DETROIT — The O’s limped into Friday’s series opener at Comerica Park, banged up and bruised but in high spirits after a stretch that saw them win six of eight and eight of 12. With so many ailing, though, there were bound to be some blips on the radar.
But as has often been the case lately, even Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Tigers still contained a handful of bright spots, including a Major League debut and a late-game surge that left the home team sweating.
“We’re giving ourselves a chance almost every single night,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “And we’re pitching well. Tonight, we didn’t get the timely hit or a couple of them, but we had our chances.”
Not much went right for the O’s early, from a pair of costly defensive miscues to a lack of timely hitting, and they were in a funk and feeling it throughout the first seven scoreless innings. The tides changed in the eighth though, and everything that had worked against Baltimore to that point suddenly shifted.
The Orioles were down 4-0 and running out of opportunities when Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander launched back-to-back homers to lead off the frame and halve the deficit. The round-trippers were Santander’s fourth and Mancini’s second of the season. Mancini has been hitting at a steady clip but hasn’t quite tapped into the power that saw him slug 104 homers over his past four seasons.
“[Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez] was really pounding him in, with cutters in; he’s a tough at-bat,” said Hyde. Rodriguez, a former O’s prospect, moved to 13-5 against them in his career. “And then [in the eighth against Jacob Barnes] Trey got a fastball in the middle part of the plate, and it was good to see him turn one around.”
Jorge Mateo then led off the ninth by taking a 99 mph sinker off his right foot from closer Gregory Soto. That brought up Mancini, who also earned a bruise and a free trip to first from Soto after an errant pitch one-hopped into his left shin. When Tyler Nevin drew a one-out walk to load the bases, the Orioles were up in the dugout, willing their team forward.
Unfortunately, the ninth became the third consecutive inning the O’s loaded the bases and didn’t score, as the rally quickly fizzled from there. Baltimore stranded 14 on the night, and finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The O’s might not have been in position to threaten had it not been for Denyi Reyes, who made his Major League debut in the seventh and hurled two perfect innings that included two strikeouts.
Despite the O’s loss, Reyes, who spent seven years working through the Minors, couldn’t help but smile as he looked back on the journey that brought him to the hill in Detroit.
“It feels really, really good. It’s like a dream come true,” he said. “… So many years ago, I was just a kid playing baseball in the Dominican, and we dream about pitching in the big leagues, so when I received the call, I was really excited. I called my family, and they cried, so that was really nice.”
Though Reyes’ night included coaxing an eighth-inning groundout from future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, who homered and doubled in the game, the 6-foot-4 rookie beamed when talking about his favorite moment, which came one inning earlier.
“[Reyes] was awesome,” said starter Jordan Lyles, who took the loss after allowing four runs across 5 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out six. “Hopefully, we’ll have a couple more outings like that in his favor, but stepping up like that for the first time on a Major League mound and putting up quality innings is great.”
Reyes opened the seventh with two quick outs before Tigers slugger Javier Báez took a 1-2 four-seamer 364 feet into the left-field seats. Replays showed the ball hooking foul just shy of the pole, though, giving Reyes a shot at redemption. He took full advantage, ringing up Báez on a slider so low and off the plate the veteran nearly doubled over as he golfed at it, missing for strike three.
“The best part?” Reyes said. “Striking out [Javier] Báez. Everybody was excited about the home run that went foul but after that, the next pitch: Slider down, strikeout. That felt good.”