O's staying in games, thanks to great pitching, defense

SEATTLE - With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Julio Rodríguez sent a scorcher back up the middle on a two-strike count. The ball ricocheted off pitcher Félix Bautista, and Ryan Mountcastle nearly made a great play to end the inning. 

Instead, the ball got away from Mountcastle, Rodríguez was safe at first, and Jesse Winker drove two runners home in the very next at-bat. Had Rodríguez’s flukey single been an out, the Orioles and Mariners would’ve been knotted at 0-0 entering the top of the ninth. 

Of course, you’re not going to win very many baseball games recording just one hit, which was all the O’s offense was able to muster last night. But the combination of Dean Kremer, Cionel Pérez and Félix Bautista kept Baltimore firmly in the ballgame until the very end. 

“We’re pitching better, they’re keeping us in games. The starting pitching has done a great job,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Dean Kremer was incredible last night, Tyler Wells was awesome the day before … Our bullpen guys have done a great job of keeping the game right there.” 

You would have to go back to June 13, an 11-1 loss to the Blue Jays, to find a game in which the Orioles truly felt out of it. Every other game since then, a 14-game stretch, has either been a Baltimore victory or a loss in which the O’s fell by three runs or fewer. 

“It gives you a sense of confidence in the dugout of ‘We’re always going to be in the game, we’re always going to be able to come back,’” added Hyde. “That’s what good teams do, they stay in the fight.”

That’s a feeling that may not have been there in the past for players like Cedric Mullins. 

“We’re going out there competing every day and getting the results we want,” said Mullins. “We’re getting great starts from our starters, the defense has been backing them up, and when the opportunity presents itself, the offense has been solid.”

The center fielder has certainly been solid during the O’s impressive month. In 24 games in June, the speedster is hitting .292 with 10 extra-base hits. 

“Just feeling more comfortable,” Mullins added. “I know I was probably top of their [the opposing pitchers'] list for guys to look out for and make adjustments to, so it was a matter of getting a feel for what they were trying to do.”

Austin Voth looks to continue the great recent stretch of pitching for Baltimore today. Voth has now started two games for the Orioles, but has totaled just 5.2 innings. However, over those last two games, Voth has provided the O’s with a solid opener of sorts. The right-hander has just a 1.59 ERA in those two games, with a measly .200 batting average against. 

The plan for today, it seems, is to extend that innings total a bit. “Hopefully, we get in the four [innings] to sixty [pitches] type of thing,” Hyde said. “Would love to push him a little bit.”

In total, Voth has appeared in five games in Baltimore since being designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals. Over that stretch, the 30-year-old has an ERA of 3.00, and has struck out 10 through nine total innings. 

“In his career, he’s been really versatile,” Hyde added. “Like the way he’s throwing the ball so far. Like his stuff, he’s got a nice mix. He’s putting up zeros for us. Like how competitive he is.”

The Orioles not only have a chance to win the series and finish June with a 15-11 record, but they could end the month with a better record than the Mariners. Seattle and Baltimore currently sit with identical 35-41 records, but most likely, have very different feelings about it. 

The O’s have been playing some unexpectedly great baseball as of late, led by surprise seasons from players including Austin Hays, Jorge López and Tyler Wells. On the other side, the Mariners have been buyers from the start of the offseason, bringing in talent such as Robbie Ray, Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier. 

As June wraps up, the Orioles are lumped in an American League group that includes the Mariners, White Sox, Angels and Rangers, all teams whose moves indicated playoff expectations. Do with that information what you will. 

On the injury front, Kyle Bradish has been taking some steps forward in his rehab from injury. “Getting better every day,” said Hyde. “He’s been playing catch the last couple of days.”

O's game blog: The rubber match against Seattle
Orioles lineup vs. Mariners

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