Maybe an expanded postseason field in 2020 doesn’t impact the Orioles because they would have kept playing into October no matter the setup.
They don’t need any favors.
Or maybe it’s just a series win in Boston. Whatever. A team that posted the second-worst record in baseball last summer and is engaged in a lengthy and painful rebuild process is having a little fun and some early success.
Being doubled off second base on a liner to left provided the latest baserunning gaffe in the series, but the Orioles can overcome anything at the moment.
LeBlanc was charged with four runs in 5 2/3 innings, but Miguel Castro let two inherited runners score on Xander Bogaerts’ groundball single. The bullpen held up again, with Cole Sulser getting a crucial double play in the eighth, and the Orioles bounced back impressively from a 13-2 loss on opening day.
Sulser was appearing in his eighth major league game after debuting with the Rays in September. Today marked his first save, which included two strikeouts in the ninth.
Christian Vázquez hit a two-out solo home run in the second, but LeBlanc had retired 12 of the first 13 batters before Kevin Pillar’s leadoff shot in the fifth. LeBlanc induced two ground balls, struck out Michael Chavis and was back in the dugout with 15 of 17 retired.
Jackie Bradley Jr. reached on a chopper over LeBlanc’s head to lead off the sixth. The next two batters were denied, with Santander making a diving catch in right field to rob J.D. Martinez, but Rafael Devers doubled down the left field line, Castro entered and Bogaerts got a little revenge for yesterday’s strikeout.
LeBlanc threw 76 pitches and his line included no walks and four strikeouts. Orioles pitching hasn’t issued a walk since Friday night.
Ruiz hit his second home run, a two-run shot to right field in the first inning after Iglesias singled as the No. 3 hitter. Iglesias stayed hot with an RBI double in the third that plated Santander and increased the lead to 3-1, singled again with two outs in the fourth and led off the seventh with a double.
Iglesias collected three hits in back-to-back exhibition games against the Nationals and was 7-for-12 today after his second double. He batted in the third slot in two career games prior to opening day.
The only four-hit game for Iglesias last season with the Reds came on July 21.
Who’s laughing now?
The only time Iglesias was retired came with two on and two outs in the eighth on a shot up the middle that deflected off reliever Matt Barnes.
Santander unveiled his own plan, lining a two-run shot into the visiting bullpen and almost nailing reliever Miguel Castro, who jumped off the bench and sprinted to safety.
Sulser replaced Tanner Scott with no outs in the eighth and José Peraza grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. Iglesias booted Martinez’s ground ball, but Devers was retired 3-1.
The Orioles made it through their first road series without any health incidents, but they’re flying to Miami for the next leg of their trip and the state of Florida is a hot spot.
Multiple Marlins players, including pitcher José Ureña and pitcher Garrett Cooper, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to reports. They must quarantine in their Philadelphia hotel rooms for about two weeks and can’t travel with the rest of their team.
The Marlins come to Baltimore later in the week.
“I think our guys are taking this seriously,” manager Brandon Hyde said earlier today. “I think that we’re having a lot of conversations about it. We’re continuing to remind each other that it’s still happening. I think our guys are being really careful and they understand the importance of being as safe and as healthy as we possibly can and following the protocols that are so important to our organization. And our guys have been following that and I expect that to continue.
“We’re going to have another discussion about going to Miami just because of what’s going on down there. We have players from there and we have a lot of guys from Florida, so we’ll talk about it again. But I expect our guys to do the right things and follow protocols.”
Life on the road isn’t the same anymore.
“It’s a ton of room service,” Hyde said.
“I don’t expect our guys to be going out and I expect our guys to be staying in. This is a short sprint, we’ve got (57) games to go. I think it’s 65 days of us taking care of what we need to take care of off the field and that’s really staying away from people the best we possibly can and to make sure we’re socially distanced and make sure we’re wearing masks when we’re around people.
“It’s obviously a lot different. We were in Boston on a Saturday night last night fairly early and I think the majority of time you would have seen a lot of groups going out to dinner. But nobody did. It’s 2020 right now and we’re trying to get through the season the best way that we possibly can and do our part.”
Hyde on pitching: “The key was the no walk in two days. Bullpen guys coming in and working ahead in the count, throwing strikes. Something we struggled with last year. Hopefully we can continue to do that the rest of the year. Even Castro giving up the hit there. I’d much rather him attack hitters and force contact and force the ground ball that went through, so I’m happy with that.”
Hyde on Sulser in high-leverage situation: “I wasn’t hoping to use him for six outs, but I wanted to see him pitch in big spots because I’ve been impressed with how he’s throwing. ... You just never know. You’ve seen guys have great spring trainings and not do well during the season and vice-versa, but I have liked Cole Sulser’s stuff from the first time I saw him in Sarasota, I like the 94 (mph) elevated heater, I like the split/slider mix, gets right-handers and left-handers out. So I was looking forward to watching him pitch in big spots, especially with a couple guys down today who could potentially pitch in late-inning situations who pitched yesterday.”
Hyde on Iglesias: “Iggy’s going to put the ball in play and he’s going to take a good at-bat. Always done that. Uses the whole field. You saw him flip a breaking ball down and away to right for a hit. He could have had five hits if that ball didn’t hit Barnes there. He hit that on the screws, too. I love Iggy’s approach. He’s not going to hit whatever he’s hitting now for 60 games, but he’s off to a nice start and he’s taking some really good at-bats for us, and everybody knows that I like guys who put the ball in play and force action. And we have some guys who can do that.”
Hyde on running into outs: “I would like to clean up the not knowing how many outs there are. That’s got to stop ASAP. That’s unacceptable. We’ve run ourselves out of a few innings with that and you’re not going to beat teams consistently by doing that. That’s not in the Orioles manual.”
LeBlanc on his outing: “Just throwing strikes, changing speeds. Defense did great behind me. Offense picked me up, made it a little bit easier to be aggressive in the zone, as opposed to trying to be fine and hold a one-run lead. That’s what you shoot for as a pitcher. And then the goal was just to get those guys back in the dugout as fast as you can.”
LeBlanc on whether Cobb’s outing yesterday made him feel good about today: “I’m not in the same universe as a guy like Alex Cobb, so for me it’s about executing, it’s about changing speeds. And it’s really about having a defense that has your back like they did today, and we’ll just try to keep it rolling.”
Sulser on whether he expected first outing to be six-out save: “I did not. I wasn’t quite sure what the situation would be that they’d use me when I was getting in there, so I was ready to pitch for however they wanted to call on me. I can’t say that my gut reaction would have been a save opportunity on my first outing of the season.”