Povich's six scoreless innings and Cowser's tie-breaking home run lead Orioles past Braves 4-2 (updated)

Orioles bench coach Fredi González took maybe one step away from the umpires gathered at home plate for the exchange of lineup cards and left-hander Cade Povich already had climbed the dugout steps and began his walk to the mound for his warmup tosses.

Teammates paused to let the rookie lead them.

He did a fine job of it after the game began.

Making his second major league start and first at home, Povich shut out the Braves over six innings before manager Brandon Hyde turned to a bullpen that wasn’t at full strength. Matt Olson turned on a Keegan Akin four-seam fastball and sent it 423 feet to right field for a game-tying two-run homer.

Akin put his hands on his hips in disgust. Povich wouldn’t get his first win. Colton Cowser wouldn’t waste his only at-bat of the night.

Inserted as a defensive replacement in right field in the eighth, Cowser hit a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning to give the Orioles a 4-2 win over the Braves before an announced crowd of 24,122 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles won their season-high sixth game in a row and 16th out of 20. They moved 23 games above .500 at 45-22.

Craig Kimbrel notched his 16th save and 433rd of his career by retiring the side in order in the ninth.

Ryan Mountcastle reached on an infield single against Joe Jiménez with one out and Cowser jumped on a first-pitch fastball, 108.1 mph off the bat, for his eighth home run and first since May 26 in Chicago.

Cowser was 5-for-31 this month with 12 strikeouts after slashing .188/.305/.275 in 25 games in May.

"He was ready, and he was ready from middle innings to run or defend or to pinch-hit in a big spot," Hyde said. "On time with the fastball right from the jump. Huge hit for us. Really happy for him."

As the media approached, Cowser quipped, "Hey, guys, long time no see."

He saw that fastball quite clearly.

"I was just trying to be on time," he said. "Usually when I'm on time with heaters, I'm able to react to everything else. That's all I was really trying to do."

Cowser pumped his fist as he rounded first base, the frustration pouring out of him. That is, after he received confirmation that he actually had homered.

"Well, Mounty scared me for a split second cause he stopped," Cowser said. "I thought (Michael Harris II) robbed it at first, but really glad it went over."

The defensive replacement gets offensive. It happens once in a while.

"The way that seventh inning played out, I knew that if I came in the game I was going to get an at-bat, so I was just trying to do whatever I can to prepare myself," Cowser said. "Our coaches in the tunnel did a great job and kind of game me an idea of who I was going to face."

The "mooing" from the crowd accompanied Cowser around the bases and it was loud. He had no reaction to it because he was unaware.

"Honestly, I was really excited, I don't really even remember hearing much," he said. "I was just really excited, got around the bases. I don’t really remember hearing much. I was just excited myself."

Opponents didn’t score in 23 consecutive innings before Olson’s homer, which followed a leadoff single by Ozzie Albies and came one day after high-leverage lefty Danny Coulombe went on the injured list with elbow inflammation. More left-on-left damage against Akin this season.

"I think that it wasn't a terrible pitch but the slider the pitch before was kind of a backup and I'm sure that Matt was just selling out for fastball there because the slider before was real good," Hyde said. "I just think slider consistency, being able to put guys away and locate the slider down and away. Akin does have a good fastball and he's got a lot of life to it. You see when he's rolling he gets a lot of bad swings and guys are late. He's got to be able to throw the slider with a changeup and not have them just be able to sit heater. I think Matt probably did right there."

Povich allowed five hits and struck out six batters - four with his curveball and two with his sweeper - among his 89 pitches. He walked four batters in his debut and none tonight.

"It was something we talked a lot about with him at the end of spring about command and how important commanding your fastball is and being able to land off-speed in fastball counts for strikes, and he did all that tonight," Hyde said. "His curveball was really good, the cutter was good, he had life to his fastball. Just threw a ton of strikes. Did an unbelievable job."

"Cade's really impressive," Cowser said. "We were joking around on the bench, me and (Kyle) Stowers talking about how he's 'Fried Light.' He looks just like Max out there. They're kind of the same build. He's got really good stuff. ... He's got six really good pitches, and when he commands it he's really, really good."

