Wells' short start puts O's in tough spot vs. Dodgers

Right-hander labors in five-run second as Baltimore faces its first series sweep since 2022

July 19th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- After entering the week as the hottest team in baseball, the Orioles were cooled off by the National League West-leading Dodgers the past two nights at Camden Yards.

Could this be the series in which Baltimore is finally on the wrong end of a sweep?

The O’s haven’t been swept in any of their past 69 multi-game series, a run dating back to May 13-15, 2022. They’ll try to keep that streak intact on Wednesday afternoon by rebounding from a 10-3 loss on Tuesday.

Baltimore has been outscored 16-7 so far in the set against Los Angeles.

Following a 6-4 defeat on Monday -- which snapped the Orioles’ season-long eight-game win streak -- Tyler Wells aimed to guide the team to a bounce-back win. Instead, the 28-year-old turned in an uncharacteristic brief outing.

Wells has been Baltimore’s most consistent starter this season, as he went five or more innings in each of his first 18 outings. But he lasted only two frames on Tuesday, due to a tough second in which the Dodgers plated five runs while batting around the order.

The first five Los Angeles batters in the second all reached base, and each came around to score. That stretch included a three-run homer by Jason Heyward to open the scoring, the 22nd home run allowed by Wells in 2023 (tied for second most in MLB).

“I definitely felt like I kind of failed the team a little bit tonight,” said Wells, who gave up six hits, issued two walks and matched a season high with five earned runs allowed. “Didn’t really set a good pace, and definitely that long inning in the second got to me.”

Although Wells had thrown only 59 pitches (40 in the second), manager Brandon Hyde opted to pull the righty, who still leads the Majors with a 0.98 WHIP and ranks second in the Orioles’ rotation with a 3.54 ERA.

“For Wells’ sake, kind of where he is, we thought the right thing to do there was get him out of the game,” Hyde said.

Baltimore turned to left-hander Cole Irvin, who provided a bright spot in the lopsided loss to start the third. Coming out of the All-Star break, the 29-year-old was moved back to the bullpen. He pitched well to end the first half (a 1.88 ERA over his final three starts), but the O’s needed to make room in the rotation for Grayson Rodriguez, who they felt was ready to return.

Irvin tossed four-plus innings of relief, putting up zeros on the scoreboard in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth. He even worked out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth without yielding a run.

However, Irvin was charged with two earned runs, as he issued back-to-back walks to open the seventh. Both of those runners came around to score after Cionel Pérez entered.

Still, Hyde praised Irvin for the “unbelievable job” he did out of the ‘pen. Wells was appreciative, too.

“Cole was amazing,” Wells said. “After all that, I gave him a big ‘ol hug, because he deserved that. I think that whenever you’ve got a starter that only goes two innings, that’s never what you want.

“And I think that Cole came in and picked up the team in a huge way.”

Irvin mixed all five of his pitches well, which was the reason he felt he was having success at the end of the first half. He’s been much improved from his tough April, when he had a 10.66 ERA over three starts before being optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

While Irvin would likely prefer to be in the Orioles’ rotation, he’s eager to help one of the Majors’ top teams in any way he can.

“I want to win with these guys. I want to win with this group here,” Irvin said. “There’s times where you’ve got to put your ego aside about what you think you are and just focus on getting the job done, and that’s kind of where I’ve come to terms with it.”

Baltimore may have fallen for the second straight game, but it remains only one game back of Tampa Bay in the American League East, as the Rays again lost to the Rangers.

Now, the O’s will look to move on from a sloppy loss (during which they committed a season-high four errors) and notch a finale win over the Dodgers before opening a four-game road set vs. the AL East leaders on Thursday.

“We just didn’t play very well tonight,” Hyde said.