Irvin pitches into sixth, Rutschman and Mountcastle homer, O's win quickly 6-2

SARASOTA, Fla. – Cole Irvin got his extra up this afternoon, pitching into the sixth inning for the first time. He pumped strike after strike and rationed the Red Sox to Adam Duvall’s solo home run through the fifth. Pretty much how he wanted to wind down his stay in Orioles spring training.

Irvin surrendered back-to-back doubles to Duvall and Daniel Palka in the sixth to raise his pitch count to 68. Manager Brandon Hyde came out of the dugout and got him. Nothing else was needed from him.

Cionel Pérez stranded the runner with a popup and two strikeouts.

“That wasn’t actually the plan,” Hyde said following a 6-2 win played in 2 hours and 6 minutes.
“Because of Cole’s quick pitch count, wanted to send him back out there for six ups.”

In his four exhibition starts, not counting the back field work, Irvin has allowed five runs and 17 hits with one walk and nine strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.

“I’m ready to get the season started,” he said. “I’m excited.”

“You saw the tempo of the game, the time of game,” Hyde said. “When Cole Irvin’s on the mound, he’s going to be throwing a ton of strikes. Did that today, he’s been doing that all camp. Really good sinker-changeup combination against the right-handers, and good breaking balls today.”

Irvin was fast and efficient. He retired the Red Sox in order on seven pitches in a two-minute first inning and needed only nine to get through the second, which began with Palka’s single.

Niko Goodrum was stranded in the third after a one-out single, with Irvin extended to 19 pitches. Adam Duvall led off the fourth inning with a home run to left field, his second against the Orioles in four days, but Irvin disposed of the next three hitters with ease – ground ball, popup, ground ball.

Goodrum and Christian Arroyo singled with two outs in the fifth and Irvin fanned Bobby Dalbec on three pitches. Irvin’s second consecutive 13-pitch inning to leave his total at 61.

“It felt good, it felt like I wasn’t winded this time,” he said. “Not to say I was before, but I kind of used a few more seconds of the clock today. I thought it was pretty good. I think it was pretty productive. Got some weak contact.

“The last inning before I came out and had to throw in the bullpen, just some mistake pitches and that might be because it’s six ups and the first time six ups in a while.”

Irvin said he treated today like a road game, though he stood on the Ed Smith Stadium mound. Incorporating some exercises that he does away from home to prepare for wherever he’s pitching when the season begins.

Pretty safe assumption that he’ll be at Fenway Park, but the order hasn’t been made official.

“First day of really testing, OK, am I on time with my pitching, am I on time getting to the dugout, am I on time in between innings? And I really was,” he said.

“I feel really good. I’m ready to get going.”

Kyle Gibson hasn’t walked a batter in 14 innings and said the defense behind him provides incentive to keep pounding the strike zone. Irvin can relate, with his one walk this spring.

“We’ve got a great defense,” he said. “I don’t even know if we have our best nine out there. Everyone can be replaceable and everyone’s good with the glove. It’s really fun to be able to throw and just watch the defense play behind you. But I’ve always been a pitch to contact. I think Sandy Koufax said he got better when he stopped trying to make them miss it and started making them hit it, so that for me has always stayed true to my game and will always stay true to my game.

“I want my defense to work. It keeps them active in the game, even though they might have been a little more active on offense. I enjoy pitching and watching the defense.”

The glove reputation was a reason why Irvin welcomed the trade from the Athletics.

“You can say the wall in left field is great, too. That’s a defensive player,” he said.

“I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew we had talent, I knew how good we were, but seeing it first-hand has really kind of opened my eyes about how much I can trust the defense. And Kyle’s right, you can throw to the defense a little more.”

* The Orioles are going to see left-hander Chris Sale during the opening series in Boston. Adley Rutschman and Ryan Mountcastle will be ready.

Rutschman homered off Sale with one out in the first inning, his fourth of the spring clearing the fence in left field. Ryan Mountcastle stepped to the plate with two outs and hit the batter’s eye in center field for his second home run of the spring.

Mountcastle led off the third with a double, moved up on Ramón Urías single and scored on a double play. Counted among his 14 hits are seven doubles, one triple and two homers. Rutschman has four extra-base hits, all of them home runs.

“I feel like this is one of the best springs I’ve had in a while and a little more locked in this year at the plate. Feeling good and I’m ready to go,” Mountcastle said.

“It gives you that little confidence like I can hit the ball still after a four-month off-season. It feels good. Feel healthy, and swing feels great.”

“Just kind of a guy growing into his own, confidence,” Hyde said. “Always had the ability. It’s always been a little bit about the ability to control the strike zone because he can do so much damage. He’s putting great swings on strikes right now.”

Rutschman slashed .174/.287/.265 last season in 115 plate appearances against lefties.

“He’s been swinging the bat well right-handed this whole spring. Not just out here, but the back fields, also,” Hyde said.

“That was a point of emphasis for him to work on his right-handed swing a little bit this offseason and it’s been really good this spring.”

* Adam Frazier doubled to lead off the second and held as Ryan O’Hearn’s popup fell in shallow center field. Jorge Mateo followed with an RBI double to right and Kyle Stowers bounced a two-run single up the middle in a left-on-left matchup with Sale.

Mateo led off the fourth with a bunt single. He’s been getting on base more often lately after a slow start.

Anthony Santander went 0-for-3 in his return from the World Baseball Classic. He was 0-for-10 before leaving camp.

He’ll get hot after heading north. Seems like plenty of guys are capable of doing damage.

“We’re really good,” Mountcastle said. “I was looking at some of the averages just in spring and it seems like everybody’s hitting .400. It’s insane how many guys are hitting the ball. Guys are pitching really well, too, and I’m really excited for the year.”

Joey Krehbiel shut out the Red Sox in seventh and hasn’t allowed a run in his last five appearances.

“First couple weren’t so good,” Hyde said. “That’s not abnormal in a spring training situation.”

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