Not a trade. Not an injury. Just a weather report that called for storms to pummel the area.
Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t list “juggler” on his baseball resume, but he’s been doing it with his rotation.
The Orioles nailed the forecast and switched back to Cashner, who blanked the Indians on three hits in seven innings and rode the latest offensive tidal wave to a 13-0 victory before an announced crowd of 26,988 at Camden Yards.
Cashner registered his fourth quality start in a row while lowering his ERA to 4.03, Anthony Santander became the 100th player to hit a ball onto Eutaw Street and the Orioles won their first series since April 22-24 and first back-to-back games since May 4-6. They improved to 24-58 overall and 11-30 at home.
They hadn’t produced back-to-back shutouts since Sept. 2-3, 2016 against the Yankees at Camden Yards. They hadn’t scored in double digits in consecutive games since Aug. 28-29, 2018 versus the Blue Jays at Camden Yards.
They haven’t swept a three-game series since Aug. 27-29, 2018.
That’s the next item to cross off the baseball bucket list.
Santander led off the fourth against Zach Plesac by clearing the flag court in right field, the 45th Orioles player to do it and the second in less than 24 hours. Jonathan Villar delivered a two-run double, future All-Star Trey Mancini followed with an RBI double and Renato Núñez hit a two-run homer to increase the lead to 7-0.
Chance Sisco followed last night’s Eutaw St. blast with a two-run homer to right-center in the sixth for an 11-0 lead and Núñez had a two-run shot off third baseman-turned-pitcher Mike Freeman in the seventh.
The Orioles have outscored the Indians 26-0 in the first two games.
Neither team was on the field for the anthem. The grounds crew lined up and unrolled the tarp after the final note. Fans let out a groan in unison as if rehearsed and waited out a 1 hour, 6 minute delay.
The Orioles alerted them to the “threat of severe storms in the immediate area.” Because smooth sailing after last night’s 13-0 win seemed like it would be asking for too much.
The first drops fell at 4:23 p.m. and picked up in intensity within seconds. This was more than a threat.
Using Armstrong instead of Cashner in the first inning was a promise until broken.
Armstrong would have made his first start after 77 relief appearances in the majors. His only start among 302 games in the minors came this year as a one-inning opener with Triple-A Tacoma.
The Orioles didn’t want to risk warming up or starting Cashner, have the game halted by rain and perhaps lose him to a lengthy delay. The Indians would have to follow along.
They fell behind 1-0 in the second inning on Hanser Alberto’s two-out double that scored Sisco, who was hit on the foot. Alberto began the day ranked fifth in the American League with a .317 average.
Cashner retired the first 11 batters, with only one ball out of the infield, before Carlos Santana singled into left-center field with two outs in the fourth. Cashner disposed of Jason Kipnis on his 53rd pitch of the game.
Plesac threw 31 in the bottom of the third while loading the bases and striking out Sisco, leaving Cashner to sit in the dugout and wait.
He also had lots of time to kill in the fourth as the Orioles sent nine batters to the plate, scored six runs and forced a pitching change. And in the fifth while they loaded the bases against Tyler Clippard with two outs, received a two-run single from Mancini and forced a pitching change. And in the sixth when their first four batters reached against A.J. Cole, Sisco hit a two-run homer and they forced a pitching change.
Kevin Plawecki led off the sixth inning with the second hit off Cashner, but Keon Broxton made a diving catch in center and the next two batters struck out.
Continuing to rely heavily on his changeup, Cashner got through the seventh on 98 pitches and struck out the last batter faced to give him six. He walked only one.
Cashner has posted a 1.44 ERA this month and his value to a contender can’t be ignored.
Armstrong never made it into the game. He never could have imagined that Freeman would pitch instead of him, a 1-2-3 eighth for the infielder capping off the craziness.
Notes: The Orioles signed their 11th-round pick, Stanford first baseman Andrew Dashbach, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis.
Dashbach signed for $250,000, with $125,000 counting against the bonus pool.
Hunter Harvey has moved up to Triple-A Norfolk for his first taste of the International League. He’s going to be used as a reliever, his role with Double-A Bowie for his last three appearances.
In those three outings, Harvey allowed one hit and struck out 11 batters in nine scoreless innings.
Harvey is replacing left-hander Chris Lee, who went on the seven-day injured list.
