PHILADELPHIA — There’s something different to pitching a ninth inning, Yennier Cano admitted. The pressure, the tenacity from a group of batters with their backs against the wall, everything heightened as the contest enters its twilight.

Yet Cano probably should have still avoided a loss in Tuesday night’s game, if only shortstop Jorge Mateo hadn’t double-pumped a throw, enough of a hesitation for Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto to beat out an infield single. The next batter, Alec Bohm, sent Philadelphia home with a walk-off, 4-3 victory against the Orioles — the kind of tight game that Baltimore has made a habit of winning.

“It’s a difficult inning to pitch in,” Cano said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “At the end of the day you have to get the job done, and unfortunately I didn’t do that tonight. And I’m also human; I make mistakes.”

But long before Cano took the mound in a one-run game, and long before Ryan O’Hearn’s solo home run in the eighth gave Baltimore a narrow advantage that wouldn’t last, the real mistakes came in the second inning. That’s when the Orioles loaded the bases against Phillies right-hander Taijuan Walker yet couldn’t score, leaving a door open for Philadelphia to steal a win in the ninth.

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The Orioles had Jordan Westburg, Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman — three of their best young hitters — up to bat with the bases loaded. They struck out, popped out and flied out to strand all three.

Cano felt the loss on his shoulders, because he was the one on the mound when the Phillies rallied. But Baltimore has a habit of playing close games, and sometimes close games go the other way.

“You just can’t be perfect every night out of the bullpen,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We had bases loaded, nobody out early in the game. We had chances to add on but didn’t do it.”

The margin for error, then, was minute.

The Phillies struck in the ninth inning at Citizens Bank Park by stringing three straight two-out hits together. The first, a double into the corner from Bryson Stott, scored Bryce Harper from first base and rendered O’Hearn’s go-ahead eighth-inning homer moot. Then Cano forced Realmuto into what appeared to be an extra-innings-inducing out.

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But Mateo — who entered the game when Henderson left due to lower back soreness — hesitated on his throw to first, and Realmuto was safe. That allowed Bohm to come to the plate and promptly single through the left side, leaving Baltimore to trudge from the field with an unfamiliar feeling since the All-Star break. The Orioles, who still own the best record in the American League, dropped just their fourth game in 12 since the Midsummer Classic.

“They don’t give up, just like us,” said right-hander Kyle Gibson, whose solid six innings laid the groundwork for what might’ve been the Orioles’ 20th win in a one-run game before the ninth-inning letdown. “When there’s a little crack in the door given, and they’re given an opportunity, they do a really good job of taking advantage of it.”

The crack was there, even after O’Hearn’s heroics.

For a player who struggled to find consistent plate appearances with the Kansas City Royals, he’s now an indelible figure who came through again Tuesday night with a solo home run in the eighth inning that lifted Baltimore to a momentary 3-2 lead.

But he’s also shown a propensity for these big moments. In Baltimore’s critical series against the Tampa Bay Rays, an American League East rival that the Orioles lead by 1.5 games after Tuesday, O’Hearn’s contributions brought the Orioles over the top. He drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning Saturday and clubbed a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning Sunday.

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Including Tuesday, O’Hearn has produced three go-ahead knocks in the last four games.

For each of his last two critical home runs — against the Rays and now against the Phillies — O’Hearn went long against a southpaw. The latest lead he created by himself, though, didn’t stick.

“It was just a bad outing overall on my end,” Cano said. “No one else to put blame on than myself.”

That, of course, is never the full story.

For as strong an outing as Gibson produced, the one glaring knock came in the sixth inning, when Harper pulled his changeup in the lower outside quadrant of the plate for a game-tying homer. Still, against his former team, Gibson retired 11 straight batters before Harper’s long ball.

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Gibson spent much of Monday afternoon catching up with his old friends and teammates from last season in Philadelphia, then took the field for a pregame ceremony in which he received his ring to commemorate the Phillies’ National League championship. Hyde said he was “glad our guys got to see that, what we’re playing for.”

The 35-year-old veteran then backed up his ring with six stout innings, in which he allowed just those two runs and struck out five batters without a walk.

Behind Gibson, right-hander Shintaro Fujinami compiled his best outing yet for his new club. After arriving in a trade last week from the Oakland Athletics, the 6-foot-6 fireballer blew away memories of his poor performance against the Rays with two scoreless frames in which he retired all six batters he faced and threw 15 of 21 pitches for strikes.

“Last time, I changed team, I was trying to do too much,” Fujinami said through an interpreter. “But this time my mental state was pretty calm and [I] could throw a normal pitch. And other guys in the bullpen told me, ‘You’re nasty, so just be yourself. You don’t have to prove yourself anymore. Just throw normal. Relax.’”

Should Fujinami continue what he showed Tuesday night, he could join a back end of a bullpen that features two other imposing high-leverage arms: Cano and Félix Bautista, the latter of whom Hyde said wasn’t available to pitch due to his high usage lately.

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Of course, the breakthrough came against Cano. He’s saddled with the blown save, and he had to walk off the mound as the Phillies poured onto the field in celebration. But, as tends to be the case, there was more that contributed to a one-run loss than just Cano’s stumble in the ninth.

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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