Late rally Sunday provides momentum for road trip

OAKLAND – The Orioles will play in Oakland tonight to start a 10-game road trip that will take them to both coasts and produce series against the Athletics, Angels and Yankees. It will be challenging, but at least they start it on a high note after Sunday’s 5-0 shutout win over the Yankees in Baltimore.

If you were among the large number of fans wondering how much longer they could go without getting clutch hits, the answer was seven more innings as Sunday’s game began. But after going 3-for-30 in the three games before yesterday with runners in scoring position and 7-for-77 for the year through eight games, they finally came through.

And it was the oft-criticized Rougned Odor whose two-run single opened the floodgates, so to speak, and the Orioles got three straight hits with RISP after being 7-for-83 for the year as Odor stood in to pinch-hit in the eighth of a 0-0 tie.

The Orioles beat the Yankees in the series, also winning in 11 innings Friday night. Who knows what might have happened this weekend at the Yard without the hail on Saturday night, which altered the O’s pitching plans.

Speaking of pitching, since Friday, when we pretty much found out lefty John Means would be out for a significant period of time, O’s starters have allowed one earned run. So far – yes, in the smallest of samples – they stepped up.

The trio of Jordan Lyles, Tyler Wells and Bruce Zimmermann got the starts against New York and combined for an ERA of 0.63 in the series, allowing the one earned run on 13 hits in 14 1/3 innings. That includes nine scoreless the last two games from Wells and Zimmermann.

Whether it’s Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Zimmermann, Wells or any number of bullpen arms right now, O’s young pitchers are stepping up and it’s great to see. Yes, it’s early, but having a team ERA of 3.04 right now (second in the AL, fifth in MLB) is strong. The bullpen ERA is 2.66 (third in AL, sixth in MLB). This beats the 6.00 or thereabouts we saw most of last season.

Is some of this, or a lot of this, about the left-field wall, or are O’s pitchers just making some progress in front of our eyes? Maybe it’s some of both, but it’s very welcome in Birdland.

Now this road trip begins against an Oakland team that went through a reboot of sorts this winter, trading first baseman Matt Olson to the Braves, third baseman Matt Chapman to the Blue Jays, pitcher Chris Bassitt to the Mets and pitcher Sean Manaea to the Padres. They are rebuilding or reloading again after a strong stretch of baseball. They won 97 games each in 2018 and 2019 and finished in first place at 36-24 in the shortened 2020 season. They won 86 last year but had a three-year run of playoff appearances come to an end.

The Orioles went 3-3 versus Oakland last season, but are just 5-14 against this team since 2018 and only 2-7 in road games in that span. Tonight’s game, which begins at 9:40 p.m. ET, will be Oakland’s home opener.

The A’s (5-5) began the year going 1-2 at Philadelphia, 3-1 at Tropicana Field against Tampa Bay and 1-2 in Toronto, where they lost 4-3 Sunday. The A’s are 2-3 in games decided by two runs or less.

A few more notes on the Orioles:

Sunday’s shutout was their first against the Yankees since Sept. 3, 2016 in Baltimore. It was the O’s first home series victory against the Yankees since they took three of four from Sept. 4-6, 2020.

* The Orioles are 5-5 in their last 10 games versus New York and they are 10-12 against the Yankees since the start of the 2021 season.

* The Orioles are 3-3 the last six games. They gave up 15 runs in losing the first three games of the year to Tampa Bay. They have allowed 15 runs in their last six games combined, all on the homestand, against the Brewers and Yankees.

* The O’s have two shutouts in the last six games – both games were started by Zimmermann.

* While the O’s produced season highs in runs (five) and hits (nine) on Sunday, they have still scored just 21 runs in their 3-6 start.

* The Orioles scored five or more runs in the seventh inning or later against the Yankees for the first time since the seventh frame on April 15, 2018.

* Zimmermann has thrown nine straight scoreless innings to begin the year and he sports a 3.90 career ERA (20 ER/46 2/3 IP) at Oriole Park.

* Odor recorded his 19th-career go-ahead hit in the seventh inning or later, and his first since June 23, 2021 versus Kansas City while with the Yankees. Yesterday was his second career go-ahead hit as a pinch-hitter, the other was on May 25, 2019 with Texas at the Angels.

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