BALTIMORE – Having come set on the mound, ready to deliver a 1-2 pitch to Richie Martin in the bottom of the second inning, Robbie Ray suddenly stepped off the rubber amid some yelling between the dugouts. Visibly irritated, the Toronto Blue Jays lefty dropped his arms by his side and shot a dirty glance over at the Baltimore Orioles.
“Shut up. Shut up, D.J.,” someone is heard yelling, perhaps in reference to Orioles outfielder D.J. Stewart. The chatter continued, and somebody shouted a more vulgar version of “What the fudge are you talking about?”
Growing more annoyed, Ray paced around the mound. At that point, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde got involved, yelling something like, “What do you think we’re giving Robbie,” before he really went after the ace lefty. “We can’t say anything?” he shouted. “Pitch the f–––––– ball. We ain’t saying s–––. OK? F–––. Let’s go.”
Ray smirked at Hyde, blew a 95.6-m.p.h. four-seamer by Martin for strike three and then glared right back at the finalist for the Blue Jays managerial opening filled by Charlie Montoyo in October 2018.
“What the f––– are you looking at?” chirped Hyde. “Get your f–––––– ass back on the mound.”
Tired of the trash talk, Ray motioned a let’s go to Hyde.
“What the f––– are you going to do?” replied Hyde. “F––– off. We ain’t saying s––– here.”
The chirping, at least that audible to the public, stopped from there, the Blue Jays maintaining their poise both when Hyde bellowed like a blowhard at the bar, and again later when Fernando Abad, in theory chasing an errant throw, laid out Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as he ran from third to home.
In that way, the Blue Jays didn’t allow the Orioles to pull them into a full-on Gong Show, but that didn’t prevent them from dropping a 6-3 decision Friday night. They fought back from an early 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the sixth on the bizarre play with Gurriel on the third-base line and a Marcus Semien RBI double, but Julian Merryweather, in his first big-league outing since April 13, failed to field a Cedric Mullens bunt to open the seventh, and eventually served up a three-run homer to Anthony Santander that settled matters.
“I’m not going to waste my time on someone who doesn’t get into the box,” Ray said of Hyde’s engagement. “I don’t have the time of day.”
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo went into full diplomat mode.
"I don't want to comment on that,” he said. “All I know is my guy kept his composure, stayed focused and did the job. And that's why we stayed in the game. That's what I'm going to say about that.”
The loss stopped the Blue Jays’ eight-game winning streak, a run that’s catapulted them right back into the thick of the wild-card hunt. They remained a half-game back of the New York Yankees, 10-3 losers to the New York Mets, for the second wild card spot.
The early testiness came after the Orioles ambushed Ray early, Mullens opening the game with a home run, Austin Hays tripling off the right-field wall one out later and coming around when Ryan McKenna went deep with two outs. Ray had allowed only two homers over his previous eight starts – a span of 53.2 innings – which made the opening frame all the more jarring.
Kelvin Gutierrez then opened the second with another triple and Austin Wynn before Mullens stepped up and Hyde went all tough guy, saying afterwards he was upset by an undisclosed accusation made by the Blue Jays.
A pretty good hint at what went down came when Ray said the Orioles “very rarely swing at my slider, which is pretty curious,” a hint he’s concerned that he’s either tipping or that the hitters were being told what’s coming.
That’s what set off Hyde, who apologized “to all the fans out there, the Blue Jays, Robbie Ray, Charlie Montoyo.”
“Just kind of sticking up for my guys,” he added. “We play the game the right way and we do things the right way in the dugout. I felt like our guys were being targeted a little bit and I wish I would have handled it differently than I did.”
With the Orioles in the midst of another dumpster fire season, Hyde can get unhinged with minimal consequence while the Blue Jays, in high-stakes games each time out, cannot.
Once the yelling subsided, Ray followed the Martin strikeout by getting Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle to fly out to leave runners stranded at second third and he grinded through the next 2.1 innings, eventually leaving a pair on in the fifth that Adam Cimber stranded.
“I think I did a pretty good job of collecting my emotions, getting back at it and then getting the strikeout out there,” Ray said of the second inning. “I felt like I was able to do a pretty good job with that.”
At the plate, meanwhile, the Blue Jays twice loaded the bases against Chris Ellis but managed only a Bo Bichette RBI single in the fifth before Abad took over in the sixth.
Gurriel opened the inning with a double and an out later, charged for third on Randal Grichuk’s grounder to second. Jahmai Jones’ throw to third skipped away toward the Blue Jays dugout and as Gurriel got up and ran down the line, Abad, chasing the ball indecisively, dropped a shoulder into the outfielder in a manner seemingly aimed at getting the Ravens’ attention.
Gurriel, in comments relayed through a team spokesman, said he didn’t see the collision coming so he wasn’t certain about Abad’s intentions. He simply saw the ball roll away, charged toward home and got drilled in the upper arm, suffering no ill-effects.
The run came in to make it a 3-2 game and Semien later brought home Grichuk with his double, but the offence dried up from there, the Blue Jays stranding one runner in the seventh, two more in the eighth and 13 overall.
Montoyo had hoped to find some low leverage for Merryweather’s first outing back but forced him into a 3-3 game. Had he cleanly fielded the Mullens bunt, he’s out of the frame clean, but Trey Mancini spoiled three pitches before earning a nine-pitch walk with two outs and two pitches later Santander mashed a 1-0 heater middle down over the wall.
The fastball Merryweather used with jaw-dropping ruthlessness back in April wasn’t the same and he got just two whiffs, one on a fastball, one on a slider.
Ray, meanwhile, had 22 whiffs, 14 on his fastball, one his curveball and seven on the 35 sliders he threw, generating 19 swings in total.
“They battled, I feel like they've battled me every time I've pitched here,” said Ray. “I felt like my last game in Toronto (seven innings, two runs Aug. 30), I pitched pretty well against them. Maybe it's something that I'm doing. I have to look into it.”