BALTIMORE -- Tuesday night brought a typical 2023 Tyler Wells start -- a solid outing in which the right-hander attacked the zone, racked up strikeouts, but then also got hurt by the long ball.
Many times this season, that’s been enough for the Orioles to win. Not this time.
Wells was on the losing end of a pitching duel with Cincinnati left-hander Andrew Abbott -- MLB Pipeline’s No. 60 overall prospect -- who was making his fifth MLB start. Abbott turned in a quality start of his own and helped hand Baltimore a 3-1 loss at Camden Yards, setting up a Wednesday night rubber game between two of baseball’s top up-and-coming teams.
While Wells allowed two runs over six innings (yielding four hits and a walk while striking out seven), Abbott gave up only one run over six frames. The O’s recorded two hits off the southpaw, who walked three and punched out eight.
“I thought Tyler was really good, once again. Six outstanding innings,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “But we had a tough time with Abbott tonight. Kind of knew that was going to be a tough one coming in, and he was really, really good. We had a tough time getting anything going against him.”
Even if Baltimore’s bats couldn’t support Wells, the 28-year-old again strengthened his under-the-radar All-Star case by showing the consistency he has all year thus far.
It was Wells’ sixth quality start over his 16 outings. Each of those outings have lasted five or more innings (even his lone relief appearance in his season debut on April 3 at Texas). He also had at least seven strikeouts for the eighth time this season.
Wells’ MLB-best WHIP now sits at 0.88, well below the second-best mark of 0.97, owned by Minnesota right-hander Joe Ryan. Wells’ ERA is at 3.21 after allowing two or fewer earned runs in each of his past six starts.
However, the game’s decisive swing came against Wells in the sixth. Matt McLain opened the inning with a leadoff home run, giving the Reds a 2-1 lead that held up the rest of the way (even following a rain delay of one hour and 43 minutes between the seventh and eighth innings).
Wells has given up 19 homers (tied for second most in MLB), and 25 of his 35 runs allowed have come via long balls.
“It wasn’t executed very well,” Wells said of his high 2-1 fastball that McLain blasted a Statcast-projected 402 feet.
Wells didn’t allow much hard contact, though, as only two of the balls put in play against him had an exit velocity greater than 100 mph -- McLain’s double in the fourth (108.8) and his homer (100.1). Cincinnati’s other two hits off Wells were a TJ Friedl bunt single in the fourth and a Will Benson single in the fifth.
“McLain, he obviously did a great job against me tonight. And then, the bunt and the single, you just kind of throw those off to the side,” said Wells, who located 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes. “That’s how we’ve scored some runs as well. That’s just how it goes.”
But the rest of Baltimore’s lineup was mostly quiet. Its lone run came in the second on a Ryan McKenna sacrifice fly, and its lone non-Westburg hit was a Gunnar Henderson two-out double in the eighth.
The Orioles knew this series wasn’t going to be an easy one, even after they won Monday’s opener, 10-3. The Reds, who snapped a three-game losing streak, had won 12 in a row and ascended to the top of the National League Central standings before this latest skid.
“You look at this Reds team, just a lot of similarities [to us] in how young they are and how athletic they are,” Hyde said. “They’re playing extremely well and exciting to watch.”