ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles knocked out the starting pitcher tonight after only two-thirds of an inning. They scored one run.
A quick hook or a quirky plan by the opposition?
Go with the latter.
The Rays continue to use relievers as starters, tabbing Sergio Romo for tonight and Sunday afternoon. The Orioles turned to prospect David Hess, the more conventional move, and he responded with 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory at Tropicana Field.
The Orioles have won back-to-back road games for the second time this season and the first since April 5-6 in the Bronx. They’re 17-34 overall and 7-21 on the road.
Hess (2-1) allowed four hits, walked three and struck out three. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings in his most recent outing in Boston, surrendering five runs and eight hits, but tonight marked his second quality start in three outings - both against the Rays.
Mychal Givens entered the game with Hess at 91 pitches and the potential tying run at the plate. Daniel Robertson walked, but Johnny Field flied out.
Richard Bleier stranded Rob Refsnyder after a leadoff double off Givens in the eighth inning. Brad Brach notched his eighth save after allowing back-to-back singles with one out and the Orioles had their second shutout.
Jonathan Schoop hit a home run to left-center field off reliever Ryan Yarbrough in the sixth inning to increase the lead to 2-0. The ball traveled an estimated 442 feet. It was the only run off Yarbrough in a career-high seven innings. His eight strikeouts also were a career high and tied the franchise record for a reliever.
Hess had thrown only 65 pitches through the fifth. The Rays had a runner picked off second base, another thrown out trying to steal second and another thrown out trying to advance to third on a ball that rolled past catcher Andrew Susac - all within the first five innings.
With the Orioles ahead 1-0 in the fifth, Mallex Smith drew his second walk to lead off the inning and was awarded second base on a balk. Smith moved to third when Hess attempted another pickoff and the ball shot through Schoop’s legs as he tried to make the catch and apply the tag.
The tying run stood at third base with no outs, but Hess retired the next three batters without the ball leaving the infield. The highlight was Robertson’s chopper to third baseman Danny Valencia, who gloved the ball while hurdling Smith and fired to first baseman Chris Davis.
Brad Miller, inserted into the leadoff spot after the Denard Span trade earlier in the day, blooped a double down the left field line in the bottom of the first inning. Craig Gentry pulled up on the ball as it fell.
No harm done. Hess picked off Miller with one out. Joey Wendle singled and Wilson Ramos struck out looking.
Givens began to warm in the sixth, which ended with Hess at 82 pitches. The rookie was allowed to come back out for the seventh and Matt Duffy singled with one out. Smith grounded into a force at second base and manager Buck Showalter emerged from the dugout.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first against Romo, a career reliever until making three starts since last Saturday. Adam Jones singled, Schoop reached on a strikeout/wild pitch with two outs and Valencia doubled to right field.
Valencia was a career .293 hitter against the Rays before last night, but he had a .219 average at Tropicana Field with only 23 hits in 105 at-bats. The 24th was a blooper to right.
The Orioles have been outscored 60-24 in the first inning. They plated four runs yesterday against the White Sox.
Romo was done after the double, which came on his 14th pitch. Twelve were strikes. The Orioles knew that Yarbrough would replace him. They just didn’t know whether Romo would be given the full inning or the hook.
Update: The Orioles won’t make a roster move tonight, choosing to wait until checking on Mark Trumbo in the morning. Meanwhile, outfielder DJ Stewart didn’t play tonight for Triple-A Norfolk. Draw your own conclusions.
Adam Jones “pied” Hess during his postgame interview on MASN, using shaving cream on a towel.
Still can’t rattle the kid.
Showalter on Hess: “He’s a respectful, confident guy. David is, ‘Here it is. Let’s go. Let’s go compete.’ He presents himself as a baseball player that happens to be a pitcher instead of a pitcher who happens to be on the baseball team. You know? I think he’s going to be that way throughout his career and where it takes him. He’s going to let it rip and see where it takes him. I was proud of him. That was fun to watch.
“Didn’t want him to get hurt. I wasn’t going to let him face the tying run with the exception of Smith. We got the job done out of the ‘pen. It’s tough to pitch a shutout on the road in the major leagues. It was a good defensive game for us. We got three outs being alert to some things, a pickoff and a delayed steal that we executed the defense of it well and Sus jumped on that ball and threw him out at third and Danny made a good tag. Danny made a really nice play at third. That was a tough play going across the runner.”
More Showalter on Hess: “I think it’s the package. I told you all last year, when I saw him in the (Eastern League) playoffs against the best-hitting team, seven left-handed hitters. Those are the little things you remember in those times of ... and everybody and there’s a lot of somewhat pressure. Believe me, it’s all relative, whether it’s Bowie or Norfolk or here in a lot of ways. And I think just, there’s a certain tempo and karma around guys who have that presentation where he comes out and says, ‘OK, let’s see what you’ve got.’
“He just seems to be walking that line between being aggressive and confident, but not non-respectful, you know? He respects the lethalness sometimes of hitters, but he’s not going to go back to the hotel and go, ‘Gosh, I wish I had been a little more aggressive.’ “
Showalter on Hess getting ahead of hitters: “When you’re able to work the ball in different quadrants of the plate and not make them be able to say, ‘OK, I can box that out and you can’t get it there and you can’t get that pitch over the plate, so I’m going to box it out.’ They haven’t been able to do that on him. I thought Susac did a great job with him tonight and made him keep pitching. And they’ve done a great job with him in the minors holding runners.”
Showalter on getting three outs on basepaths: “That’s the corner we need to turn and get back to those things. Won a couple games on the road, close to winning two in Boston, so I’m hoping we’re making some progress toward getting back there.”
Showalter on approach versus Romo: “Everyone knows him and what he’s going to do. He does a good job and that’s why he still here. But Danny had a big hit, I think he had a home run off him before, and Adam had a couple hits off him. We talked about him. It’s tough because you don’t want to spend ... we spent most of our time on Yarbrough. Maybe we should have shortened it up and done it the other way around because Yarbrough was really good. He’s a good-looking young pitcher.”
Hess on game plan: “Really, I just wanted to let the defense do its work. I know we’ve got a great group of guys out there and just to go after those hitters and force them to put the ball in play, I think that showed and everyone had a great game.”
Hess on what was working: “Fastball command was there pretty well. Ran into a little bit of trouble occasionally with that and so then I utilized my slider pretty well and mixed in some splitter and curveballs, as well, to keep them off balance.
Hess on needing strong outing after Boston: “Absolutely, no doubt. I think being able to do that kind of shows that the work you can put in between starts, you can bounce back and make the adjustments. Just going out there and giving the team a chance to win was the biggest thing.”
Hess on fifth inning: “That’s awesome. Danny made a great play over there at third. And then to get a couple more ground balls, that’s a game changer. Guys having my back like that and being able to let them do their job, it’s awesome.”
Hess on not expecting to be pied by Jones during MASN interview: “No, absolutely not. You can’t really hear with the headset on very well and next time I know I have a shaving cream pie on my face. But that’s fun. That’s part of being up here and enjoying it.”
Hess on not allowing run after leadoff double: “That ball, it’s one of those to start the game where not hit incredibly well, but placed perfectly. To be able to have a clean slate even after that makes a big difference and you’re able to lock in and keep going.”
Schoop on Hess: “I like it. He attacks the hitters. He throws strikes. He works quick. Like I said after his first start, he ain’t scared. He attacked the zone and kept the hitters off balance. He’s been really good.”
Schoop on Romo: “It’s new. It’s new seeing it. But it’s the same thing because you (are going) to see him later on in the game. But if he’s going to start the game and throw one inning, you know you’re going to face him just one time. It’s a little bit new, but tomorrow we’ve got the same thing with someone else, so we’ve got to forget about it and just go out there and compete.”
Schoop on Hess’ tempo: “Yeah, he attacks the zone, keeps hitters off-balance, make pitches when he needs to and throws strikes. Put the ball in play and when he needs to make some pitches, he knew when to get it, too. He’s been good do far.”
Schoop on if he was looking for certain pitch on home run: “To be honest, no. I was just trying to put contact and just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere. Lately, I’m not doing it, but I’m getting better. So I’m getting better working with Scott Coolbaugh every day and things are starting to go my way now so I just have to keep it up.”