The veterans led the way all night. Cedric Mullins and Corbin Burnes did their part, hitting a home run and pitching six innings of run-one ball, respectively.

The Orioles were up 2-1, in position for the win over the Oakland Athletics, when Craig Kimbrel took the mound in the ninth. He’s done this more times than almost any; his 424 career saves rank sixth all time.

But this time his experience didn’t come in handy as he spoiled what otherwise was lining up to be an all-around stellar pitching night for the Orioles. He gave up a double to start the top of the ninth, followed by a walk to put two on base. Then Abraham Toro sent one to right field and Ryan McKenna, recalled on Friday to replace Jackson Holliday, couldn’t field it, the ball instead hitting his glove as Brent Rooker scored to tie the game.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Craig Kimbrel collides with Oakland Athletics outfielder JJ Bleday as he tags him out at home plate from a wild pitch on April 26, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Things didn’t get much better from there for Kimbrel. The Orioles got some relief when Kimbrel threw a wild pitch but tagged out JJ Bleday at home, after a challenge, to get one out and save a run. But then Kimbrel walked Darell Hernaiz on four pitches and Lawerence Butler on five to load the bases.

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That would be it for Kimbrel, who was replaced by Keegan Akin for the rest of the inning. Akin quickly got a strikeout and a pop-up to end the threat.

The damage, though, was done. The Orioles came up empty in the bottom of the ninth, sending the game to extras. The Athletics put up a run in the top of the 10th off Jacob Webb, and the Orioles had no answer against flamethrower Mason Miller as the Athletics won 3-2 to open the series.

Kimbrel said he didn’t have the command and that he expected better of himself.

“This game is really on me,” Kimbrel said. “Everybody did what they needed to for us to get a win except for me locking it down. We’re just going to have to put this one behind us and come back tomorrow and try to get another W.”

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Craig Kimbrel (middle) speaks with pitching coach Drew French and his other teammates during a mound meeting in game one of a series against the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards on April 26, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

It spoiled another solid start for Burnes. He stumbled in the first, getting two quick outs before giving up a home run to Shea Langeliers, who took advantage of a cutter Burnes left over the middle of the plate. Burnes then walked two, eliciting a rare early mound visit from pitching coach Drew French. Burnes needed just four more pitches to get out of the inning, and he allowed just two more hits for the rest of the night.

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“Just a non-executed pitch there to Langeliers,” Burnes said. “It really seemed like every time I made a mistake it was to him tonight and he put some swings on it. It was just kind of a night we had to grind through it and battle through not having our best stuff. After the first we were able to miss enough bats and get enough weak contact to get through six there and give us a chance to win.”

Burnes struck out six in six innings, getting swings and misses on all of his pitches. The Orioles were on track to be 6-0 in Burnes’ first six starts since they acquired him in February, but the bullpen woes spoiled that chance.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Corbin Burnes tracks a foul ball through the sky against the Oakland Athletics on April 26, 2024.

The Orioles got one run in the third, Colton Cowser hitting a single and scoring on a base hit from Ryan O’Hearn. Mullins provided the other an inning later, smashing a home run into the flag court to give the Orioles the lead.

It was Mullins’ sixth home run of the season as he continued his hot start. The center fielder, fully healthy after two stints on the injured list last year, is on track early to surpass last year’s homer total.

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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