On the day that Orioles manager Brandon Hyde summons Austin Hays into his office this weekend for the traditional exit interview - in a non-traditional major league city - he's going to talk again about the importance of staying healthy in order for the young outfielder to reach his full potential.
The Orioles know what Hays can do when he's on the field. They just need to keep him on it.
Exactly how does a team protect a player from a succession of freakish injuries?
Hays hasn't slowed down since coming off the injured list, his September rampage continuing tonight with a leadoff double in the second inning that ignited a three-run rally and including two more hits. A slumbering offense perked up and the Orioles avoided the sweep with a 13-1 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
JosÃ© Iglesias returned and hit his second home run, Hays registered his sixth multi-hit game this month - including a home run in the ninth off utility player Tzu-Wei Lin - Alex Cobb worked a season-high seven innings and the Orioles won for only the fourth time in their last 16 games. The Red Sox are two behind them and still alone in last place in the American League East.
The season is down to a three-game series against the Blue Jays in Buffalo, where the Orioles lost three of four to close out the month of August. They will try to finish with a 27-33 record and return to their families.
They're going to remember being 12-8 on Aug. 15 and winning four in a row later to improve to 20-21 and regain the attention of the national media.
"We played good baseball early and we kept ourselves in the race, which is good," infielder Pat Valaika, who singled in the second inning after Hays' double and homered in the seventh, said earlier today in a Zoom conference call.
"Being in the clubhouse with our teammates, nobody likes to lose, so these last 15-20 games haven't really gone our way and it hasn't been fun. Nobody likes to lose, nobody likes to come into the clubhouse and just be quiet. When I think back to when we were successful, we have that potential with the guys in our locker room and it was fun and I think we showed the fans and ourselves that's how good we can be. We realize that and we just need to continue to get better."
Cedric Mullins has worked to improve from the right side of the plate, where he was 5-for-34 with 11 strikeouts before tonight. He had one RBI, but collected two against MartÃn PÃ©rez in the second inning.
Rio Ruiz singled to score Hays and move Valaika to third base. RamÃ³n UrÃas walked to load the bases with no outs and Mullins lined a two-run double to left field.
The Orioles had scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their previous 14 games. They led 3-0 and were primed for more.
It would happen a little later. An offensive uprising goes along at its own pace.
Left fielder Michael Chavis made a diving catch to rob Hanser Alberto and threw out UrÃas at the plate.
In a charitable mood, the Red Sox let Cobb off the hook in the bottom half of the inning after catcher Christian VÃ¡zquez moved to second base on the veteran pitcher's errant and ill-advised pickoff throw with two outs. Bobby Dalbec walked and Pedro Severino threw out VÃ¡zquez attempting to steal third base.
Ryan Mountcastle produces runs with his bat - he had an RBI single in the eighth to increase the lead to 10-1 - and he unexpectedly prevents them with his glove. He ran down Rafael Devers' fly ball on the warning track to end the third and strand Christian Arroyo at second base.
Back-to-back doubles by Ruiz and UrÃas in the fourth enabled the Orioles to bust through the three-run wall. They'd make a bigger hole.
Alberto had a sacrifice fly after Mullins' sacrifice bunt and Iglesias homered for a 6-0 lead - making the slow trip around the bases that could be due to a sore quadriceps or shin. The left wrist certainly didn't hinder his swing.
Ruiz was 3-for-3 through the fifth inning, his double off Dylan Covey scoring Hays from first base for a 7-0 lead. Ruiz scored on UrÃas' single.
UrÃas was 5-for-10 in the last three games as Ruiz crossed the plate.
Hays was 14-for-36 (.389) this month after the double, 15-for-38 (.395) after his single in the fifth and 16-for-40 (.400) after his homer in the ninth. Plate umpire Ryan Wills called him out on strikes in the third inning on a pitch that missed inside - pretty much the only way to stop him these days.
"We need to keep him healthy. That's the bottom line," Hyde said earlier today.
"When he has been healthy, he has played well. Really impressed with his September last year. He's been swinging the bat since he got off the injured list this last time, so excited about that. Like the defense he plays, like the athleticism and speed he can bring to the lineup and on the bases. So we're excited about Austin. We just need to keep him on the field."
The Red Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, but Cobb limited the damage to one run on Arroyo's double play grounder.
Cobb held the Red Sox to one run and escaped a jam in the seventh after UrÃas committed two errors on the same play and then started a 6-4-3 double play. He allowed three runs in his last two starts over 13 innings to lower his ERA to 4.30.
Cobb hadn't completed seven innings since Aug. 18, 2018.
Shawn Armstrong, in his first appearance since Aug. 22, retired the side in order in the eighth. The Red Sox surrendered in the ninth by putting Lin on the mound, which also led to Alberto's two-run double. Valaika and UrÃas each collected their third hits.
Hyde on offense: "I thought we really swung the bat well. Just going through the box score here. But we also hit so many other balls hard. I was really impressed with the amount of good at-bats we had tonight. The amount of hard contact. That was nice to see. It's been a while."
Hyde on Ruiz: "We talk a lot about it, the last few weeks for me, when he's facing a left-hander, he's really staying on the baseball well. You see a different swing. It's a shorter swing, it's a left-center field approach, he doesn't get long. ... I just like when Rio stays closed and stays to the big part of the field and uses the whole field. A lot of times he gets big for me and tries to do too much. He's got raw power that he didn't have last year and he doesn't need to generate like he was trying to last year toward the second half of the year. When his swing is short, it's powerful because he's got the added weight and added strength this year and that's when he's at his best."
Cobb on finishing strong: "It's something that coming off the surgery last year, my goal was to get to feeling back to normal this year. There were some ups and downs, but I think I finally found it probably at some point the last game, the direction I needed to be in, and I was able to carry it into this game. So I have something concrete to build on moving to the offseason and work on and come into next season strong."
Cobb on offensive support: "It really does change everything in the way you're able to go out and attack. It puts them on their heels. You're able to get some free first-pitch strikes because you know they're taking after long innings. You fill the zone more and know you can attack."
Ruiz on why offense has lulls: "We've run up against some freaking horses, man. With the Rays and then coming over here and facing (Nathan) Eovaldi out of the gate. We know what we're capable of. We don't like to make excuses, but AL East pitching is no joke."
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