Home runs sink the O’s

Twins smash 11 homers in sweep; Davis forced to pitch Kline com­pletes ‘jour­ney’ with call-up for dou­ble­header

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - ORIOLES - By Peter Sch­muck By Nathan Ruiz

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.

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