Baltimore Orioles: Did Brandon Hyde outthink himself in the eighth inning?

The Baltimore Orioles needed innings out of starter Jorge Lopez this afternoon. On consecutive days, Tampa had all but forced the Orioles’ newly constructed bullpen to implode on consecutive nights. Luckily the Orioles’ starter was able to go deeper into the game, perhaps sparing the ‘pen a bit. Lopez’s line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K.

I’m his last two starts we’ve seen Lopez seemingly find his “happy place” in a sense. He’s been able to make it six innings, and he’s been lifted before he could fall apart. And in terms of wins and losses, that’s made a world of difference. Again for the record, that’s Lopez’s second consecutive quality start.

The Orioles never trailed in this game. And early on we got to see a pretty cool moment. Cedric Mullins smacked a solo home run on the first pitch in the last of the first inning. That have the O’s a 1-0 lead, and they never looked back.

But that wasn’t all. That gave Mullins 20 homers on the season. He already has 22 stolen bases, so Mullins officially joins the 20/20 club. Shouldn’t be a shock, for the American League’s starting Center fielder in the All-Star game.

Richie Martin’s RBI-single in the second gave the O’s a 2-0 lead. However that doesn’t happen if Jorge Mateo isn’t hit by a pitch and he doesn’t steal second base. In case you haven’t followed the games or this column thus far this weekend, the guy’s legit fast. The Orioles somehow stumbled into having him on the roster, and for that they’re really lucky.

Austin Hays’ RBI-single later in that second inning scored Martin, and extended the Orioles’ lead to 3-0. However Lowe’s solo homer in the third put a bit of pressure back on the Orioles. And luckily, they answered the call.

Anthony Santander smacked a solo homer of his own in the last of the third. But unfortunately the team last ended up in essence trading homers, as Meadows smacked a solo shot in the fourth. Austin Hays would add an RBI-single in the last of the fourth, giving the Birds a 5-3 lead.

However that was cut to 5-3 in the seventh on Phillips’ RBI-single. And it’s been the eighth inning that’s killed this team this weekend in this series. Whatever Tampa’s needed to win, they’ve gotten in the eighth. And unfortunately for the O’s, today was no exception.

Paul Fry entered to pitch the top of the eighth, and promptly loaded the bases. After he surrendered two runs (including walking one in) to tie the game at five, he gave way to Dillon Tate. And state gave up a grand slam to Phillips, giving Tampa a 9-5 lead. And a 9-6 win (Santander’s RBI-double in the ninth have the Orioles six) sweeping the series.

Both Paul Fry and Dillon Tate have been struggling. Whether that’s confidence or something mechanical is beyond me. I suppose my question would be why did Brandon Hyde have them in the game in those situations?

Specifically, Fry – not that Tate isn’t accountable also, but he inherited the bases loaded, and a confident Tampa team as it was. With two on and nobody out, why would Hyde allow Fry (a southpaw) to pitch to Cruz (a right-handed hitter who hits left-handers very well) in that situation?

The answer is because he had to. You have to pitch to three hitters unless the inning ends. But knowing that Cruz was due up, was a struggling Fry the right guy to insert in that instance? And was a struggling Tate the right guy to bring in behind him?

For the record, Cruz drew a walk. But you get my point. Ultimately Fry and Tate may have been the best poor options. But ultimately no matter how you spin it, all the parts combined cost the Orioles the game.

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