Fans stood to cheer Povich after he stranded two runners in the sixth. Pitching coach Drew French came to the mound with Adam Duvall at the plate. Dillon Tate warmed. And Hyde trusted Povich to get the final out.

"That was everything we needed and more," Hyde said.

"It was awesome, the crowd here," Povich said. "The only other time I had been here was in the stands or just seeing the field and not being able to get on it because there was still snow on it."

Part of the game plan for Povich was learning from the other starters. Pick up on some cues to be prepared.

"And I think ultimately just pounding the strike zone, getting ahead early and letting the defense make some incredible plays," Povich said.

Povich retired eight of the first nine batters. He threw 15 pitches and 10 for strikes in each of the first two innings and struck out the last hitter with his curveball.

Olson was hit by a pitch to start the second and couldn’t advance.

Harris singled with two outs in the third, but Gunnar Henderson ranged deep in the hole to make his nightly backhand stop and throw across his body. Povich again threw 15 pitches, but 12 for strikes.

The first big test for Povich came in the fourth inning after Marcell Ozuna and Olson singled with no outs. Austin Riley struck out and Duvall and Murphy grounded into force plays. He retired the side in the fifth, striking out two batters and leaving his pitch count at 79.

Povich threw 100 over 5 1/3 innings in Toronto, his start unraveling after Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s three-run homer in the third. Povich, the organization’s No. 9 prospect in MLB Pipeline rankings, was charged with six runs but got another chance with Dean Kremer on the injured list.

The rookie wouldn’t buckle tonight. And his defense backed him.

There was slippage in the sixth when Ozuna’s fly ball down the right field line fell untouched, with Mountcastle reaching for it and missing. Ramón Urías made a diving stop of Olson’s grounder and threw to second for the force, Riley singled and Duvall popped up.

Povich induced 14 whiffs on the night. Sixty-three of his 89 pitches were strikes. And he became the first Orioles pitcher to work at least six scoreless innings within his first two career appearances since Mike Wright Jr. in 2015.

Does Povich get another start?

"Pitching plans are definitely up in the air right now," Hyde said. "We're series to series."

The nerves weren't quite as intense tonight. Povich said he actually could feel his body and get a little more food down. That's progress.

"It's still baseball and the job is to win," he said. "Just going out there and feeling like myself and try to stay on the attack."

With Nebraska baseball coach Will Bolt, some coaches and training staff in the stands to watch their two former pitchers go head-to-head, Atlanta’s Spencer Schwellenbach logged two scoreless innings before falling behind 2-0 in the third.

Cedric Mullins doubled, Jorge Mateo singled and stole second base, and the Orioles scored twice on grounders to Olson. Mullins dived across the plate as Olson took the out at first, and Mateo was safe after Olson’s throw home bounced past catcher Sean Murphy. Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman were credited with RBIs.

In his third major league start, Schwellenbach allowed two runs and four hits in six innings to lower his ERA from 8.38 to 6.32. Povich’s ERA dropped from 10.13 to 4.76.

The former teammates swapped signed jerseys after the game.

"It was just awesome, special moment," Povich said. "I think today, too, was the first time ever two Huskers have faced each other on the mound, which is special. It was really awesome."

Pinch-hitter Jarred Kelenic reached on Mateo’s error in the seventh. Akin replaced Dillon Tate with two outs and retired Harris.

The eighth inning burned Akin. Cowser provided the relief.

"I think overall that we're having a lot of team wins," Cowser said. "You look around and we're blanking teams, we're putting up a lot of runs. I think we're continuing to find ways to win ballgames."

"They're really, really good," Braves manager Brian Snitker told the media. "They're strong. That's one of the best lineups that you're gonna see. They all defend, they're all athletic and it's a very impressive team."

* Kimbrel has 1,226 career strikeouts to break a tie with former Orioles reliever Lee Smith for the third-most by a reliever in major league history.

* Triple-A Norfolk’s Hudson Haskin hit a three-run homer tonight and Heston Kjerstad had three hits. Justin Armbruester allowed one earned run and two total in five innings.

High-A Aberdeen’s Enrique Bradfield Jr. hit his first professional home run. Edgar Portes struck out seven batters and allowed two runs in four innings.

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