Former Orioles starter Scott Erickson stood at his locker after a poor outing and offered a simple explanation to reporters for what happened to him, why the opposition kept getting on base. One sentence that said plenty about his pitching and his dour personality.
“I can make them hit it on the ground,” he said flatly, “but I can’t direct where it goes.”
Kyle Gibson has a much better rapport with the media, but his luck this afternoon mirrored what Erickson experienced that day.
The seven Pirates hits were singles, with none of the launch angles registering above 14 degrees via Statcast data. A strikeout/wild pitch fueled a rally in the third that included ground balls from Ke’Bryan Hayes and Ji Hwan Bae that found holes on the right side of the infield and accounted for three runs.
Mitch Keller shut out the Orioles over seven innings, striking out a career-high 13 batters, and the Pirates avoided a series sweep with a 4-0 victory before an announced Mother’s Day crowd of 36,403 at Camden Yards.
Pittsburgh won for only the second time in 13 games, both in Keller’s scoreless starts, and they tallied more than three runs for the first time since April 30. The Orioles’ four-game winning streak ended and left them at 26-14 with the Angels next in town.
Keller notched his career-high 11th strikeout to end the sixth inning. He fanned two more in the seventh and was finished after 93 pitches. He didn’t walk a batter and lowered his ERA to 2.38.
Kyle Stowers, Gunnar Henderson and Ryan Mountcastle each struck out three times against him. Stowers is 2-for-30 with 12 strikeouts.
"We saw the video coming in and watched a lot of him, but that in-person is, that might be the best pitching performance of the season," said manager Brandon Hyde. "That was a pitching clinic, just how he got ahead. He's got four or five really plus pitches. We feel like we were 0-2 almost every at-bat."
"He didn't miss middle pretty much all day," said catcher James McCann. "Really his whole outing, he didn't make many mistakes, and when you've got a guy who's got the stuff that he has and he's not making mistakes, it's going to make for a tough day at the plate for the offense."
Closer David Bednar ran into trouble in the ninth, starting with Adam Frazier's bloop single and continuing with Hayes' error. Stowers struck out for the fourth time, McCann struck out and pinch-hitter Adley Rutschman popped up.
The Orioles were shut out for the third time.
Gibson allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings, with three walks and five strikeouts. He was removed at 95 pitches, and Mike Baumann made his first appearance since Tuesday.
"He threw the ball really well, a lot better than what the stat line's going to show," McCann said.
"It seemed like soft contact after soft contact found a way to drop in. Sometimes, that's baseball."
Andrew McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds began the first with line drive singles, and the Pirates led 1-0 after Carlos Santana’s fielder’s choice – the double play call overturned. The third single of the inning was Jack Suwinski’s 13-degree liner.
Gibson bounced a curveball to Reynolds on a strikeout leading off the third. The ball ricocheted off McCann's shin guard and rolled up the first base line in foul territory, where Gibson retrieved it and couldn’t make a clean flip to Mountcastle.
"That's the first time in my career that I can remember a ball kicking like that," McCann said. "It was just one of those days. Baseball is a funny game."
Suwinski walked with one out and Reynolds scored on Hayes’ ground ball single. Tucupita Marcano bunted back to the mound, a curious decision except he advanced Hayes to second base, and Bae followed with a two-run single.
The launch angles on those last two singles were minus-3 and minus-2.
Bae broke early on an attempted steal, and Gibson spun and nabbed him at second base.
Marcano reached on an infield hit with two outs in the fifth, minus-9 launch angle, and Gibson stranded two runners.
"I thought Gibby threw the ball good," Hyde said. "Tough breaks. Once again he gets a ton of ground balls, some unlucky plays didn't go his way behind him."
"They kind of singled us to death today," Gibson said. "A couple of them were really close. That's baseball, right? A game of inches. A foot here, a foot there, the game changes. But that's part of it."
Asked if today was one of his more annoying losses, Gibson said, "They're all annoying, honestly."
Keller was coming off a complete-game, four-hit shutout of the Rockies. Cedric Mullins led off the first inning today with a bunt single. McCann singled to lead off the fourth and Keller hit Anthony Santander with two outs. Santander singled with one out in the sixth and Austin Hays did the same in the seventh.
Keller has held the Orioles to one run over 13 innings in two career starts against them.
"I'm just impressed with Keller from what I've seen in the past with him and how much different he is right now," Hyde said. "Kudos to the Pirates and to him for turning into that. That was elite stuff."
Mullins singled off reliever Colin Holderman with one out in the eighth, Santander lined to short at 110.2 mph off the bat, Henderson doubled into the right field corner and Mountcastle struck out for the fourth time, and the team’s 15th.
No runs, but finally some activity in the splash zone.
The Orioles struck out 17 times today, one short of the club record.
Baumann gave the Orioles two scoreless and hitless innings. Cionel Pérez got a double play after Henderson’s throwing error in the eighth, and Austin Voth stranded Reynolds in the ninth after hitting him.
* Catcher Luis Torrens cleared outright waivers, declined his assignment to Triple-A Norfolk and became a free agent.
Torrens never played for the Orioles. They acquired him from the Cubs for cash considerations.
* Triple-A Norfolk’s Jordan Westburg hit his 11th home run today, a 416-foot shot to left field in the second inning. Bruce Zimmermann allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings.
Double-A Bowie lost 8-0 in Harrisburg. Coby Mayo and John Rhodes had the only hits.
Jud Fabian hit his fifth home run for high Single-A Aberdeen. Jean Pinto struck out eight batters and allowed one run in four innings.
Low Single-A Delmarva’s Anderson De Los Santos had a double and his first home run. Elio Prado hit his second homer.
Alfred Vega tossed four scoreless innings and didn’t walk a batter.