O’s use some clutch pitching and more to post first win

The game began with an Orioles pitcher getting out of a big jam and it ended the same way. Nate Karns began the day as an opener and Mike Wright ended it as a surprise closer. They both got big outs and the Orioles got a few in between as well in beating the Yankees 5-3 on Saturday.

They provided manager Brandon Hyde with his first win as O’s skipper. Jimmy Yacabonis picked up his third career victory and Wright his first career save. He had not had one before either in the minors or majors.

Hyde tried hard with his coaches all spring training to fill the Orioles’ young players with confidence. It showed under the Florida sun. Getting results in the Bronx is another matter. But Hyde sent Yacabonis out to face the top of the order in the third inning and gave Wright the ball in the ninth after Richard Bleier started the inning but allowed hits to three of four batters faced.

Before Saturday, Wright had an ERA of 9.20 pitching in the ninth inning in 18 games on the major league level. He had no career saves in 93 major league games and 132 on the farm.

“I want to show our guys confidence,” Hyde told reporters after the win. “This is such a hard game and there’s so much adversity and it’s challenging and to be able to show guys confidence and put guys in tough spots and let them persevere, that’s what it’s about and that’s how guys get better. So I’m going to continue to put guys in tough spots and see how they react.”

In an interview late in spring training for this story, Yacabonis told me about the confidence he and other young pitchers had been gaining from pitching coach Doug Brocail and the entire coaching staff.

Yacabonis-Pitch-Orange-sidebar.jpg“The young corps we have here, everyone is competing with each other and it’s been a lot of fun. They really encourage us,” Yacabonis said. “When we do good things, it’s like, ‘Good job.’ They’ve really got your back. Mental errors are mental errors, but when you make a physical mistake and are giving a 100 percent effort, they know and have your back. That is reassuring and feels good to have them on your side. You are not out there worrying about trying to impress somebody. They tell us to pitch to our strengths. They are teaching us tools to get to our maximum potential.”

Yacabonis showed some of his potential yesterday in a strong three-inning outing. Yankees hitters Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit went 1-for-5 against him with two strikeouts. Voit grounded into a double play against him to end the fifth inning.

Yacabonis needed 59 pitches to clear three innings, but twice worked his way through the Judge-Stanton-Voit portion of the lineup. He did some heavy lifting with a fastball that averaged 94.2 mph and touched 96 mph, according to Baseballsavant.com. Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro both touched 98 mph.

Yacabonis made 28 starts last season and threw a career-high 116 innings. He made 21 starts for Triple-A Norfolk and seven for the Orioles. That provided him chances to throw his pitches more, work on his active mechanics and throw a side session often between starts. He felt he did a lot of learning and growing in 2018 and some of that was on display Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

“The biggest thing I learned was how to back off pitches and hit spots rather than overthrowing the ball,” he said. “Like with a 0-2 or 1-2 count with the count in my favor, not try to do too much with a pitch and let it leak back over the plate. Or throwing a ball to ball, a non-competitive pitch.

“I’ve also learned how to slow the game down some. I was put into some situations I was never put into when I was a reliever, when starting last year. Maybe it was the fourth or fifth and you have to get out of the inning to save the bullpen that day. So it’s slow it down, don’t try to do too much, hit the spot and trust the action on the pitch.”

Meanwhile the Orioles had another solid day on defense Saturday. In this series, the Yankees have made four errors to none for the Orioles.

Today the Orioles can win this series when right-hander Dylan Bundy (8-16, 5.45 ERA last year) faces lefty J.A. Happ (17-6, 3.65 ERA last year).

I’ll be on the air before the game at noon hosting “Orioles Baseball Today” on 105.7 FM the Fan and again about a half-hour after the game hosting “Extra Innings.” So it’s a radio day times two for me before a flight to Toronto Monday morning to cover the series at Rogers Centre.

As you can see in these videos, the last out was exciting yesterday and so was the postgame celebration for Hyde with his players.

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