ATLANTA — It may have felt like something so much more than an early May baseball game, with the floodlights dimmed as 40,000-plus fans yelled and their phone flashlights shined while Orioles manager Brandon Hyde walked to the mound in the eighth inning.

In a game later in the season, when faced with this situation, Hyde might call a pitcher out of the bullpen on short rest. Perhaps had this been October — instead of just feeling like it — one of right-handers Yennier Cano or Félix Bautista might’ve taken the mound to shut down a game between two of the best teams in baseball.

But it was Game 33. And as Hyde plans a way to navigate 162 games, risking the overuse of his highest-leverage arms isn’t prudent. So instead, Hyde called for left-hander Danny Coulombe, who has pitched well in big spots in his own right since joining Baltimore.

As only hindsight can gather, the decision came back to haunt the Orioles, with pinch hitter Kevin Pillar unloading on Coulombe’s first strike to hit a go-ahead, two-run home run that punctuated the Atlanta Braves’ 5-4 victory Saturday night.

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Still, the overarching view from Hyde outweighed the immediate gut-punch of a loss in early May.

“We’ve got five months to go, so health is important, and not overusing guys is important,” Hyde said. “Right now, I’d prefer not to use Félix before the ninth inning, and maybe as we go along, we might change. Cano, he’s pitched a ton for us so far. We have other guys in the bullpen that have been throwing the ball well, and they’re going to get opportunities.”

Pillar, who has hit more homers against the Orioles (15) than he has against any other organization, jumped all over the 1-0 fastball from Coulombe. The southpaw, acquired before opening day in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, has been enormously reliable to date, giving up three run in 11 1/3 innings.

But after right-hander Bryan Baker allowed a leadoff double, Coulombe entered in front of a raucous crowd and stumbled. In the biggest moment, he was forced to twist and stare and grimace as the go-ahead blast left the ballpark.

“Honestly, I wanted to get a fastball up and in, and I just threw it over the plate and he put a great swing on it,” said Coulombe, before emphasizing the necessity to have a “short memory” as a bullpen arm.

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“Danny’s done a great job for us so far this year,” Hyde said. “Just one bad pitch.”

The loss sets up a Sunday morning matinee to decide whether the Orioles can secure their eighth straight series win.

Another of Hyde’s decisions didn’t require any second-guessing, though, as he pushes to find the best setup for this roster. When Ramón Urías heard after Friday’s game he’d earn his first major league start as a first baseman, he thought it “kind of weird,” he admitted. He’s played it a few times in the minor leagues and during winter ball. But he’s “not a big first baseman,” Urías pointed out, in stature or in experience.

The Orioles wanted to give Ryan Mountcastle a night off his legs at first, which led to the deliberations over who would take his place. Ryan O’Hearn was optioned this week to make room for Luis Torrens, a third catcher. Outfielder Anthony Santander received reps at first base in spring training, and catcher James McCann has limited experience there in his career.

But it was Urías who received the nod instead, and he was “good with the challenge.” And then he proved able, despite needing to grab Mountcastle’s mitt as soon as he arrived at the park on Saturday because he never needed to have his own first base glove.

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“It’s just more footwork around the bag maybe,” Mountcastle said. “As long as you catch the ball and make all the routine plays, he’ll be all right.”

He made more than the routine plays.

To end the fourth inning, Urías leaped to catch an errant throw from right-hander Kyle Bradish. It led his mitt (er, Mountcastle’s mitt on Urías’ hand) into the oncoming Marcell Ozuna. But in one motion, Urías jumped, caught the ball, swung his arm and tagged out Ozuna. For the first out of the fifth, Urías charged a slow grounder and flipped to Bradish as if he’d played first more than a handful of times years earlier.

“Ramón plays with a ton of confidence defensively,” Hyde said.

Urías wasn’t alone in producing a defensive gem to bail Bradish out of more trouble. In the fifth, a running catch from Kyle Stowers into the left-field wall saved at least one run, and shortstop Jorge Mateo snared an inning-ending grounder shot at 105.9 mph to end Bradish’s evening with three runs against him on 86 pitches.

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Those run totals could’ve ballooned as they have in other outings this year, such as the seven runs he gave up against the Boston Red Sox. But Bradish limited the damage and gave his team a chance to win.

“Overall, I’d say that was probably my best outing so far this year,” Bradish said. “That was something I’ve really been working on mentally, getting in those jams and being able to get out of them.”

Bradish was supported by a strong offensive showing despite the Orioles facing right-hander Spencer Strider, one of the game’s rising stars on the mound. Strider struck out 10 Orioles but gave up two runs, and his elevated pitch count led to an early appearance from the bullpen.

Against right-hander Nick Anderson, Anthony Santander checked in with his second double of the game (and his fifth extra-base hit in three games, including Friday’s grand slam) to level the score at three. Then Adam Frazier, whose two-run single in the fourth came against Strider, recorded his third RBI of the game to take a one-run lead.

“He’s a top-end starter, and for Santander to swing the bat the way he did, for Fraz to get the huge hit, I thought our guys played really well,” Hyde said.

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But that one-run lead wasn’t enough. With the benefit of hindsight, many will ponder which reliever should have inherited a difficult position in the eighth inning. In Game 33, though, the Orioles chose to play another day.

andy.kostka@thebaltimorebanner.com

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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