Veteran starters back Bautista for Cy Young Award

Cole Irvin and Kyle Gibson see nothing wrong with it. Never to be accused of reliever bias in Cy Young Award voting.

Give it to the best pitcher, whatever role he fills. Whether he’s on the mound to start the first inning or the ninth.

Orioles closer Félix Bautista is aware of the chatter surrounding his candidacy. Irvin dresses only a few lockers away and gladly will lead the conversation.

“The fact that he’s in the discussion just points to how good he is,” Irvin said. “It’s impressive what he’s done this season. I mean, he’s averaging nearly two strikeouts an inning, and this is the best of the best in this league. So, for him to be doing that speaks to the quality of pitcher he is, and he’s been this season, and he’s most certainly deserving to be nominated, or even a candidate for the Cy Young.”

Bautista warmed and then sat last night, leaving him at 32 saves, a 1.52 ERA and 0.944 WHIP in 54 games, and 16.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He retired the side in order in the ninth the previous game, only the fourth time he hadn’t recorded a strikeout.

“I’ve seen a few comments and a few publications, people discussing it and things like that, so I’ve seen it,” Bautista said via interpreter Brandon Quinones. “But honestly, I don’t put too much thought into it and I don’t really think about it too much.”

Bautista probably is unfamiliar with the roll call of bullpen winners.

The Dodgers’ Mike Marshall was the first reliever to earn the Cy Young in 1974 after going 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA and 21 saves in 106 games that covered 208 1/3 innings. Can’t compare his situation to others today. That kind of usage is extinct.

Marshall finished fourth and second the two previous years, and seventh and fifth with the Twins in 1978 and 1979.

The Yankees’ Sparky Lyle won it in 1977, the Cubs’ Bruce Sutter in 1979, the Brewers’ Rollie Fingers in 1981, the Tigers’ Willie Hernández in 1984, the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1987, the Padres Mark Davis in 1989, the Athletics’ Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and the Dodgers’ Éric Gagné in 2003. Eckersley is the last in the American League.

They came in clusters, but it’s been a while.

The Mets’ Edwin Díaz received three votes last season, including a second place, and the Cardinals’ Ryan Helsley had one.

(The Orioles' Zack Britton was fourth in 2016 after going 47-for-47 in save chances and posting a 0.54 ERA and 0.836 WHIP).

The Yankees’ Gerrit Cole is viewed by many as the favorite to win it this year with a 3.03 ERA and 1.073 WHIP in 26 starts, along with 170 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings. His ERA was 2.76 before he surrendered six runs in four innings in his last start against the Red Sox. But oddsmakers also list the Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman, the Astros’ Framber Valdez, the Mariners’ Luis Castillo, and Angels’ two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani.

The Orioles’ Kyle Bradish is tied with Cole for lowest ERA in the American League. Ballots from voters in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America aren’t due until right before the start of the playoffs. Plenty of weeks left to sift through his stats.

Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan disappeared after his elbow injury this month that required Tommy John surgery.

Bautista isn’t going away, but he’s working to lower an ERA that rose from 0.85 to 1.52 after Kyle Tucker’s grand slam at Camden Yards. A number that could sway voters sitting on the fence.

“That’s why you have numbers like FIP and other things to look at,” Gibson said. “One outing for relievers in a short span can really impact it. I think by the end of the year, it will probably be fairly evened out. But I think that is impressive, too, if most of his runs were given up in two or three outings. Starters deal with that a little bit, although we’re able to pile up innings. I know I’d like to have a couple outings back. But that’s where, you get the rest of the year, and you hope you can even it out.

“One outing, could it affect his Cy Young chances? Sure. But that’s probably the only thing it’s going to affect.”

Some BBWAA members have their heels dug in, insisting that starters are the only valid candidates.

“I look at it similar to when pitchers are in the MVP talk, in that I think they have to have done something historic, and there has to be another person who’s maybe not having that type of a year,” Gibson said. “I think Félix is in a spot where he should absolutely get votes, for sure. I don’t know who all gets to vote on it, but he’s been really impactful for this team, and I think if he continues to have a season where he’s doing things that just aren’t normally done by relievers, then I don’t think there’s any issue with him being in that talk at all.

“I think Cy Young is about the best pitcher, not about the best starting pitcher. It’s like MVP is not just the best position player, it’s the best player in the league.”

Gibson stands behind his teammate, the only one who could hide his 6-foot-6 frame.

