Orioles’ growing pains on display in 7-3 loss to Red Sox in long-awaited home opener

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Jon Meoli, The Baltimore Sun
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

First in a drip and then later in droves, fans returned to Camden Yards on Thursday for the first time in over 18 months and found so much of this jewel of a ballpark familiar.

So, too, is this Orioles team — one on the upswing but enduring growing pains on a big league stage, as shown by a 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox before an announced sellout crowd of 10,150 in the club’s home opener.

There will be better days before long. There has to be. Getting there, though, might cloud even the spotless kind of sky they played under Thursday.

Consider the day of rookie left fielder Ryan Mountcastle. He hit his first home run of the season in the first inning, erasing an early 2-0 deficit with one swing that resulted in the hardest-hit ball of his brief major league career at 109 mph.

Pedro Severino homered to right field in the fourth inning to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead, but that was as good as it got.

A night after Mountcastle took grief for not catching a line drive into left field, a position he’s barely played for two years, he had another inglorious day there. Cedric Mullins, the Orioles’ star of the first week, added to his highlight reel with a diving catch on a ball that was in Mountcastle’s vicinity in the fifth inning.

And in the sixth, Mountcastle couldn’t break in on time on a high, soft fly ball between he and shortstop Freddy Galvis, chasing Orioles starter Matt Harvey as he was finding his stride and bringing in a run of relievers who turned their slim lead into an ever-growing deficit.

Harvey ended up charged with four runs in five-plus innings, a hard-luck line that keep the door open to the possibility of him being a meaningful and reliable part of the Orioles’ rotation.

After he left, Mountcastle’s throwing error later in that sixth inning put two in scoring position, but Dillon Tate stranded them to keep the Orioles deficit at 4-3.

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde — who was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing a hit-by-pitch call — is quick to note how young the players are when he often means inexperienced, but Mountcastle is one of a handful of players to actually fit both categories. At 24, he’s the youngest player on the Orioles roster, and they don’t even have many younger than him on their alternate training site roster in Bowie.

They see in him a potential middle-of-the-order bat. He’s been their primary cleanup hitter all year. But after an encouraging showing in left field as he made his major league debut in 2020, that progress hasn’t continued into 2021. Hyde said he started Thursday, a day after his game-swinging issue Wednesday, because the Orioles “want him to feel like we have confidence.”

They believe he’s going to be fine, and he very well might be. There will be far more days when he wins it with his bat than when the team has to defend his glove, and besides, troubling relief appearances from Paul Fry and Shawn Armstrong meant no one play could swing the game.

Fry allowed Harvey’s final two runs to score in the sixth, and Armstrong allowed a run on Tate’s account to score before one of his own.

A home run by Kiké Hernández off Rule 5 pitcher Tyler Wells in the eighth inning created a tidy bit of symmetry in that the Orioles have allowed seven runs in all of their losses.

This story will be updated.