PHILADELPHIA – The center field strategy for the Orioles isn’t complicated. There’s no code to break.
Colton Cowser gets most of the starts against right-handers and Austin Hays gets the bulk versus lefties. Ryan McKenna is an option after returning to the club yesterday but usually operates in a reserve role. He subbed for Cowser last night in the ninth inning.
Cedric Mullins and Aaron Hicks are on the injured list to bring the total number of players to seven. Hicks strained his left hamstring Monday night but should return before Mullins, who’s dealing with a right adductor groin strain.
Hicks is hoping to be back after 10 days. Manager Brandon Hyde isn’t as confident based on the unpredictable nature of hamstring injuries.
The Orioles remain calm while the roster churns.
“It is tough, especially how much they contribute to the team and winning every day, but that’s part of this game,” said outfielder Anthony Santander. “We have to move forward and help the next guy who comes in and helps us to continue to win games. We have to keep the winning mentality, even though we lost two guys who have helped the team win a lot.
“We’ve been really good at that, and hopefully we can continue to do that. We have Cowser here, who can play center field. I don’t know yet who got called up.”
Told that it was McKenna, Santander got a huge smile on his face and said, “He’s an animal.”
“Hopefully, he can come and help us continue winning until those guys are ready to come back.”
Austin Hays also leans on his team’s resiliency in these moments, one of its finest traits and a prime reason the Orioles lead the Rays by 1 ½ games in the division.
“It’s a big challenge for us,” Hays said. “It’s good to see Mac back in here. He’s done a great job for us, being in that role, just giving us depth. It seems like every game he started in, he found a way to get two hits, so it’s good to have him back here.
“Once again, it’s going to have to be different guys playing center field and mixing in. It’s good that we have Cowser here and he is a left-handed bat. We can keep his left-handed bat in the lineup. But just, guys are going to have to continue to contribute. It’s kind of been the face of this team this year. It’s a different guy every night, it's a different guy stepping up. We just have to continue with that through this rough stretch of injuries to the outfield.”
* The deadline trade of Jorge López to the Twins last year shaped the backend of the 2023 bullpen.
Yennier Cano was included in the four-pitcher package and became an All-Star setup man. Félix Bautista took over López’s role and became an All-Star closer.
Bautista rested again last night, keeping his ERA at 0.92, his WHIP at 0.857, his save total at 28, and his strikeout rate at 17.6 per nine innings.
His season gets more impressive the deeper you dig.
Bautista has registered more strikeouts than walks in 28 consecutive relief appearances, the second-longest streak in the modern era behind the Red Sox’s Koji Uehara, who did it in 29 straight in 2013-14, according to STATS.
Also from STATS, Bautista has struck out at least one batter in 36 consecutive appearances to leaving him one behind former Rays reliever Ryan Yarbrough for sixth all-time. Yarbrough’s streak ran from 2018-22.
Aroldis Chapman holds the record with 49 in a row with the Reds in 2013-14. Milwaukee’s Corey Knebel is next with 46 in 2017-17, followed by the Yankees’ Dellin Betances with 44 in 2018, the Rays’ Jalen Beeks with 43 from 2019-22, and the Cubs’ Bruce Sutter with 39 in 1977.
* Ryan Mountcastle has launched seven of his 12 home runs to center field, including his solo shot Monday night that traveled 451 feet, the furthest ball hit at Citizens Bank Park this season.
Mountcastle has 65 hits this season and 31 have gone to center, including his two singles last night in two at-bats.
Twenty-one hits have gone to left field and 13 to right.
* Infielder Ramón Urías is batting .307 on fastballs thrown by right-handers, and .256 on fastballs from lefties.
Seems reasonable considering that he’s slashing .282/.346/.436 with four home runs overall against right-handers this season and .195/.275/.293 with no homers against left-handers.
Not the kind of platoon guy that you might assume.
* Also from STATS, the Orioles posted a .316 average on the first pitch last season that ranked 26th in the majors.
They ranked first this year with a .396 average heading into last night.