What began with the look of another comfortable Orioles victory was anything but, as a pitching staff that had been so effective over their recent winning streak couldn’t hang on in a 7-6 loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday night at Citi Field.
Instead of winning a fifth straight game and pulling to .500 for the first time since Aug. 19, the Orioles watched an early 5-1 lead evaporate and fell behind when rookie reliever Hunter Harvey allowed a go-ahead home run to Pete Alonso to begin the eighth inning.
The Orioles wasted little time against Rick Porcello in the first inning. Cedric Mullins hit a leadoff single and scored on a single by Renato Núñez, and Núñez scored on a single by Ryan Mountcastle.
Their lead was 2-1 in the third inning when Rio Ruiz hit a two-run double and scored on a single by Hanser Alberto. DJ Stewart’s fifth home run in the past four games made the Orioles’ lead 6-3 in the fifth inning.
And for all the opportunities they’d later to have to build on that, it wasn’t enough.
After the Mets used home runs by Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil to help claw back close, the Orioles looked primed to expand the lead the way they did several times before. They loaded the bases in the sixth inning and had nothing to show for it when Conforto made a sprinting, over-the-shoulder catch of a Ruiz drive on the warning track in right field to end the inning and keep three runs off the board.
Two batters into the home half of that inning, Andrés Giménez homered off Paul Fry to tie the game. It stayed that way until Alonso’s blast off Harvey in the eighth inning.
Despite their early production, the Orioles left 13 runners on base, including Hanser Alberto at second base in the ninth inning.
Coupled with a New York Yankees win over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles travel to the Bronx 1½ games out of one of the wild-card playoff spots.
López laments long balls
New York’s comeback happened largely on the watch of starter Jorge López, who on Friday began a run of strong starts for the Orioles but his opportunity to continue it was largely hurt by home runs.
López got two crucial strikeouts to limit the damage with one run already in and two out in the second inning, and as the Orioles kept building their lead, the Mets kept leaving the ballpark. McNeil hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning, and as López seemed to be nearing the end of the line, Conforto homered with two outs in the fifth.
Though he struck out six, the home runs meant López allowed five runs on six hits with a walk, bringing his ERA to 6.38.
Roberto Clemente Day celebrated
López, who was born in Puerto Rico, joined infielder Andrew Velazquez, third base coach José Flores and assistant hitting coach José Hernandez in wearing Roberto Clemente’s No. 21 on Wednesday as Major League Baseball celebrated Roberto Clemente Day.
All players and coaches of Puerto Rican heritage could wear the jerseys, the first time MLB made that an option. MLB celebrates Clemente’s humanitarian work annually Sept. 18.
“To us, I’m sure for Drew and José the same thing, it means a lot,” Flores said. “Not only as a player what Roberto did on the field, but off the field, his community work, his humanitarian work. He pretty much died helping people that suffered from an earthquake in Nicaragua, Dec 31, 1972. It says a lot — never expecting something in return. That’s something that definitely will stick with us throughout our entire career.”
Stewart, Mountcastle keep getting on
Stewart and Mountcastle each reached in all five of their plate appearances Wednesday, with Mountcastle singling four times and being hit by a pitch and Stewart having three hits, including a home run, with a walk and a hit-by-pitch as well.