the regular season two weeks ago in New York, manager Brandon Hyde has stressed the merits of aggressive baserunning to his young group, knowing the approach will come with consequences at times. He’s encouraged his players to play “with their hair on fire,” while acknowledging the potential pitfalls inherent in such a strategy. Taking chances means paying for them sometimes; Hyde chalks it up to a trade-off worth making.

For the most part, it’s proven effective. The Orioles have often pushed the envelope in the early going, the side effects not plain to see until Tuesday. Though they were already down five by the time two questionable decisions on the bases truncated the third inning, those failed chances hurt their ability to claw back into what ended as a 13-2 loss to the A’s, and now provides Hyde and his staff a pair of teaching moments.

“We’ve been preaching aggressiveness,” Hyde said. “That’s a learning lesson for our guys.”

The first came from rookie third-base coach Jose Flores, who waved rookie shortstop Richie Martin home to test the now-famed right arm of A’s center fielder Ramon Laureano. Laureano uncorked a 96 mph throw, per Statcast, to retire Martin at the plate by a wide margin. A batter later, Joey Rickard was thrown out attempting the back end of a double steal. When Trey Mancini flied out to end the inning, the Orioles scored no runs in a frame they began with a walk and two singles.

“Obviously, it’s one that Flo would like to have back,” Hyde said. “Laureano can really, really throw. We know that. Unbelievable throw.”

“I just throw it, and that’s it,” Laureano said with a smile. “It’s pretty simple. I see that he was running [and threw].”

Long road back for Bleier

On a day the Orioles lost two veteran pitchers to the injured list, one of their most accomplished relievers continued to search for consistency coming off an injury of his own.

Pitching for the first time in six days, Richard Bleier was charged with a career-high four runs as Oakland stretched its lead in the eighth. The outing marked the latest hurdle in Bleier’s long road back from lat surgery last June.

“I thought Rich’s velo was good tonight, I thought he stayed strong throughout. I don’t think he’s getting the shape of the pitches that he would like,” Hyde said. “He’s coming off a pretty major injury and we’re just going to be patient with him. Still getting a feel for coming back off of injury and I just think the shape of his pitches, that’s what he’s frustrated with a little bit.”

The numbers back up Hyde’s assessment. While Bleier’s velocity remains relatively unchanged compared to last season -- his sinker has clocked in at 87.6 mph on average, compared to 87.9 mph in 2018, per Statcast -- the results have been markedly different. He pitched to a 1.97 career ERA before the operation, and owns a 14.54 mark across four appearances this season.

Double balks

Miguel Castro matched some odd franchise history by balking twice in 1 2/3 innings in relief of Bleier, during which the righty allowed four runs to balloon his ERA to 11.57. Castro became the first pitcher to balk twice in the same appearance this season, and the first reliever do so it since Texas’ Alex Claudio on July 31, 2017. He is the second Orioles reliever to ever balk twice in the same game, and the first since Gregg Olson on April 4, 1989.

Means to an end

Left-hander John Means probably deserved better in his first Major League start, taking the loss by allowing five runs -- but just one earned -- over three innings. Three of those came on a Marcus Semien homer that blew the game open in the second, but Semien wouldn’t have come to the plate had a Hanser Alberto error not extended the inning. Means was forced to throw 33 pitches in the frame, due in no small part to five weakly hit grounders that resulted in only one out.

“I was getting soft contact for the most part. I had a lot of teammates come up to me and say they’ve never seen anything like that with all of those infield base hits,” Means said. “I’m usually a fly-ball pitcher, so to get all those ground-ball hits is kind of new to me.”

Hyde said Means will likely get at least one more start with Alex Cobb’s back injury opening a slot in the Orioles’ rotation.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.