Baltimore, Md. − Under different circumstances, maybe manager AJ Hinch would have pulled starting pitcher Matt Manning after five laborious innings Wednesday night.
But one of the chores left for the Tigers this month is to squeeze as many healthy innings as they could out of the second-year right-hander who missed more than three months with shoulder inflammation. This was his 12th start and he’d thrown just 57.1 innings.
The more innings he can log before the end of the year the fewer the restrictions going into 2023. At least that was the prevailing theory. But there was more at play here.
“Going into the off day I wanted to give the bullpen some rest, too,” Hinch said. “I wanted Matt to get as many outs as he could.”
There were consequences for that pursuit, though, as the Orioles were able to salvage the finale and end a nine-game losing streak to the Tigers with an 8-1 win.
Manning was grinding from the start. Going into the sixth inning, he’d got into six three-ball counts, walked three and had already thrown 83 pitches.
Box score: Orioles 8, Tigers 1
But there was no handshake after five.
“He’s an effective pitcher,” Hinch said. “I’m not going to rescue him every time.”
Manning walked the leadoff hitter in the sixth, which got lefty Daniel Norris up and warming in the bullpen. Manning got Austin Hays to fly out to left and at that point, Manning hadn’t allowed a hit since the third inning, though he’d walked a couple.
Hinch said Norris was ready but he let Manning face left-handed hitting Kyle Stowers, whom he’d gotten out twice already in the game. Stowers, though, lined a 2-1 fastball into the seats in left field, expanding the Orioles lead to five runs.
“I wish he would’ve made a better pitch, obviously,” Hinch said. “Instead of going up on Sowers he yanked the ball down.”
Manning ended up walking a career-high five and throwing 102 pitches. Norris got the last two outs of the inning. Norris, by the way, got four outs Wednesday, punching out three of them. He hasn’t allowed a run or a hit in his last four outings.
“Overall, my fastball command wasn’t there,” Manning said. “I was falling behind, a lot of 2-1 counts and I was trying to get back in. I walked a few early and I didn’t want to walk anymore. Just kind of put too much pressure on myself and one thing led to another.”
Two of the five runs on Manning’s ledger were unearned and came in a 26-pitch third inning. It started, as so many bad innings do, with a walk. Cedric Mullins then ripped a first-pitch slider into right field, putting runners at the corners with one out.
Manning got Adley Rutschman to hit a ground ball up the middle to the right of second baseman Harold Castro who muffed the hop. What looked like an inning-ending double-play turned into an error that opened up a three-run inning.
“Everything for Matt is predicated off his fastball,” Hinch said. “He has to get his fastball in the zone. He didn’t for most of the game and his spin wasn’t consistent. But I don’t think the score tells the whole story of his night. He executed some pitches, it just wasn’t his night.”
Orioles veteran starter Jordan Lyles came into the game leading the American League in hits allowed, after leading the league in earned runs and homers allowed last year.
But the Tigers barely scratched him. They managed two singles through the first six innings before rookie Kerry Carpenter blasted his second homer in two nights and his sixth in just 28 games this season. The two home runs were almost identical – opposite-field blasts off 91-mph fastballs thrown up and on the outside part of the plate.
“He’s putting up good at-bats,” Hinch said. “He knows the strike zone and he lets the ball travel deep. He’s got a good plan and he’s been productive.”
Lyles ended up going the distance on 94 pitches, allowing just the three hits.
“He was very effective and he had some efficient innings that allowed him to stay in the game,” Hinch said. “We put very little pressure on him. They definitely outplayed us in every aspect, which the final score reflects.”
The loss blocked a chance at history for the Tigers. They’d never before swept an opponent in a single season when facing them six or more times.