Harvey and Plutko debut for Orioles in 4-2 win

The Dark Knight caught his last glimpse of sunlight on the mound this afternoon after failing to grab a ball hit back to him that produced a run and a visit from his manager.

Matt Harvey’s first game with the Orioles, his first experience at Fenway Park, lasted 4 2/3 innings and was neither a rousing success nor a dud. A middle-of-the-order result from the No. 2 starter.

A couple of clutch hits and lockdown relief assured the Orioles of a series win after they defeated the Red Sox 4-2.

Reliever Adam Plutko also made his first appearance with the Orioles and earned the win with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and struck out two batters.

Dillon Tate retired the side in order in the eighth. The closer keys were handed again to César Valdez, who notched his second save in two days after hitting Marwin Gonzalez on the back foot, walking Bobby Dalbec and falling behind 3-1 to Franchy Cordero.

Manager Brandon Hyde checked on Valdez, who threw 14 pitches yesterday, and must have been convinced that back-to-back wasn’t a bad idea. He was rewarded with a strikeout, fly ball and bouncer.

“Well, I lied a little bit,” Hyde quipped. “No, I was staying away from Tanner (Scott). I talked to both of them before the game. César Valdez wanted the ball, he’s been around a little bit, and so I gave it to him.”

Harvey was charged with two runs and six hits, with one walk and four strikeouts among his 86 pitches. His debut was done after catcher Kevin Plawecki scored from second base on J.D. Martinez’s shot up the middle that deflected off Harvey’s leg and rolled to the right side of the infield.

Took too long to run it down. Even a catcher could come around to score.

“I would have loved to have gotten him through five,” Hyde said. “I was so impressed with Matt. I thought he had really good stuff. Really good fastball from the start, a good sinker to go with his four-seamer, I loved his slider today, I thought he threw some good changeups. He showed the competitor that he is. He’s throwing strikes, worked ahead in the count, kept guys off-balance. A really impressive first start for him. These are not easy conditions to play in. It’s cold and he was great.”

“It was all right,” Harvey said. “I take getting into a couple jams and being able to get out of it, especially early in the game, I think that was huge for us to kind of get to the point where we did and win the game eventually. Obviously kicking myself to not get out of that fifth and deeper in the game, but overall I think it was a solid first start and just try to build off that next time. Anytime you win the first series of the year, it’s big, so we’ve got some good momentum now. And obviously, it’s only two games, but to come in here, a good ballclub, you’ve got to play well and guys came in and pitched great after me.”

Harvey made five career appearances against the American League East before today and posted a 0.38 ERA with seven earned runs in 37 2/3 innings. He’s never faced the Blue Jays.

His lone start against the Red Sox back in 2015 produced six scoreless innings.

The Martinez comebacker today nailed Harvey’s thigh, which didn’t hurt the leg or his sense of humor.

“I’ve been hit a few times, so it’s nice putting the extra work in during the off-season on the leg,” he said.

“I should have gotten my glove in front of it. I think in my older age my reaction time is getting a little slower.”

Tanner Houck struck out six batters in three scoreless innings, but Rio Ruiz walked with two outs in the fourth and raced to third base on Austin Hays’ infield hit and Rafael Devers’ latest misadventure at third base - his decision to shotput the ball into shallow right field regrettable for the Red Sox.

Hays moved up to second base on a passed ball and both runners scored on Maikel Franco’s grounder into center field.

Hays lost Martinez’s fly ball in the sun with two outs in the first inning, sticking Harvey with a double but no run scored after Xander Bogaerts popped up to Freddy Galvis. Harvey’s fastball was 92-95 mph.

Franco-Throws-Orange-Sidebar.jpgHarvey struck out two batters in the second, on 94 and 95 mph fastballs, and induced a sharp ground ball to Ruiz to strand a runner. He retired the side in order in the third, striking out Plawecki on a slider. But back-to-back singles to open the fourth eventually led to Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly that reduced the lead to 2-1.

Dalbec struck out on a 93.6 mph fastball, Harvey’s 71st pitch of the afternoon.

Any chance at a 0.00 team ERA in 2021 was ruined. The scoreless streak ended at 12 2/3 innings.

Plutko maintained a spotless ERA today.

“I think he could fill a variety of roles for us and today he filled a big spot where he got multiple outs in the middle part of the game,” Hyde said. “He got Harvey out of a jam there in the fifth and two really good scoreless innings after that. So that was more than I expected. He hasn’t pitched in about five days and we were kind of seeing what we had and the guy threw the ball great.”

“I was just trying to get outs,” Plutko said. “Every time I’m out there I’m just trying to get as many people out before Hyder comes and takes the ball from me. I don’t think it’s really that deep. I think you just go out there, you get outs, and you string a lot of them together, you’ll be successful. If you don’t, you probably won’t. It’s pretty much that simple for me.”

As easy as building a quick chemistry in a new clubhouse.

“Everybody’s been great, everybody’s been really welcoming,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun being over here. Definitely different vibe and I’m having a ton of fun. Trying to remember names as best I can, like all of you guys, I’m sorry, I wish I had a better chance to meet all of you guys and hopefully we will in the clubhouse soon. Look, we all want to win, right? We’re all together in that, we’re all pulling in the same direction and get to wins right off the bat, I think we’re going to go 162-0 this year, obviously, and keep it rolling.”

A guarantee on a perfect record?

“No,” he said, smiling, “but I’ll give you my salary if we do.”

The Orioles like Plutko’s tendency to pound the zone, and 21 of his 33 pitches were strikes.

“You’ll see cutters, sliders, a lot of breaking balls on top of elevated fastballs like you saw today,” he said. “More than anything I’m just going to be on the attack. Obviously, I don’t throw 97-98, so getting behind in the count and trying to rely on the fastball is not something that’s going to be very successful for a long period of time for me. So, I think what you saw today is a fairly accurate look. Obviously, it changes with hitters, but overall I was happy. Harvey really set the table well for us, I thought, the way he attacked them, kind of freed us up as bullpen guys to really start attacking the hitters, as well. It just kind of all married together.”

Catcher Pedro Severino has produced back-to-back two-hit games. He led off the fifth with a double and scored from third base with two outs after Bogaerts failed to backhand Anthony Santander’s grounder. An infield hit, per a generous official scorer.

Houck ended the inning with his eighth strikeout. The Orioles ended it with a 3-1 lead and the better defense of the two teams.

With a little more luck in the field, Harvey could have completed five innings and preserved a two-run margin.

Trey Mancini’s sacrifice fly in the seventh off left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez increased the lead to 4-2. Galvis and Cedric Mullins singled to set up Mancini.

Mullins has four hits in two games, including a pair off southpaws.

Ruiz moved to third base again in the ninth inning with Ramón Urías coming off the bench.

A lead again in need of protecting. A win coming again to the Orioles.

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