A pitching-led weekend sweep for the Orioles in Cincy

CINCINNATI - Before Sunday’s game, first-year Orioles pitching Drew French met with reporters, who of course asked about the recent great run of O’s pitching.

Then they went out and recorded another scoreless start and held the Cincinnati Reds to three hits and one run in Sunday’s 11-1 win to complete a three-game sweep.

In the series in Cincinnati, O’s starters pitched 19 1/3 scoreless allowing just six hits. In the series, O’s pitchers gave up two runs and 11 hits with five walks to 26 strikeouts.

The team ERA is down to 3.31. That ranks fifth-best both in the American League and in MLB.

What has been the key to this amazing run, French was asked?

“I think our ability to be really relentless in how we attack hitters,” he said. “We’ve gotten a fair amount of groundballs recently, but I think we’re just putting pressure on the hitters in the at-bats. And you know, when you get hitters kind of feeling uncomfortable that is when they are more apt to chase, and we can make pitches with two strikes and get the results that we want. And the swings that we want. So, manipulating bat speed and being ahead in the count I think is premium.”

After John Means’ great outing Saturday, catcher James McCann gave his take on the pitchers: “They are coming out and they’re executing the game plans. The game plans are great right now and the execution might be even better.”

The Orioles have surrendered two runs or fewer in each of the last seven games, their longest such streak within a single season since an eight-game run from Aug. 1-Aug. 8, 1980.

During this stretch, the team has allowed eight runs total with a team ERA of 1.14 the past seven games, an opponent batting average of .154 and a .455 OPS against.

Over the last 14 games, 10 times the O’s allowed two runs or fewer with a team ERA of 2.14 and 32 runs allowed.

“I think the one thing is that you want to take the strengths of every guy into consideration when you kind of dive into what the game plan against certain hitters is going to be,” said French.

“But what this pitching staff has is a ton of versatility,” he added. “So, the ability to beat guys in different ways and get three times through the order. That’s a huge part of the conversation, especially over the last five or ten years and we have guys that have different pitch types and different strengths. But their ability to do different things the second and third time through is what maximizes each individual guy.”

During the series in Cincinnati, on Friday Cole Irvin threw 6 1/3 scoreless on two hits, then Saturday Means gave up three hits in seven scoreless and Sunday Dean Kremer pitched six shutout innings allowing one hit.

A stunning run of pitching for the Orioles.

“I think everybody is kind of finding footing in their role," French said." And I think an important thing to understand is that every year is not like the year prior to that or the year before that. It takes us a while to learn these guys and who they were in 2022 and 2023 is not necessarily the version they are now.

“It’s also about the adaptability. The catchers too in how they use the guys’ stuff. How we target certain things. How we use guys inside of the game strategically. I think we are finding our footing and starting to understand who they are going to be in 2024,” said French.

The O’s now have thrown eight scoreless starts, and they are 8-0 in those games. The last seven games the rotation ERA is 1.05 with five quality starts.

Jordan Westburg saw his 11-game homerless run end with a two-run shot in the first inning Sunday. It was the first time this year the O’s scored in the opening inning of a road game and that provided Kremer an early 3-0 lead after Anthony Santander’s RBI single started the scoring.

“Very impressed. It’s awesome to play behind them,” said Westburg of the pitchers. “These guys are competitive and going to work every single day. Anyone who touches the bump is coming in there and they’re attacking guys. It’s what you want to see.”

And what the O’s showed is no letdown over the weekend after they had taken three of four in a big series from the Yankees.

“No, not at all,” Westburg said. “And that’s a good opponent over there. They’re going through a bit of a rough stretch. Everybody in this league is good and I think we don’t take anyone for granted. We came off a big series with the Yankees and we’re looking to continue it. We don’t take series off, we don’t want to take games off or give anything away. That’s how we are trying to play.”

The O's came close to pitching three shutouts over the weekend, allowing a run in the ninth on Saturday and one in the ninth Sunday. They won by 3-0, 2-1 and 11-1.

At game time yesterday, Santander was batting .136 with one RBI his past 13 games. But then he delivered a key RBI to start Sunday's game and hit his third career grand slam in the ninth.

His three slams have all come since the start of the 2023 season are tied with the Dodgers' Max Muncy, Houston's Alex Bregman and Adolis García of Texas for third-most among MLB batters in that span. His five RBIs matched his career high, previously set on May 5, 2023 at Atlanta, a game in which he hit the first of his three career grand slams.




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