Rockies lose fifth straight as bullpen falters again vs. Orioles

BALTIMORE — The gut punches keep coming for the reeling Rockies.

The Orioles staged an eighth-inning rally Friday night for a 5-4 victory. Gunnar Henderson ripped a two-run homer off reliever Brent Suter for the tying and go-ahead runs, sending the crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards into a frenzy.

The Rockies’ losing streak grew to five games and it’s their most brutal stretch of a brutal season. The Rockies have been in the lead, or tied for the lead, in the eighth inning in each game of those five losses. It’s the longest such streak in franchise history, and the last time it happened in the majors was May 26-30, 1970, with the Montreal Expos.

“It’s heavy, man,” Suter said. “When you come in and blow it, it’s never fun. And we’ve struggled this week as a bullpen, for sure. And I’ve been right in the middle of it. So it’s heavy.

“I said something to the guys after the game and I apologized and told them that I appreciated the love. This team has banded together through the good times and the bad.”

Suter first mistake was issuing a one-out walk to Austin Hayes, and then he hung a 1-0 slider that Henderson didn’t miss.

“Games like this hurt, for sure, but they also make you tougher. Yes, they hurt, and you want them to hurt,” manager Bud Black said, adding that he believes that the intensity of games against contending teams like the Orioles, in environments such as Camden Yards, will help his young players in the long run.

The loss spoiled strong performances by shortstop Ezequiel Tovar and starter Kyle Freeland.

Tovar keeps adding milestones to his extra-special rookie season. His two-run homer in the fifth inning off of lefty Cole Irving put Colorado ahead, 4-2. His home run to center field was his 15th of the season, making him the fifth rookie in franchise history to reach 15 homers. He passed Matt Holliday (14 in 2004), and joined the honor roll of Wilin Rosario (28 in 2012), Trevor Story (27 in 2016), Todd Helton (25 in 1998) and Troy Tulowitzki (24 in 2007).

Freeland’s night began on an ominous note, but he hung tough and by the end of his evening, he was in a solid place.

“Overall, I felt really good in the outing,” Freeland said. “That was probably the best my fastball has felt all season and the best my mechanics have felt.”

In the first inning, Ryan Mountcastle hit Freeland’s 0-2 fastball into the right-field seats. Anthony Santander followed with a hard single up the middle and Austin Hayes hit a double to center to put Baltimore ahead, 2-0.

“I felt good after that first inning,” Freeland said. “I got punched in the face, but it’s all about how you respond.”

The Orioles threatened a big inning in the sixth. Mountcastle led off with a single, but Freeland induced Santander into a groundball double play. But Hayes hit a solo homer to right, cutting Colorado’s lead to 4-3. Henderson and James McCann followed with back-to-back singles before Freeland got Jordan Westburg to ground out to third baseman Alan Trejo.

Freeland’s final line: Six innings, three runs on eight hits, no walks and three strikeouts. Freeland needed just 75 pitches, throwing 58 strikes. But on a hot, humid night, Black decided to lift Freeland.

Saturday’s pitching matchup

Rockies RHP Chris Flexen (1-5, 7.18 ERA) at Orioles RHP Kyle Bradish (8-6, 3.03)

5:05 p.m. Saturday, Oriole Park at Camden Yards

TV: AT&T SportsNet

Radio: 850 AM/94.1 FM

Flexen is coming off a solid start vs. the White Sox, even though the Rockies’ bullpen melted down in a 10-5 loss on Sunday at Coors Field. He pitched six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. He’s pitched at least five innings in his last four starts, posting a 5.32 ERA with three walks and 17 strikeouts. Flexen has made two career starts vs. the Orioles, both in 2022, going 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA. Some are mentioning Bradish as a dark horse Cy Young Award contender. He’s coming off a terrific game vs. Oakland, pitching six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out eight. He’s won two of four starts in August, allowing five runs with 27 strikeouts across 23 2/3 innings.

Pitching probables

Sunday: Rockies LHP Ty Blach (1-1, 4.39) at Orioles TBA, 11:35 a.m., ATTRM

Monday: Braves RHP Bryce Elder (10-4, 3.39) at Rockies LHP Austin Gomber (9-9, 5.48), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM

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