Mancini's toughness on display in loss

Takeaways include Mountcastle's injury, Mateo's debut, impact atop lineup

August 7th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- These days, nobody questions ’s drive, pain tolerance or mental fortitude, not after his grueling ordeal beating cancer and remarkable return to the field this season. On Friday night at Oriole Park, that resolve was plain to see, even if on a smaller scale.

• Box score

This particular Mancini story begins with the Orioles slugger lying face down on the dirt around home plate, his body sprawled across both batter’s boxes, his face seared in pain. He’d just fouled Ryan Yarbrough’s 1-2 pitch into his own groin and been leveled by both its impact and surprise. Which is what made it such a sight when on the very next pitch, after he rose, stretched and finally caught his breath, Mancini golfed a double into the left-field corner, pulling into second to a loud ovation.

A batter later, newly acquired ignited the crowd again by celebrating his team debut with an electrifying triple, scoring Mancini and connecting two of the more remarkable scenes from Friday’s odd, eventful, ultimately deflating 10-6 loss to the Rays. The defeat came in large part because of the five-RBI night by former Oriole Nelson Cruz, whose game-tying three-run homer and go-ahead eighth inning double spoiled a night John Means left with a three-run lead. The loss was Baltimore’s ninth in 10 games vs. Tampa Bay this season.

“I wasn’t able to get in a groove,” Means said. “And this team is pesky.”

Said manager Brandon Hyde: “It was definitely a disappointing loss.”

But within it, there were several notable developments that figure to impact the team going forward:

From the trainer’s room
The Orioles removed as a precaution shortly after Mountcastle was tagged on the side of the helmet attempting to steal second base in the first inning, announcing later that Mountcastle was being evaluated per concussion protocol.

Baltimore hopes it is a temporary issue for Mountcastle, who extended his RBI streak to seven games by singling home in the first. Mountcastle is 13-for-25 (.520) with three home runs and three doubles during the streak, the second longest by a rookie in Orioles history, per STATS. Mountcastle also owns the longest, an eight-game streak from May 31-June 9 of this year.

Dating back to Memorial Day, Mountcastle is slashing .299/.353/.582 with 15 homers and 43 RBIs in 53 games, and his 19 homers rank second among AL rookies. He has also been given the lion’s share of reps in the second half at first base, where his defense is improving.

Hey, Jorge
It was an interesting and unexpected debut for Mateo, the former top 100 prospect the Orioles selected off waivers from the Padres on Thursday and planned to debut in Saturday’s starting lineup. Instead, Mateo was thrust into action early in Mountcastle’s place, forcing the Orioles to shift Maikel Franco to emergency duty at first base (with Mancini at DH). Mateo lined up at third, one of six positions he has already appeared at despite only 79 big league games.

That was where the ball found him in the eighth, when Cruz muscled a 89 mph liner off Mateo’s glove and into left field to score two go-ahead runs. The bigger takeaway, though, was how Mateo showed off the loud tools that once made him such a highly rated prospect, especially his plus speed. He hit his fifth-inning triple with 108.5 mph exit velocity (he also singled in the seventh) and reached a maximum speed of 31.1 feet per second rounding the bases, per Statcast, an elite combination rarely seen in these parts.

“That was a great moment for me,” he said.

For Mateo, it’s not unusual: His 30.6 feet-per-second average on competitive runs makes him MLB’s third-fastest player this season, behind only Trea Turner and Tim Locastro.

“He was sitting there in a sweatshirt having just come off a cross-country flight, so it wasn’t the ideal situation for him to make his debut,” Hyde said. “But you saw the speed on the triple. It was lightning fast.”

From the top
Mancini’s aforementioned two-bagger came as part of a two-double night, snapping an 0-for-17 funk for the Orioles’ primary run producer. They were some of several good signs from the top of the O’s lineup, most coming in the early innings in support of Means.

Mullins added to his AL-leading hit total to manufacture the game’s first run ahead of Mountcastle’s single, slapping a leadoff single to left and promptly stealing his 21st base. connected for his 12th homer and second in four games after hitting one in his previous 17.

Hays also laid out in left field to rob Yandy Díaz of a hit in the first, one of the several above-average plays the Orioles made on a night when their defense ultimately, and ironically, let them down. Richie Martin’s impact was plain to see on both sides of the ball in his second game back in the big leagues: Martin doubled, drove in two and impacted multiple plays defensively at shortstop. With Martin at short, Mateo at third, Hays in left and Mullins in center, Friday might very well have featured the most athletic left side of the diamond the Orioles have fielded during this rebuild.