The Orioles had just leveled the game, giving right-hander Jordan Lyles a new lease on his outing. There were no relievers up in the bullpen, and after a low-stress fourth inning, Lyles had the opportunity to grind his way through to a solid start.
Instead, the off-kilter form that has now followed Lyles through his last four starts struck again in the fifth inning Thursday night, as he walked the first batter before leaving a sinker over the heart of the plate for first baseman Carlos Santana to hammer out to right field and reestablish the Royals’ advantage.
It was a blow for Baltimore but also Lyles, who has so frequently been praised by manager Brandon Hyde as an innings eater and the kind of stable veteran presence who can be relied upon in an unproven Orioles rotation. Across those past four starts, however, Lyles has allowed 16 earned runs in 21 innings.
And Thursday showed the most instability of any of those appearances, as he allowed six earned runs for the second time this season in Kansas City’s 7-5 series-opening victory.
“I didn’t enjoy how things went on my end,” Lyles said. “I need to be better, figure it out in between starts and get rid of this little tough stretch I’ve been through.”
Lyles has been prone to the occasional faulty inning, when his outing tips sideways and runs score in bunches. Five times this season, Lyles has allowed three runs in one frame, with the latest example coming late last month in Boston.
But in Kansas City, as he attempted to work deeper into the game, the third inning proved to be his worst yet. Nine batters came to the plate, beginning with Whit Merrifield’s single and continuing through the two-run single from catcher Salvador Perez three batters later.
Then Lyles left a four-seam fastball over the heart of the plate to designated hitter MJ Melendez, who cranked it 418 feet into the fountain beyond right-center field to place a four-spot on Lyles in one inning for the first time this season.
“They put good swings on him there in the third inning,” Hyde said.
It looked as if Lyles might right the ship after the Orioles (24-34) tied the game in the top of the fifth, with Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle coming through with run-scoring hits, but he gave the lead right back — a mistake pitch to Santana to crush.
“Just a front-hip sinker, I thought we could get one by him, get a quick punch-out,” Lyles said. “But it just started on the plate and covered way too much plate, and it was just a bad pitch. Overall, not good.”
Even with an RBI double from Cedric Mullins in the eighth, the offense couldn’t cover for Lyles, stranding the bases loaded with two outs for the second time Thursday.
Lyles ended his outing after five innings — the third straight start he’s lasted five innings or fewer. That’s a troublesome trend for Baltimore, which relies on Lyles for length, if nothing else. As of late, he’s not delivering that, let alone results.
“Jordan competes. He competes every pitch,” Hyde said. “Just wasn’t his best night tonight.”
A new arm
If he had to move, Austin Voth was glad the team that claimed him off waivers was just a short ride up Interstate 95. He’s moving out of his Arlington, Virginia, apartment, where he lived as a member of the Washington Nationals, to get closer to Baltimore. But the change in teams doesn’t require a cross-country trip, and it could be the fresh start Voth needs.
The right-handed pitcher holds a 10.13 ERA in 18 2/3 innings for the Nationals this season. The Orioles view him as a veteran arm who can provide multiple innings out of the bullpen, and Hyde said Voth should be fully available to give that length Friday.
But Voth hopes he can recapture his form from the beginning of the 2021 season, when his curveball would dip below the zone and he could stick his fastball for high strikes or chase swings.
“I know I can compete at this level,” Voth said. “I just need to get back to where I was before.”
Voth’s main priority on his second day with the Orioles was to learn the faces of his new teammates. Hyde said he left him alone for the most part, letting him settle rather than bombard him with instructions.
Voth acknowledged his biggest issue this season has been executing pitch placement when even or behind in the count. That led his WHIP to balloon to 2.143 this year.
“It’s a little mentality,” Voth said. “But it’s also mechanical. I’ve had a little mechanical issues here and there. So when things aren’t going well, you’re kind of down in the dumps a little bit. As soon as you kind of tweak those things and get them back to where they were, you get a confidence boost and things start rolling again.”
Around the horn
>> Right-hander Beau Sulser is the lone member of the taxi squad in Kansas City, but Hyde expects to make more movement for the series in Toronto next week.
>> Right-hander Joey Krehbiel threw for the first time Thursday since he was placed on the 15-day injured list with shoulder inflammation. Krehbiel said his shoulder has felt great, but he’s not eligible for reinstatement until June 18.
Friday, 8:10 p.m.
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