Baserunning mistakes cost O's in nightcap

Back-to-back plays in third keep Baltimore off the scoreboard

September 4th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Sometimes, the smallest mistakes can turn out to be a big deal. It was a hard lesson learned for the Orioles, who dropped Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader to the Rays, 2-0, at Tropicana Field.

After a strong showing in Game 1, when the offense, defense and pitching worked together seamlessly for a 4-2 win, a pair of baserunning blunders had Baltimore reeling early in the nightcap, and it never quite recovered.

“We just got a couple of unfortunate breaks there,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

Baltimore’s mental lapses came on consecutive at-bats in the third inning. While the O’s mistakes didn’t grow throughout the game, Baltimore also didn’t threaten on offense again.

The third began in Baltimore’s favor, as Chris Davis laced a single to the wall that left fielder Austin Meadows misplayed, allowing Davis to reach second. Richie Martin dropped a sacrifice bunt down the third-base line to advance Davis and hustled to first.

Here’s where it gets fun: Third baseman Joey Wendle’s throw went wide, and Martin and second baseman Eric Sogard got tangled up at first. The ball careened toward the stands and allowed Davis to score and Martin to get all the way to third.

Except it didn’t end up that way. First-base umpire Nic Lentz ruled Martin out on runner’s interference, and replays on the Jumbotron showed Martin running inside the baseline prior to colliding with Sogard. Instead of the Orioles going ahead, 1-0, Davis was sent back to second.

Hyde voiced his frustration with the call after the game, and he admitted the play was something he “might have brought up” to the umpiring crew when he was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

“Looking back at it, Richie was in the line a little bit, but almost every single batter-runner is inside the line,” said Hyde, whose ejection was the third of his managerial career. “I just thought we could use better judgment when the throw is that far off-line. But they didn’t see it that way.”

Martin, who said he was “surprised” by the ruling, echoed his skipper’s sentiments.

“Unfortunately, they just missed that call,” he said. “They're people, too, so there's nothing you can do about it.”

Jonathan Villar was up next, poking a long fly that looked as if it would be caught at the wall, but center fielder Kevin Kiermaier came up just short. The ball hit the wall and bounced away from Kiermaier as Villar motored around first.

For a moment, it seemed as though the O’s had gotten a lucky break when the Rays’ Platinum Glove center fielder came up empty-handed. Had Davis -- who was on second base, remember -- waited halfway up the line, he would’ve scored easily on the play. But the veteran waited to tag up at second instead.

“With one out, the priority is to score there on any ball that’s possibly catchable; you want to be able to score from second base,” Hyde said. “I just think Chris got too close to second base there, and Villar assumed he was going to score on that play.”

Davis raced toward third, rounding it by a couple of steps before coach Jose David Flores threw up the stop sign. No harm done, except that Villar had rounded second like a freight train and was halfway to third before he realized Davis was on the bag. A short rundown ensued, but Villar had nowhere to go, and instead of taking a 2-0 lead with no outs in the third, the Orioles were scoreless with two outs.

It was unfortunate that the O’s were limited afterward, because starter Gabriel Ynoa deserved a much better fate.

Due to caution surrounding the path of Hurricane Dorian, the Rays and O’s elected to move Wednesday’s scheduled game to make a Tuesday doubleheader.

The unexpected two-game day that the decision brought gave both teams an off-day Wednesday, but not enough time to maneuver their starters’ outings. Baltimore used four relievers in Game 1, so the deeper Ynoa went into Game 2, the better.

On a night when the bullpen needed it most, the righty gave the O's a season-high 6 1/3 innings and held the Rays to just two runs, walking none along the way. It marked his deepest outing since Sept. 21, 2017, an eight-inning, one-run affair, also against the Rays.

“I think it's the best I've felt this season,” Ynoa said through a translator. “The key was that I've been working a lot on my pitching mechanics every single day, and I got a good result today.”