The first part of the plan worked to near perfection for manager Brandon Hyde, who had to resist joining the crowd in applauding Aaron Brooks as the right-hander walked off the mound in the third inning.
Getting eight outs from Brooks in his Orioles debut, in his first start since late April, was cause for celebration. Who’s got the laundry cart?
Also factor in the 2 2/3 scoreless innings, with no hits or walks, less than 24 hours after a 16-4 loss that included the pitching debut of Stevie Wilkerson.
Brooks was a breath of fresh air on another scorching day at Camden Yards. And he lasted longer than the time it takes to inhale, a strict pitch count bringing his removal after 32.
Mike Zunino greeted replacement Jimmy Yacabonis with a full-count home run, but Wilkerson deposited a Colin Poche fastball into the bullpen after Anthony Santander’s leadoff single in the seventh, and the Orioles claimed the opening of a doubleheader with a 2-1 victory over the Rays before an announced crowd of 22,596.
Mychal Givens registered a six-out save, striking out two in the ninth, and the Orioles improved to 28-63 overall and 12-32 at home. They also avoided their seventh shutout of the season.
The nightcap is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. with John Means opposing Charlie Morton, who held the Orioles to one run and struck out 12 batters in seven innings on July 2.
Rookie Brendan McKay wasn’t as dominant today, but he shut out the Orioles on three hits over five innings with no walks and seven strikeouts in his third major league start. Is he the designated hitter in the second game?
Jonathan Villar was the only baserunner off McKay through four innings, looping a single into center field with one out in the second. McKay struck out the next two batters.
Villar led off the fifth with a single and moved to third base on Santander’s single. Keon Broxton struck out for the second time, Wilkerson struck out on the eighth pitch thrown to him and Richie Martin grounded out.
Renato Núñez and Pedro Severino singled off Andrew Kittredge with two outs in the sixth and Colin Poche struck out Villar. Santander led off the seventh with a single and Broxton struck out again, giving him 49 in 99 at-bats with the Orioles, but Wilkerson launched a 94 mph heater for his eighth home run.
The emergency reliever turned left fielder turned power hitter.
The first three batters reached against Yacabonis, including back-to-back singles by Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham. Yacabonis needed 20 pitches to record the last out, but he retired seven in a row and 10 of 11 after Pham’s single.
Richard Bleier stranded the two runners he inherited from Shawn Armstrong with no outs in the seventh. Meadows drew a leadoff walk in the eighth and Givens was the next reliever in come-to-rescue mode, getting a 3-6 double play from Pham that held upon review.
Givens has allowed one run in his last six appearances over seven innings and he’s gaining more value as a trade chip. His save today was the first since June 11.
Pham was the only batter to reach against Brooks, who hit him with one out in the first. The Orioles turned a 4-6-3 double play on Kevin Kiermaier to end the inning.
Brooks struck out two batters, on a slider and changeup. He’s going to get other chances in the rotation, but the Orioles need to stretch him out and shed the opener concept.
His removal today was met, shall we say, unfavorably by Twitter nation.
Wilkerson did his part to lighten the mood.
Update: Hyde said he expects Dylan Bundy to miss only one start while on the injured list. Brooks could get the ball again on Wednesday versus the Nationals.
“We’re going to monitor him, obviously, every day,” Hyde said. “We might do a Brooks situation again where we continue to build him up, but we haven’t really discussed it too much yet.”
Brooks thinks he’s close to going back on a regular starter’s schedule.
“Probably one more like that, maybe 10 or 15 pitches more each time,” he said. “I’m open to anything. Obviously, we don’t want to get hurt and push the subject, but I also want to go out there and get some innings in, so I’m just kind of easing my way back into it and slowly go up from where we were today.”
Hyde on pitching: “I just thought we threw the ball good. I thought Aaron Brooks was great for 2 2/3 innings, and after Yacabonis faced Zunino he was really good after that. Mychal Givens comes in and gets six big outs for us at the end of the game. It was a nice game of pitching, we did a really good job, played good defense and Wilkerson with a two-run homer.”
Hyde on Brooks and how game lined up: “I was hoping for two and he had two good innings and sent him back out there for the third. He had not thrown more than two innings in over a month. He hadn’t been on the mound in over two weeks. So for him to get into the third there is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, we gave up a homer after he got taken out. We didn’t want to go more than 30 pitches with him and he went 34 and did a great job.”
Hyde on Wilkerson: “He’s digging himself right now. He’s digging himself big-time in there right now. Poche has given us fits and you can’t stay off the elevated fastball on him, like the majority of the league can’t, and Stevie got on top of one and drove one, so that was a big hit for us.”
Wilkerson on pitching and then two-run homer: “They’re both good for the memory bank. I’ll never forget either of those. I’ll take today’s over yesterday’s for sure.”
Wilkerson on his home run: “I played with Colin before and faced him a few times in Triple-A, and I was just able to hang in there long enough to get one to hit. I put a couple good swings on the ball the at-bat before that and was feeling pretty good. I just hung in there long enough to get a good one to hit.”
Wilkerson on going from 16-4 to 2-1: “That’s baseball, huh?”
Wilkerson on difference for players from last night to today: “It’s much more enjoyable. Last night, those happen. You get down early and try to scratch and claw back into it. But we played a poor game of baseball all around and today we didn’t have much going on offensively and neither did they, but I was able to get a big hit and put us up and it was a good ballgame today.”
Wilkerson on today feeling like real baseball: “It does. I love those games. Watching pitchers do their thing, especially on our side of the ball. To watch Brooks come in and throw really well and the rest of the bullpen come in and throw really well, it’s baseball and it’s fun to be a part of.”
Brooks on his outing: “It’s been a little while since I’ve gotten out there. I just wanted to come in and throw as many strikes as I can. Early contact keeps pitchers in the game longer. I just wanted to come in and throw strikes and give us the best chance to win from the get-go.”
Brooks on pitchers who followed him: “It was great. I know how it was when a starter can only go two or three innings and so the bullpen kind of has to pick up the slack, but they did a great job, obviously. They came in and pounded the zone and got outs, and that’s what we needed.”