Orioles caught controlling the running game

The moment easily could have gone unnoticed in a game featuring nine runs scored on homers through the fifth inning.

J.D. Martinez strikes out swinging, Mookie Betts breaks for second base and catcher Austin Wynns pops out of his crouch and makes a perfect throw.

Tag applied, runner out, another caught stealing for the Orioles.

Pedro-Severino-High-Fives-Brandon-Hyde-After-Win-White-Sidebar.jpgA similar moment last night drew more attention with the score tied in the ninth inning. Eduardo Núñez strikes out swinging, Rafael Devers breaks for second base and catcher Pedro Severino pops out of his crouch and makes a perfect throw.

Another tag applied and another caught stealing for the Orioles, who entered the game leading the American League and tied for second in the majors with only seven stolen bases allowed in 36 games.

Betts produced the eighth after the Red Sox took the lead in the 12th inning and Yefry Ramirez was trying to limit the damage. He didn’t score.

Devers became the 12th runner to be cut down on a stolen base attempt, and the Orioles’ 60 percent success rate is the highest in the majors.

Is it quick times to the plate from the pitching staff or the arms and techniques of the catchers?

“I think it’s the combination of both,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Our pitchers do a really good job. John Means slide steps on almost every pitch. Cash (Andrew Cashner) knows how to hold runners, Dan Straily knows how to hold runners.

“Our bullpen guys are good. Usually your bullpen guys at times can be, especially the big, power guys ... When you’re scouting an opposing team you’re looking for guys you can run on the back part of the game, because usually those guys aren’t worried about the runner. They’re trying to punch somebody out. And our guys for the most part have done a really good job.

“Now, we also have some catchers that can throw and guys that can shut down a running game, and so that combination has been good for us all year.”

Gabriel Ynoa was on the mound Tuesday night, in the middle of his three scoreless innings. Betts drew a leadoff walk and Wynns improved to 2-for-3 throwing out runners. Severino is 7-for-10, his percentage leading the majors, and Jesús Sucre was 4-for-8 before the Orioles outrighted him to Triple-A Norfolk.

No one has attempted to steal against Means or Straily. Runners are 1-for-2 against Dylan Bundy, 0-for-1 against Alex Cobb, David Hess and Nate Karns and 1-for-4 against Cashner. The seven pitchers who have made starts for the Orioles.

Two of the steals came against reliever Jimmy Yacabonis before the Orioles optioned him. Runners are 2-for-2 against reliever Miguel Castro.

“For us, it’s a lot easier when the pitcher has a great time,” Severino said. “Somebody who’s quick to the plate doing 1.8 (seconds), that makes it really easier and really hard to run and get a good jump.

“Everybody has a great time to home plate, so they give you a lot of chances to throw everybody out when they’re going.”

The owner of the counterpoint would tally the 79 home runs surrendered by the pitching staff, easily the most in the majors, and wonder why anyone would attempt to steal. Just wait and circle the bases. But that’s an harsh swipe.

“Our job is to just try to win the game and help the pitcher and the team in any way you can,” said Severino, who’s nabbed 41 percent of runners in 110 major league games.

“If you throw somebody out at second or third base, you take the pressure off the pitcher on the mound. We feel really good and just let the pitcher throw and not have to think about the runner on second or third base.”

The Orioles claimed Severino off waivers late in camp based on his defensive work and former prospect status, the .187/.273/.287 slash line in parts of four seasons with the Nationals deemed irrelevant. His reputation behind the plate carried like his throws.

Sucre was signed to a minor league deal because of his defense and handling of pitching staffs. The organizational buzz surrounding Wynns increased a few years ago based on the same traits he displayed at Double-A Bowie.

Former manager Buck Showalter used to stress to his pitchers the need to give their catchers a chance. Quicken the times to the plate. Take advantage of a weapon like Matt Wieters.

“The veteran guys have been pretty good at it over the course of their careers,” Hyde said. “The young guys, our development guys have done a nice job in stressing the importance of it. And in spring training we spent a lot of time on it. It’s one of the stations every day those guys go through.

“They understand the importance of it, they work on it and they’ve done a great job so far this year.”

Word tends to spread throughout baseball.

“I think they come in here thinking they’re going to have to get a really good jump to steal bases,” Hyde said. “The attempts against us are real minimal, too, so I think teams do their homework and know we have guys who can throw behind the plate and we’ve got pitchers who get the ball to the plate and give catchers a chance. So I don’t think teams want to run into outs against us.”

Having catchers with reputations for throwing out runners “automatically puts doubt in opposing clubs’ heads, where they’re not just going to be able to run freely,” Hyde said.

“Couple that with a lot of station work in spring training. It starts with the pitchers and catchers in spring training and making an important drill of getting the ball to the plate, understanding how quick you are in your bullpen sessions, doing shadow work where you’re trying to be under 1.4 to the plate. All these type of things that we make important in spring training, and Broc (Doug Brocail) and Was (John Wasdin) continue to make important during their side session during the year. I think all that work is paying off.

“Our catchers are doing a great job throwing guys out when they have a chance, and our pitchers are doing a nice job delivering the ball to the plate.”

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