Mancini adds jolt, but O’s still in stu­por

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

For an Ori­oles team suf­fer­ing through an ugly Septem­ber swoon, it took a rookie mak­ing his sec­ond ma­jor league start to pro­vide the of­fen­sive spark the Ori­oles des­per­ately needed Thurs­day night against the Bos­ton Red Sox.

With one swing, Trey Mancini gave the Ori­oles more runs than they had scored in any of their pre­vi­ous five games, his three-run homer off Red Sox left-han­der David Price ty­ing the score at 3 in the third in­ning.

It was the in­jec­tion of life an Ori­oles team that is seem­ingly on its way to a slow death needed.

Mancini be­came the first player in club his­tory to homer in each of his first two ma­jor league starts, and the first to homer for each of his first two ma­jor league hits. But that joy was fleet­ing as the Ori­oles were ul­ti­mately swept by the Red Sox WILD CARD Toronto Detroit Ori­oles Hous­ton Seat­tle New York Kansas City 83-69 82-70 82-71 81-72 80-72 79-73 77-76 +1 — with a 5-3 loss at Cam­den Yards.

It was just a week ago that the Ori­oles re­turned home from their most suc­cess­ful road trip of the sea­son, just one game back of the Red Sox af­ter right-han­der Kevin Gaus­man’s eight-in­ning score­less gem sealed a series win at Fen­way Park.

The Ori­oles’ world has turned since then. Any hopes of a di­vi­sion ti­tle are all but of­fi­cially out of grasp as the fo­cus turns to one of the two Amer­i­can League wild cards. At the be­gin­ning of this week, be­fore the Red Sox ar­rived at Cam­den Yards for four games, these Ori­oles (82-71) con­trolled their fu­ture. Now, af­ter be­ing swept, they fell out of the sec­ond wild-card slot af­ter the Detroit Tigers beat the Min­nesota Twins, 4-2, on Thurs­day night.

The Ori­oles must change their for­tunes with three games this week­end against an Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs team that is 24 games un­der .500 be­fore a sixgame road trip to Toronto and New York, where the Ori­oles are a com­bined 4-10.

The ad­di­tion of Mancini, who av­er­aged a homer ev­ery 30.6 plate ap­pear­ances this sea­son in the mi­nor leagues, has been a boost against left-handed pitch­ing. And his homer off Price, a for­mer Cy Young Award win­ner, adds an­other chap­ter to an in­trigu­ing story.

But af­ter four games against the Red Sox this week at Cam­den Yards, it’s ob­vi­ous that the Ori­oles and the AL East lead­ers are on dif­fer­ent play­ing fields.

Things can change, but they must do so in a hurry for the Ori­oles to avoid a dis­ap­point­ing end to this sea­son. But if the four-game home sweep the Ori­oles suf­fered this week is any in­di­ca­tion, the gap be­tween the Red Sox and the Ori­oles is as wide as the seven games in the di­vi­sion stand­ings that sep­a­rate them.

Ori­oles right-han­der Chris Till­man, who had been the team’s most re­li­able starter, and a stop­per when it found it­self in a rut, lasted just 12⁄ in­nings for his short­est start of the sea­son.

Mak­ing his third start since re­turn­ing from a shoul­der in­jury, Till­man al­lowed eight of the 13 bat­ters he faced to reach base on four sin­gles, three walks and a triple.

Till­man’s strug­gles mir­rored those of the three pre­vi­ous starters of the series. Dy­lan Bundy, Gaus­man and Ubaldo Jimenez bat­tled through long in­nings and deep pitch counts early on while the Red Sox arms were a model of pitch ef­fi­ciency, helped by an overly ag­gres­sive Ori­oles lineup.

Red Sox starters av­er­aged 71⁄ Trey Mancini em­braces team­mate Adam Jones af­ter Mancini hit a three-run home run in the third in­ning to tie the game. in­nings over the series, while the Ori­oles ro­ta­tion av­er­aged less than 42⁄ in­nings.

The ERAs of the teams’ ro­ta­tions were equally dis­parate this series. Bos­ton’s starters posted a 2.45 ERA, while the Ori­oles’ starters owned a 6.38 ERA.

The Ori­oles, who were 2-for-15 with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion in the series, scored just five runs in their first three games against the Red Sox be­fore Mancini’s home run. And Mancini’s lead­off dou­ble in the sixth was the only hit off Price af­ter the third in­ning.

Howthe Ori­oles stranded Mancini at sec­ond in the sixth was a mi­cro­cosm of the series. Af­ter Mancini went the other way on a changeup from Price — the same pitch he hit into the left-field stands two in­nings ear­lier — for a stand-up dou­ble down the right­field line, the Ori­oles were un­able to score the ty­ing run.

Sec­ond base­man Jonathan Schoop was un­able to hit the ball to the right side to ad­vance Mancini to third, ground­ing out to third in­stead. Short­stop J.J. Hardy then flied out to cen­ter field and left fielder Drew Stubbs struck out.

Long re­liever Vance Wor­ley gave the Ori­oles much-needed length af­ter Till­man’s early exit, but al­lowed a two-out RBI sin­gle to rookie left fielder An­drew Ben­in­tendi in the fifth in­ning. Han­ley Ramirez’s solo homer off left-han­der Don­nie Hart in the sev­enth added ex­tra in­sur­ance the Red Sox wouldn’t need.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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