Update: According to STATS, the Orioles are the first team ever to record back-to-back shutouts of 13 runs or more.
Hyde on pregame pitching plans: “We figured it was going to rain and between 45 minutes to an hour with the game starting at 4 o’clock. And we just didn’t feel like we wanted to burn Cashner if we knew it was going to rain in an hour or less, so we switched to Armstrong, who we thought could go a couple innings. Anticipated the rain possibly coming and was going to pitch Cashner after that. Fortunately we got a delay to start the game and were able to pitch Cashner.”
Hyde on what team is doing the last two games: “It starts with starting pitching. There’s no doubt about it. John Means was phenomenal last night and Andrew Cashner, seven innings, three hits, one walk, no runs. I thought this was Cash’s best start of the season. His changeup was a plus-plus pitch against a mainly left-handed lineup, was able to locate his fastball and got a ton of ground balls to the right side off the left-handed hitters. Just did an amazing job of changing speeds and his changeup was working in the zone and below and got a ton of groundballs. Just a great job by him.
“And then Tanner Scott. That’s major league backend stuff when you’ve got 96 and you’ve got a slider that goes straight down. We’ve really pitched well the last two nights, obviously. We got a ton of great at-bats and a ton of really good swings. Just really good at-bats up and down the lineup.
“I thought Tony Santander, the way you can pull your hands in like that on a mid-90s fastball, to keep it fair, that’s major league batting. Jonny Villar, big double in the corner. Before that Richie Martin with a big sac bunt to advance the runners, so we did a lot of great things offensively and we’re catching the ball defensively.”
Hyde on winning series: “We’ve had so many opportunities to win a series. I think there was a stretch where we won the first game of a series (three times) in a row and just wasn’t able to do it. So to win a series obviously feels great.
“I just want our guys to play well. I’m concerned about how we play. I’m concerned about how we play the game and just the last two games we played really, really good baseball. And it started with our starting pitching.”
Hyde on young players contributing: “I thought we had a couple week stretch where we took our lumps and didn’t play our best baseball. I feel like for the most part we’re a fun team to watch even though our record doesn’t show it. I think we have some exciting young players that play hard every single night, that are growing in the big leagues and gaining experience, and I think we play fun baseball to watch.
“To watch Chance Sisco develop. He’s a rookie catcher ... he’s a young catcher that just caught back-to-back shutouts against the Cleveland Indians, a playoff club. That says a lot. Tony Santander, the way he’s swinging the bat, Noonie, obviously two homers. There’s just really good stuff from our young players the last two days. Yeah, I think we’re fun to watch.”
Cashner on his outing and changeup: “Early in the game I thought it was fastball/changeup, but once we got in the game and guys were swinging the bats really well and kind of blew it open, they kind of are handcuffed and have to take a pitch. I was trying to throw it down the middle. After that long inning, a leadoff walk, that’s one of those things you can’t do, but I trust my stuff and was able to get the double play after that. I thought it was one of the best changeups I’ve had this season.”
Cashner on what it’s like to pitch in a game like this: “Especially after last night, it’s kind of crazy. I don’t know how many runs we’ve scored in two days, over 20, but these guys have been grinding in here and to see these guys swing the bats like they are is impressive.”
Cashner on challenge of sitting for long stretches: “You’ve got to keep moving. I think the biggest things is it just kind of gives you more time to think and it’s usually not very good sometimes. But I just tried to stay, talking with Broc (Doug Brocail), talking with Chance and continuing to go over the hitters, what we wanted to do. And the more runs we scored, it was like, keep throwing it down the middle the first pitch and go to work after that.”
Cashner on weather pregame affecting routine: “Yeah, it was kind of a cluster, but thank God the weather came when it did.”
Cashner on Sisco catching two shutouts in a row and his progress: “Yeah, Chance has come a long way as far as receiving goes. Tim Cossins has worked with him a ton and you’ve got to give it to Chance, too. You can have all the knowledge and the teachers you want, but if you can’t put the work in ... I would say he definitely put the work in when he was down in Triple-A and his receiving is tremendously improved.”
Santander (via Ramón Alarcón) on 100th Eutaw St. home run: “I’m very happy. It’s an honor to hit the 100th home run onto Eutaw St. It’s just unbelievable.”
Santander on first series win since April: “I am obviously very excited for the team. I think everybody is playing really hard. Hopefully tomorrow we can sweep them.”