“You don’t see a season like this very often,” Gibson said. “Obviously, he has an elite pitch mix that is really hard to hit. You see relievers sometimes go on streaks where they get in a three- or four-game rut and then they’re back. Félix can give up a run or two, and the next seven outings he’s back to being nails. He doesn’t have streaks where he gets in a rut. Knock on wood, obviously.

“For me, that’s the impressive part. I know it’s hard as a starting pitcher to have a short memory, and I feel like for a reliever when you’re out there consistently, it's probably a little harder to have a short memory, especially when it’s against the same team that just did it to you.”

Irvin isn’t a BBWAA member, but he knows where he’d cast a vote. Don’t discriminate against relievers.

“To speak on Cy Young winners, why not?” he said. “In my opinion. Cy Young is supposed to be the best pitcher in baseball. He’s arguably, and I know most of us and Baltimore Orioles fans would say, the best closer in baseball, but that’s ultimately not up to us. I know that he would definitely receive my vote from watching him as much as I have this year. But honestly, it’s pretty cool to have a reliever and a closer to be considered for that Cy Young position.

“We’re so used to seeing starters there, and yes, as much as starters are needed, sometimes we overlook some really quality arms in the backend of bullpens. He’s definitely above quality. He’s been magnificent all season, so definitely deserving, but ultimately, we’ll see when it gets down to voting time, if the talk is real. But he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and you can’t deny that, especially in the American League. And with the season that he’s been having, certainly should be getting some nods and some votes.”

Bautista will just wait for his next save chance, which didn’t come last night because the Orioles scored five runs in the eighth to lead 7-0 and try to influence a pennant race. Be a good teammate and high-leverage guy. Maybe pour some champagne on teammate’s heads from high above.

But yes, he thinks the Cy Young isn’t just for starters.

“Well, truly, I think if a relief pitcher honestly deserves it and he has a good body of work behind it, then I think by all means they should win it,” he said. “In the past there have been a few relievers who have won it, so I think that if there is a reliever worthy enough to win it, I think they should be in consideration.”

* Ryan Mountcastle grounded a 98.6 mph fastball from former Orioles starter Kevin Gausman into center field last night in the third inning to extend his on-base streak to 28 games and keep poking at the Blue Jays.

Mountcastle went 11-for-13 (.846) at Rogers Centre during the club’s last visit July 31-Aug.3. Is that the highest average by an Orioles player in a four-game series?

Yes, it is, according to STATS research dating back to 1958 in a minimum 10 at-bats.

Al Bumbry batted .727 against the Brewers Sept. 16-19, 1983, and Billy Ripken matched that average against the Royals July 27-29, 1990. Luke Scott hit .700 against the Mariners April 4-7, 2008, after Russ Snyder hit .700 against Cleveland June 18-20, 1963.

* First baseman Ryan O’Hearn made a diving stop of Daulton Varsho’s ground ball up the line last night and tagged the bag for the final out of the fourth inning after George Springer singled. Ryan Mountcastle made a similar play Tuesday.

Matt Chapman led off the fifth inning last night with a single, and the Orioles turned a slick 4-6-3 double play on Alejandro Kirk’s grounder. Third baseman Ramón Urías made a diving stop and throw to rob Bo Bichette in the sixth.

Cavan Biggio was sent up to pinch-hit in the eighth, and Cedric Mullins came up with a leaping catch at the fence to rob him of extra bases.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, saw first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. boot a ground ball to begin the bottom of the first inning, and second baseman Whit Merrifield drop a popup in the second, saved by the infield fly rule, and botch a potential double play ball.

Catcher Danny Jansen retrieved the ball on Trevor Richard’s wild pitch in the eighth and fired it into center field to allow a run to score.

The Orioles have committed only 50 errors this season, the lowest total in the American League and second-lowest total in the majors behind the Diamondbacks, who began last night with 42.

The series against Toronto started with the Orioles on pace for 65 errors, their second-fewest amount in a 162-game season. They committed 54 in 2013.

The 2021 team committed 74, which would rank third.

Wins naturally follow cleaner play. The Orioles are 62-25 when they aren’t charged with an error, and 16-22 when they’ve committed at least one.

“I don’t even know our error stats, I just know that we’re really solid, and that we have solid defenders at every position,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Solid to very good defenders at every position. And Gold Glove candidates, future Gold Glove candidates, as well, being around the infield and the outfield. We do a good job of limiting damage.

“We’re just extremely solid defensively.”

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