Home runs sink the O’s
Twins smash 11 homers in sweep; Davis forced to pitch Kline completes ‘journey’ with call-up for doubleheader
If these are the times that try a manager’s soul, Brandon Hyde is trying not to show it.
In the first month of his first regular season as Orioles, his pitching staff has given up home runs at a rate never before seen in the history of a sport that is celebrating it’s sesquicentennial anniversary.
Yes, that’s what the 150 stands for on every big leaguer’s sleeve. And over those 150 years, no team has given up as many homers before the end of April as the rebuilding O’s.
In fact, the only team to come at all close was the 1996 Detroit Tigers who — until Saturday — held the record for home runs before May 1 with 50. The Orioles shattered it with the willing help of the Minnesota Twins, who hit 11 homers on the way to a resounding sweep of the rain-makeup doubleheader at Camden Yards.
The Orioles have now given up 57, and as you probably have noticed, there are still 10 days left in April, but Hyde has never lost his game face — or his temper. He has yet to let anyone see him sweat.
“We’ve given up a lot of home runs,’’ he said. “We’re looking to execute a little better with two strikes. A lot of damage is done with two strikes against us, and it’s just something we’ve got to get better at.”
If that sounded pretty dispassionate, it was, but that was what he said in between the two games, which was after the Orioles gave up three homers in a tight 6-5 loss to move to within one homer of tying this particularly dubious record.
Of course, it was not the first time the subject has come up and it would not be the last time on Saturday.
The Twins hit eight more on the way to a crazy 16-7 victory in the nightcap, which featured an early inning meltdown by Alex Cobb in his first start back from a stay on the injured list with back soreness and a ninth-inning relief appearance by first baseman Chris Davis.
Former Oriole Nelson Cruz and catcher Mitch Garver hit two home runs in the second game. Left fielder Eddie Rosario hit two homers in the first game and another in the night cap. Jonathan Schoop welcomed himself back to town with two homers and two doubles in the two games.
Obviously, the conditions were right for an unscheduled baseball giveaway in the left field bleachers. There was a nice breeze blowing from right field to left and the weather is just starting to warm up.
The Orioles took advantage of their cozy ballpark, too, hitting three homers in the first game and three more in the second. Designated hitter Renato Nunez hit one in the first game and two more in the nightcap.
The opposing tater total is bad enough, but the number of balls hit out of Oriole Park this season is even more striking, if you’re pardon the unintentional play on words, Orioles pitchers have given up 39 home runs here, or an average of 4.3 homers in just nine home games.
The first game of the doubleheader was tolerable. The Orioles were in it right to the end and came up an eighth-inning hit short of what would have been a satisfying comeback victory.
“Yeah, I thought we battled, like normal,” Hyde said. “Just came up a run short and I liked the way we swung the bat...put together a nice rally in the eighth inning and just came up a little short.”
First game starter Dan Straily gave up three solo homers in a five-inning performance, but the game was tied when he turned it over to the bullpen. The Twins scored three times to take the lead in the sixth inning, which was the only time they scored in the game without hitting a home run.
The Orioles chipped away with a sixthinning homer by catcher Pedro Severino and an RBI double by Trey Mancini in the eighth.
The nightcap got ugly in a hurry. Cobb gave up homers to Cruz and C.J. Cron to tie and break the April record, then allowed homers Rosario and Mitch Garner in the third.
The only pitching highlights in the second game were the major league debut of right-hander Brandon Kline and the second career appearance on the mound by Davis.
Kline was the extra player allowed for the second game of the doubleheader and took the mound in the seventh inning. But he wasn’t immune to the long ball epidemic, allowing the final Twins homers to Garver and Cruz in the eighth. Davis didn’t get off easy either. Schoop hit a long home run in the ninth — his second of the game and the 17th homer of the day.
Branden Kline’s white lab-German Shepherd mix, Zoey, was born Oct. 6, 2015, the same day he underwent Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his right elbow.
“I make a joke my dog and my arm are the exact same age,” Kline, 27, said with a smile Saturday from inside the Orioles’ clubhouse, the site where the journey that never took him too far from home finally culminated in a major league call-up.
Kline served as the Orioles’ 26th man for the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins. He made his debut in the seventh, pitching a perfect inning before surrendering two ruins in the eighth.
The Orioles’ second-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Virginia, Kline grew up in Frederick, but the path from there to Baltimore was far longer than the hourlong drive between locations.
In 2013, a broken right fibula required surgery. A platelet-rich plasma injection in May 2015 preceded the Tommy John surgery, and two 2017 arthroscopic procedures on the back of the elbow followed.
After three lost seasons, he returned last year as a reliever, his big arm and breaking pitches playing to the tune of a 2.88 ERA in 44 games between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, with 17 saves along the way.
So when Triple-A Norfolk manager Gary Kendall interrupted Kline’s efforts on a Sudoku puzzle to call him into his office and deliver the good news, Kline became overwhelmed.
“I cried for a solid 30 minutes after I got the news,” he said. “It was obviously excitement, but at the same time, it was the journey to get here, one injury after the other, after the other. I let my emotions kind of go. As guys were congratulating me, other things would pop up. The fact that I grew up 45 minutes away. The fact that I grew up coming to these games as a little kid and that I’d potentially have the opportunity of going out there on the same field that I watched a lot of guys from the seats.
“I’m a little bit of a softie, but everything is good now.”
He cried some more after he told his wife, Sarah. He had tried to get her to come down to Harbor Park Stadium so he could share news of the call-up face to face instead of by phone, but their 1-year-old daughter, Adalyn, was sleeping. Luckily, the Tides’ game was rained out, allowing Kline to get home early to tell Sarah before calling his parents and hers.
He figured to have 15 to 20 friends and family at Camden Yards on Saturday to potentially see his debut, plus whoever his mom might have told and gathered for the occasion.
Kline was officially added to the roster between games, when reliever Josh Lucas was optioned to activate right-hander Alex Cobb from the injured list for the Game 2 start.
The Orioles needed to remove one player after the second game to get back down to a 25-man roster.
“There’s a lot of moving parts today,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
Although Kline is a logical option to be sent down after the doubleheader, Hyde said the Orioles will wait to evaluate their pitching until after the two games. Hyde enjoyed watching Kline pitch in spring training, where the pitcher recorded eight strikeouts with one walk in 4 2⁄3 innings.
Kline realized his stuff could get the guys he had watched on TV out.
Still, Kline knows this journey could be far shorter than the one that brought him here, so he planned to savor every moment.
“For right now, all I know is I’m here,” Kline said. “Try to help the team today at some point, whether that’s the second game or whatnot. Right now, I’m just taking it moment by moment, not even day by day, trying to soak everything in as best as I possibly can.”
Twins catcher Jason Castro tags out Rio Ruiz at home in the third inning of Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader.