After a standout 2018 season that ended with him being named the Orioles’ co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year, lefty Zac Lowther moved up to Double-A Bowie this year.
His first start went as many of his 2018 starts did. He threw five scoreless innings on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Lowther is scheduled to make his second start for Bowie this afternoon.
In 23 games last summer between Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Frederick, the 22-year-old Lowther went 8-4 with a 2.18 ERA and a .195 batting average against. In 123 2/3 innings, he gave up 86 hits and just eight homers with 35 walks and 151 strikeouts.
He led all Orioles minor league pitchers in both ERA and strikeouts. He doesn’t throw with premium velocity, with a fastball that ranges from 88 to 93 mph, but he’s averaged 11.4 strikeouts and 2.4 walks during his time on the O’s farm, going 11-6 with a 1.97 ERA over 183 innings since 2017. His delivery features some deception and his fastball has some late life, making for a heater that is rather effective.
Now he’ll try to get better and keep progressing in 2019 toward the majors.
“I think just being able to learn the game better (is a goal for the year). Doing what I do well and being able to add on to it. Being able to learn different hitters at the different levels and being able to adjust as quick as I can,” he said. “The adjustment period can become shorter as you move up, so being able to adjust quicker makes you more consistent in the long run.”
Lowther said getting into a starting pitcher routine was important for him last year. He learned from his coaches at two levels and said he had great teammates. It was all good for the player taken No. 74 overall out of Xavier in the 2017 draft.
So what makes his fastball so solid?
“I think just my ability to throw strikes,” he said. “Early in the game and early in the count, I’m trying to load the strike zone up as much as possible. Because doing that early in the game, being able to expand outside the zone and working in the off-speed stuff from strike to ball, once you get that, the hitters are kind of yours to toy with. They don’t know what is coming. They’ve seen you throw a lot of strikes and as soon as they see that strike pitch, they are going to swing. And if it goes strike to ball, then it’s going to be more favorable for us. So the ability to command the zone early in the game leads to more success with all your pitches later in the game. Especially outside the zone.”
As you can tell, this is a cerebral pitcher that is pushing to get better. Last year, he could have games where he used his fastball as much as 80 percent of the time. And that plan worked. But he’s smart enough to know he’ll need those secondary pitches more and more as he moves up the minor league ladder.
“This spring, we worked on my curveball and my changeup percentage,” he said. “Using those pitches more. I need to throw them more. The fastball will be my predominant pitch, but I need to work more on my off-speed pitches to have them when I move up.
“We talk here about wanting to compete at an elite level. The minors are great if you have success, but you want to develop pitches to try to have elite stuff at the major league level eventually. So you need to take advantage of your time here to hope it can translate one day to the majors.”
A breakout day for Davis: Orioles first baseman Chris Davis had been producing some solid exit velocities lately, but with no hits to show for it. Yesterday, he got the solid contact and had three hits to show for it. Davis went 3-for-5 and drove in four runs as the Orioles won 9-5 at Boston.
Davis’ two-run single in the first inning was hit 99 mph and provided the O’s a 2-0 lead. He snapped his 0-for-33 for this season and his 0-for-54 dating to last year and ended a run of 62 straight hitless plate appearances. It was his first three-hit game Aug. 28 of last year and his first four-RBI game since last July 29.
It was a day that had Davis’ teammates cheering him on and even the pitcher that gave up his first hit admiring Davis as well.
“Baseball is a tough game when you’re struggling and he’s still showing up and playing and working hard every day so I tip my hat to him for battling through what he’s battling through,” said Boston right-hander Rick Porcello, who allowed that single by Davis in the opening inning.
The Orioles ended a four-game losing streak and improved to 6-9 overall and 5-3 on the road. Their pitchers have allowed 11 homers in the eight road games after giving up 28 in seven games on the homestand. The nine runs scored yesterday were the club’s second-most this season. Their 13 hits topped their total of 12 from the previous three games combined.
Delmarva’s amazing win: The Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds went to the bottom of the ninth last night trailing Lakewood 5-0 and were being no-hit. But after a one-out walk, Ben Breazeale’s RBI double made it 5-1. A two-out, two-run double by Cadyn Grenier made it 5-3. And then J.C. Encarnacion batted after a walk and hit by pitch loaded the bases. He blasted a walk-off grand slam as Delmarva won 7-5. So that is how the Shorebirds ended the no-hitter and the shutout and then avoided a loss with such a dramatic win. Delmarva improved to 7-1 for the season.