OAKLAND – For the Orioles, it was yet another night of some darn fine pitching. Birdland is not used to seeing those words written in recent seasons. This is not Jim Palmer and Dave McNally, or even Chris Tillman and Zack Britton, but the 2022 Orioles have put together a pretty stunning 12-game run on the mound.
Most of this has happened since John Means got hurt and he could be lost to the team for a long stretch as they await results of further testing. The pitching was supposed to head south without their ace. But they keep throwing (many of them) with mid-to-late 90s gas, making big pitches and piling up zeros.
To say the least, it was unexpected.
But as the Orioles charged out of their first-base dugout Wednesday when Jorge López got the final out, they celebrated their fourth win and their latest strong game on the mound.
The pitchers are doing this without hardly any run support, which is leaving them little margin for error. Or no margin when they win 1-0 as they did yesterday - their first 1-0 win since beating Texas by that score on July 14, 2018.
“We’re pitching extremely well and we’re not making it easy on them either,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “They’re pitching in tight spots almost every single game. It’s not the easiest way to pitch. Hopefully, we give these guys a cushion at some point. But really happy with all of our pitchers. The starters are keeping us in the game. The bullpen guys are doing a great job coming in throwing strikes and that’s all you can ask.”
The team ERA is 2.57 for the season to rank fifth in the majors and it is 0.79 the last four games. The bullpen ERA is 2.47 and the rotation ERA is 2.68.
This is stunning pitching and the Orioles staff has thrown two shutouts the past four games and three in the last nine.
Right-hander Jordan Lyles threw five scoreless innings on Wednesday afternoon, throwing 89 pitches. The latest starter to set a great tone on the mound. And this was after Chris Ellis threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings Tuesday and Spenser Watkins allowed one run over five on Monday.
Just who are these guys and why are they pitching so great since just about the time the club lost Means to injury? I asked Lyles after his second straight strong start if that was just a coincidence or if something else was at work.
"Very unfortunate about Johnny. We hate that for him," Lyles said. "He’s a great influence in this clubhouse. But guys are stepping up. When their name is called, they're ringing the bell, it’s time to go. And they are doing a great job."
Lyles was using a solid pitch mix to get the great day of pitching started on the mound. Then Paul Fry fired a couple of nice sliders in an 11-pitch 1-2-3 last of the sixth. Dillon Tate rolled through the seventh and Bryan Baker got the eighth. When he ran into trouble, in came the new closer, López. He was throwing gas, topping at 99 mph in getting a five-out save. Yep, that was some heavy lifting by Jorge.
López said he was blessed to be healthy and pitching so well. His fastball averaged 98.5 mph yesterday, and he got two swings and misses on two offerings at his changeup. He said he’s cutting it loose out of the ‘pen but is still a bit surprised at what he is seeing on the radar gun.
“It’s really all about being healthy. That is all that matters," he said. "I didn’t expect that (velocity) for real, being honest. I know I have a good strong arm and body, but with that high velocity is something I have in mind never. Just really blessed to keep going.”
Added Lyles: “That was a great performance on the pitching side. More on the bullpen than anything. The guys, what they have done all year. Just steady and super consistent for us. Picking up where they leave off every day. Me personally, not thrilled about the five innings. But on a high note, scoreless. We got a run and that was enough.”
And they had to protect the slimmest of leads as the offense keeps struggling scoring one run each game this series and 24 in 12 games for the year. How much longer can this go on and how much longer will it be before the pitching cracks at some point?
Lyles said they’re just not worrying about that.
“Honestly, I don’t believe us pitchers think about that," he said. "We’re so in our zone, in our little tunnel, that we’re trying to get outs. We’re not thinking about the offensive side too much. We have a lot of talented guys on the offense and it’s going to start to click for them. We won’t need to win games 1-0 or 3-0. This offense is going to pick it up, we have very talented guys. We have all the confidence in those guys. We’re just here to do our job. Throw strikes, try to make our pitches as nasty as possible and it’s playing out well now.”
It sure is, minus Palmer and the rest.
Farm shutouts, too: On the farm while low Single-A Delmarva lost and gave up 17 runs, Triple-A Norfolk (10-4) and Double-A Bowie (6-4) pitched shutouts yesterday, too.
Right-hander Grayson Rodrigez got extended to 75 pitches and threw 5 1/3 scoreless as Norfolk blanked Durham 3-0. He is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA over three starts. In 14 1/3 innings, he has allowed just five hits with two walks, 23 strikeouts and an 0.49 WHIP.
Bowie's Garrett Stallings and Ryan Watson teamed on a 1-hitter in a 5-0 win over Akron. Stallings went five innings and Watson the last four.
High Single-A Aberdeen beat Greensboro 5-4 as Connor Norby and Coby Mayo each hit their second homers on the season. The IronBirds are 8-3.