It’s a long season and a pitcher that was seemingly unhittable for a long stretch of 2023 was now becoming much more hittable. O’s righty reliever Yennier Cano had a prolific start to his season. But in recent outings he’s made some changes to try to get himself completely back on track.
This is a right-hander who has been a standout for the Orioles, who made the All-Star team. After his first 17 games of the year, Cano had not allowed a run and had allowed just four hits over 21 2/3 innings. He gave up his first run this season on May 19 and first walk on May 25. He didn’t make the Opening Day roster but was pitching in the bigs in mid-April. So that was a stunning stretch of outstanding pitching.
But in 10 appearances before the recent series with the New York Yankees, Cano had an ERA of 5.00, allowing a .368 batting average and 1.000 OPS.
Then he faced the Yankees twice, and was particularly sharp during the "Sunday Night Baseball" game. He threw a scoreless inning on 17 pitches with three strikeouts.
Two of the strikeouts came on fastballs, but Cano threw nine sliders in that game. A pitcher who had averaged using his slider just 12 percent of the time on the year threw 53 percent in that game.
“I think my pitches were just working really well (that night),” Cano said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones during the series in Toronto. “Four-seam fastball, slider. Because they were working so well it helped me regain some confidence, and I felt better that night.”
Cano pitched twice in Toronto, allowing a homer on a slider in 1/3 of an inning in the series opener. He then pitched a scoreless inning Thursday afternoon on 11 pitches. He threw three sliders with five sinkers and three changeups in that outing.
His intent to increase his usage of the slider really started to kick in during that Sunday night game.
“It was part of the plan,” said Cano. “It’s a long season and it can’t just be sinkers and changeups. So that was indeed part of the plan that outing, and something I have been working on. So, I went ahead and threw it more.”
As Cano tries to get on a roll again, there are some good signs for him. Scoreless outings now in three of his past four and eight of 10 games.
Tweaking of his pitch mix and establishing the slider more will be part of that.
“It’s important to change the hitter’s perspective and their view toward certain pitches," Cano said. "So you know it’s good to have the sinker working in and now the slider to work away from some (right-handed) hitters. It’s a pitch I have always had in my back pocket. Now it’s a matter of implementing it, putting it to good use and mixing up my pitches."
Cano is yet another O's pitcher for whom season workload is becoming something to watch. He pitched in 58 1/3 innings in 2022 for two organizations, including minor league innings. He is at 55 1/3 this year, including a few innings on the farm.
“Physically, I feel fine," Cano said in Toronto. "I feel great right now and feel like right now I am actually throwing harder. So physically, I feel like everything is really good."
O's rout Mets in series opener: When Dean Kremer lost his command and the New York Mets tied last night's game 2-2 in the sixth inning, that game hung in the balance. But not for long. The Orioles scored four runs of their own in both the sixth and seventh to rout New York 10-3.
On the Orioles' recent seven-game road trip to Tampa and Philadelphia, six of those games were decided by two runs or fewer. But since they beat the Yankees 9-3 on "Sunday Night Baseball," the Orioles' last five wins have been by six, two, 10, five and seven runs.
They have scored 30 runs the last four games and 43 in the past six. Meanwhile O's pitchers have allowed just 16 runs in the six games.
The Orioles (68-42) are a season-high 26 games over the .500 mark. They have won five of six, nine of 13 and 19 of 26 games. So in going 19-7 in those 26 games, they are playing .731 ball.
But the Rays beat Detroit 8-0 to keep pace and remain two games behind the Orioles. They have won four of five and are 6-3 since losing three of four to Baltimore.