Baker talks about thriving during the kind of outing "you live for"

If Orioles closer Jorge López is a pitcher who is suddenly struggling, then right-hander Bryan Baker is one who is suddenly thriving. Thrust into a key spot on Monday afternoon, he came through big time as the Orioles beat Texas 7-6 in 10 innings.

It’s been a decent year for Baker with the Orioles, as he is 3-3 with a 4.59 ERA. And this was a pitcher with one major league inning on his resume before the 2022 season.

But now, over his past six games, he has allowed just three hits and one run over 9 1/3 innings and opponents have a batting average of .100 (3-for-30) against him in this span and an OPS of .400.

After Adley Rutschman’s two-out RBI double in the ninth tied the game 6-6 Monday, Baker took the mound for the 10th with a placed runner at second base. He fanned Steven Duggar looking at a changeup and then walked pinch-hitter Kole Calhoun. One-time O’s draft pick Jonah Heim then pinch-hit and Baker threw a fastball by him at 97 mph. When Josh H. Smith flied out, he had put up a zero and the Orioles were set to walk-off the game in the home 10th.

Baker hasn’t pitched in too many high-leverage spots this year, but being on the mound with the game on the line had him pumped up, he said today.

“I think that is what everyone wants to do really,” he said in the O’s clubhouse. “A lot of us down there in the ‘pen are looking to get into the game and help the team get a win in whatever way that we can. Those bigger situations are kind of what we live for to an extent. It’s really fun to come in, keep the momentum going and help your team get a W.”

And keeping your cool in a tight spot on the mound is pretty important. Before he threw a pitch there was already a runner in scoring position.

“It’s really about trusting your stuff, and at this point in the season, we have been doing it for a while and we have built some confidence off what we have done this year. Just trying to build on that. Keep improving in little ways, here and there. We are always building off something and our bullpen has a good atmosphere to make sure you are doing the work you need, seeing all these other guys doing a great job. So you feed off of that,” said Baker.

Baker’s average fastball velocity is 95.2 mph but he averaged 96.7 mph on Monday and topped at 97.3.

“Felt like the fastball had some life to it," he said. "I kind of rode that for the most part. I knew I was going to come in and face some lefties, so I tried to use the changeup a little bit. It was a little hit or miss, but had a couple of good ones in there and just live on the fastball after that.”

What gave his fastball the extra life on Monday?

“I think it’s been trending that way over the last month or so. I feel better and the summer heat is helping a little bit. Obviously the situation along with a couple of days off probably helped as well. Felt like I was pretty fresh, despite warming up a few times throughout the game. Tried to stay as loose as I could and felt pretty good,” he said.

Baker has been nice addition for an O’s bullpen that has an ERA of 3.21 for the year, fourth-best in both the American League and in MLB.

Baker has made two spot starts for the Orioles this year and earned his third win of the season when Jorge Mateo was plunked with the bases-loaded, producing the O’s sixth walk-off win of 2022. Only the Yankees have more in all of MLB with 10. 

Baker was added by the Orioles in November off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. They made him available via waivers even though he had pitched to an ERA of 1.31 with a WHIP of 0.847 for their Triple-A Buffalo team last season. He said he learned a lot on Toronto’s watch on the farm last year and is learning even more now at the highest level in the majors.

“Everything is just faster and better up here in the big leagues. You have to learn a lot faster and you’re doing it on a bigger stage, so there is more at stake. So it is definitely more difficult, but it has been fun to kind of experience all these different situations over the last few months and try to build on that going forward," said Baker. 

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