Orioles relievers cranked up the heat during hot weekend

The theories are plentiful and varied, with no expectations that actual evidence is going to surface.

Three Orioles relievers threw pitches that were clocked at 100 mph or more during the first two games of the weekend series against the Yankees. Two experienced their first exposure to triple digits in the majors. Granted membership into the club.

Bryan Baker hit the exact mark Friday night while facing Aaron Judge in the seventh inning. Judge fouled off the fastball and later struck out.

Closer Jorge López topped Baker at 100.6 mph the following night with Gleyber Torres batting in the ninth inning. The All-Star missed his mark with the sinker, then coaxed a fly ball to right field.

Baker’s four-seamer averages 95.7 mph this season, per BrooksBaseball.net. López’s fastball averages 97.4 mph and his sinker 97.8 mph.

So, what gives? Why did the weekend bring a tick upward in velocity?

“There’s adrenaline,” said Chris Holt, pitching coach and director of pitching, “but there’s also the point in the season where their rhythm and their tempo and their delivery have been very consistent and they can access those things with that adrenaline.”

“I think everything’s just starting to sync up,” Baker said, “and then on top of coming in, facing Aaron Judge, who’s an automatic … you’re kind of locked in, you have a little bit of adrenaline. And it’s just a combination of a bunch of stuff.

“It’s getting hot, everything’s kind of loose, just kind of a perfect storm. And then three or four days off for the All-Star break probably helped, as well. So, I think all of us are throwing pretty hard right now these past couple days.

“It’s a perfect storm with the Yankees in town - hot weather, a couple days off. Stuff looks pretty electric for most of the guys right now. It’s pretty fun to watch.”

Maybe that’s it. Not one simple answer. Rest, warmth, adrenaline, competition.

No one mentioned prayers and vitamins.

“I think honestly, it’s a little bit of a break. The All-Star break really helps guys,” said manager Brandon Hyde.

“It shows you that when you keep bullpen guys as fresh as possible, their arms feel better. And then you have crowds like you had the last two nights, with the adrenaline, the Yankees, Yankees fans here, Orioles fans. Just the adrenaline picks up a mile or two.”

Asked whether it’s the weather, Joey Krehbiel replied, “It could be that. It could be that we’re finally ... not that guys aren’t in shape by any means, but our arms are getting in better shape.

“Félix (Bautista) throws 100 every time, Cionel (Pérez) is close every time, Bryan every time. I mean, the arms down there are just ridiculous.”

Bautista lives in triple digits. They’re in his address.

Seventy-nine of the rookie’s pitches have registered 100 mph or more, according to Statcast, which has tracked since 2015. Baker and López are the only other Orioles to get there this summer.

Kevin Gausman had seven pitches clocked at or exceeding 100 mph in 2015, topping at 101 mph against Kevin Pillar, who struck out. Left-hander Tanner Scott had two in 2018 and one each in 2017 and 2021.

Baker’s membership in the club dated back to the low minors in 2018.

“It’s been a long time,” he said.

Hitting 100 against the Yankees apparently didn’t register with Baker until after the fact.

“I usually check,” he said. “If there’s a screen somewhere, I usually check the first couple pitches to gauge how I’m feeling. Sometimes, you’re throwing and you’re not really sure how well it’s coming out, so you give it a little check back there and see.

“I didn’t see the actual 100 at the time. As soon as I got in the dugout, Joey Krehbiel was waiting on me. He just whispered, ‘a hundred.’ I had seen that I hit a couple 99s, so I figured that’s what he was talking about.”

“It was the first thing out of my mouth when he came into the dugout,” Krehbiel said before correcting himself. “Well, I said, ‘Thank you,’ because he left one of my runners on base. But I also said, ‘You hit 100.’ He looked at me and said, ‘I know.’

“I know he’s a part of the club, but definitely his first time this year, which was cool.”

Krehbiel’s membership is valid only in the minors.

“It’s hard to believe when I only throw like 95 or 96 now, sometimes, but yeah, in the past,” he said. “The first time was maybe 2015 or ’16, something like that. It’s only been probably one or two times.”

Baker won’t obsess over it, won’t become too attached to the radar readings.

Don’t get crazy from the fastball heat.

“Just let it happen naturally,” he said. “I think the way I’m feeling right now, it’s really just trying to throw strikes and making sure I’m getting outs. But that’s just a bonus, getting those high miles-per-hour.”

The weekend has brought more admiration for what Bautista does on the regular.

“Guys like me, Lopey and Pérez and (Dillon) Tate have all been up to 99, 100, but it’s like once in a blue moon. And then Bautista rolls out there and it’s pretty much every pitch.” Baker said.

“He’s just a different beast. It’s really fun to watch.”

“It’s crazy,” Krehbiel said. “When people say, ‘I don’t understand,’ well, yeah you do. He’s 6-foot-8 and can pretty much reach home plate with the ball at 100 mph, which is ridiculous. And he throws strikes.

“He’s definitely maturing into a ... who knows what he could be down the road?”

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