After bump in the road at New York, Albert Suárez back on mound today

HOUSTON – When Orioles right-hander Albert Suárez took the mound to face the New York Yankees on Tuesday night, he was a pitcher on a real roll.

He was 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA and had an ERA of 1.08 over his previous nine games. He had been big for the Orioles, both out of the bullpen and in the rotation.

But that night in the Bronx was not his normal day.

He walked five Yankees and gave up three runs over 3 2/3 innings as the Orioles lost the series opener. It was his shortest start of the season and a season high in walks.

As he got ready to make his next start, which comes today at Houston, Suárez felt what went wrong in that game in New York can be a quick fix.

“I think I was trying to be too fine, instead of just attack,” he said pregame on Saturday. “And throw the pitches in the zone more. I wasn’t pitching to contact, and that is one of my strengths. If I don’t do that, you see the results. They are not positive. When I try to pitch to contact, most of the time I get positive results.

“We worked on that in the bullpen session. Just need to keep it simple and attack the hitter in the strike zone.”

Pitching in the majors this year for the first time since 2017, Suárez has gone 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA. He spent several years pitching in Japan and Korea and said that experience allowed him to see the game in a different way that helps him now.

The Venezuela native is appreciating his big league success at age 34.

“So happy. We work hard to be here, but the hardest part is to stay here. I need to stay focused, keep working and keep learning from my teammates and coaches. If I do that, I can have success,” he said.

I asked him if, after going around the league a bit this year, hitters are making adjustments against him. He said he hasn't seen opponent batters alter their approaches much, and that though they have begun to learn his tendencies, he is learning theirs too.

The recent run of pitching injures for the Orioles has provided a greater opportunity for Suárez, even if it did come at the expense of teammates.

“This is just baseball. A lot of things happen in one season,” said Suárez, who has a 2.35 ERA in his eight starting assignments. “There are a lot of things you can’t control. It’s not good when any of your teammates get hurt. You always want the best for your teammates. It is hard and, yeah, it is an opportunity, but not one you would have wished for.”

Today he looks to get back to how he pitched leading up to his outing in New York.

“Just fill up the zone and mix pitches,” he said. “Need the hitter to have the mentality that I have to swing early in the count because I am throwing the ball in the zone.”

O's look to regroup in series finale: In this sports world of 2024 and the 24-hour news cycle where we cover games and as fans and media analyze and sometimes overanalyze baseball games, maybe we are at that point in this O's season.

I asked after Thursday's win in New York if the Orioles are the best team in baseball. They were playing like it and had gone 14-6 in a stretch of 20 games in 31 days that started May 31. They were 20 games into this stretch versus the Rays, Jays, Rays, Braves, Phillies and Yankees.

In the 20 games they hit 40 homers, slugged .506 with an OPS of .841 and were scoring 5.9 runs per game. Their team ERA was 2.60 in what was a dominant stretch.

Now, two losses at Houston later, first with a game they trailed by 11 runs Friday and a game Saturday when they were held to four hits, the question changes: Has this grueling stretch finally worn down this team?

"I think our guys have been grinding big time, and we ran into a good starter and good team," manager Brandon Hyde said. "And they pitched (Ryan) Pressly and (Josh) Hader at the end. They just beat us today."

Here was Corbin Burnes' answer to that same question: “I don’t think so. We knew coming into this stretch what it would be like. We’ve done a good job of playing great baseball and getting days when you need to. You saw the fight we put in (Friday) to come back in that game. Tonight we faced a guy with one of the better numbers in the league and he threw the ball well. You are going to run into guys like that where it’s tough to get something going.

“But I think we’ve played great baseball. We’ll come out and salvage the series tomorrow and get back home and play some good baseball."

Jordan Westburg expressed similar comments.

“I think we’re playing good baseball. It’s been two games," Westburg said. "And even (Friday) night we stuck in that game and made it a three-run game. Yeah, we knew this stretch would be tough and we knew the month of June would be tough with the caliber of teams we’re playing and a lot of days in a row we’re playing. But that’s what we signed up for. That is what we look forward to. We’re all competitors at the end of the day. We’re going to take these two on the chin and come back tomorrow and try to salvage the series.”

Westburg believes the team has handled the tough June schedule and grueling stretch of games quite well overall.

“Yeah. I think we’re playing good baseball. It’s easy to overreact on the first two games of a series. But we play 162 and losing is bound to happen. In a stretch like we are in June, not that losing is ever OK, but it’s expected at some point. We can’t be perfect and can’t go 162-0. I just think we’ll take it one day at a time and tackle the game that is next on the schedule. Try to salvage the series.”

If the O's lose today, the team that went 106 straight regular-season series without being swept before they hit St. Louis a month ago will be swept for the second time in a 10-series stretch. 

Rutschman leading off for Orioles in final game of...
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