After a shaky first inning, Orioles-pitchers fired through Friday’s next seven frames. Then came the ninth.
Byron Buxton’s walk-off, two-run home run by Baltimore closer Jorge López gave the Minnesota Twins a 3-2 victory to open their series with the Orioles. Baltimore had led 29-0 after eight innings.
Luis Arraez led off the ninth with a single on an at bat of nine pitches and Buxton followed with the walk-off blast.
The great game of McKenna
An injury to one of the Orioles’ offensive pieces created an opportunity for McKenna. He showed his arm, glove and legs.
While Trey Mancini continued to nurse a right hand injury that he first sustained more than two weeks ago, McKenna took the start in left field and ended a long second half of the first by throwing a runner at the plate. The Orioles’ pitchers followed that throw by eliminating the next 21, with McKenna contributing a dive catch to that effort. He led off the eighth with a double and went on to score the go-ahead run.
It is the second consecutive year of sporadic Major League-starts for McKenna, a 25-year-old who was once among Baltimore’s best prospects. His pace and defensiveness make him an ideal fourth outfielder, but he went in on Friday with a .597 OPS and struckout in nearly 40% of his at bats, including each of his four in his most recent start on Saturday. Still, with Mancini’s absence, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde gave Anthony Santander a night with the designated batter and fielded McKenna.
Hyde was unable to watch McKenna’s dive or competition-winning run from the dugout; The Baltimore manager was ejected in the third inning after the Orioles (35-43) scored their first run on the RBI double by Cedric Mullins.
But he was there for McKenna’s throw in the first inning, enabling Spenser Watkins to escape a long frame with only one run allowed. It was McKenna’s fourth outfield assist, making him the third Oriole by so many; no other American League team came in Friday with multiple outfielders with at least four assists.
After working five scoreless innings in his return to the Orioles rotation last week, Watkins registered the first run with five more shutout frames, eliminating the last 15 Twins he faced. McKenna’s dive catch to start sixth was the 13th of those outs. Cionel Pérez extended the streak to 18, then McKenna led off the eighth with a double.
Mancini said before the game that he would be available to pinch-hit in a big spot, and indeed he was, working on a long at bat that ended in a grounder to second, which moved McKenna to third base. With Minnesota in the infield, McKenna shot home on Jorge Mateo’s grounder to second base, but Jorge Polanco’s wild throw enabled him to score easily and give Baltimore a 2-1 lead.
Pérez and Félix Bautista teamed up for a clean eighth before López lost the game in the ninth.
Mancini has a nagging hand injury
Mancini was out of Tuesday’s lineup after recently receiving a cortisone shot in his right hand for a bone growth known as a carpal boss.
Mancini missed three games last month after a throw to the hand on a swing attempt in Toronto. Before Friday’s appearance, he had hits in nine out of ten games since his return, including each of the past eight, with six of his ten hits going for extra bases. Hitting .222 during that period, Mancini said before the game that he planned to be in Saturday’s lineup.
“It’s nothing I think about when I’m on the board,” Mancini said. “But it kind of got to the point where it didn’t get much better. It was more of an annoyance than anything. Maybe I’m interrupting my swing a little bit because of that, I guess, but then again, I’d say that I sacrifice today to hopefully not have a problem from now on.
Mancini said he wasn’t sure if the field was causing the growth or just exacerbating something that already existed. He also took a pitch to his left hand on Saturday in Chicago, although that hand has no problems, he said.
“I give him a lot of credit for trying to cut through,” Hyde said before the match. “He was hit in both hands in a short time. You need your hands, and if your hands don’t feel right, it’s hard to hit him, so give him credit for trying to post.”
around the horn
>> Infielder Ramón Urías, on the list injured with a left oblique strain, is expected to start a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Bowie as soon as possible.
>> Right-handed Kyle Bradish, out with right shoulder inflammation, pitched a flat-ground session on Friday and is expected to throw a bullpen in the coming days.
>> The first phase of fan voting for starters in this month’s MLB All-Star Game at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium ended Thursday. Mancini finished eighth among the designated batters of the American League, while Urías was 10th among AL third basemen. No other Orioles infielder finished in the top 10 in their position, while no Baltimore outfielder was among the top 20 votes of that group. The top six outfielders and two in all other positions advanced as finalists.
>> Infielder Coby Mayo, the No. 5 Orioles according to Baseball America, left Double-A Bowie’s game with back spasms, according to a source with knowledge of the injury, who first reported MASNSports.com.
Baltimore Sun reporter Andy Kostka contributed to this report.