Defense set the early tone in Orioles’ blowout win

It might sound a bit strange to praise the Orioles defense tonight, on a night they hit four homers, got fine starting pitching and won 9-1 over the Chicago White Sox.

But coming off last night’s 12-2 loss, there were several big plays early on by the Orioles defense that helped keep Chicago off the board and build some momentum for starting pitcher Andrew Cashner.

Two plays in the first two innings saved three runs and kept the game 0-0 in the first two innings before the O’s homer barrage could begin.

The White Sox had runners on first and second with one down in the first when cleanup batter Yonder Alonso hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Shortstop Richie Martin was on the right side of second base in a shift and made a diving stop to his glove side for the out. The next batter lined out and Chicago was held scoreless in an inning when they hit a couple of balls on the screws.

Smith-Robs-HR-at-Wall-White-Sidebar.jpgWith a man on and two outs in the second of a scoreless game, No. 9 hitter Adam Engel drove one deep to left. Left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. sprinted toward the corner and made a leaping catch at the wall, falling to the warning track with ball in glove. He went over the wall for a catch that saved two runs for Cashner and the Orioles.

It didn’t save a run with no one on and two outs, but Trey Mancini made a leaping catch in deep right field an inning later. The Orioles added three double plays as well tonight with a 6-5-3 version in the fourth, a 4-5-3 version two innings later and a 5-4-3 to end the game. They began the night with 26 double plays turned - tied for the most in the majors. Second baseman Jonathan Villar made a diving stop in the eighth.

So the Orioles flashed some big leather, especially early on tonight. Maybe the defense gave the offense some momentum.

In the bottom of the third the O’s hit two homers - a Renato Núñez solo shot and a Chris Davis two-run blast. Núñez hit No. 6 with an exit velocity of 111 mph and it was his fourth homer in five games. Davis is now 9-for-25 with three doubles, two homers and eight RBIs his last eight games since he snapped his hitless streak.

The O’s scored five in the fourth to lead 9-0 on Smith’s three-run homer and a Joey Rickard two-run homer. That was a season-high four homers for the Orioles who hit 11 their past five games.

Cashner went seven innings, the longest outing by an O’s starer this year. He gave up five hits and one run on 100 pitches. He is now 4-1 with an ERA of 4.18. Tonight he matched his 2018 win total which happened over 28 starts.

The Orioles improved to 9-16 overall and to 2-10 at home. And they snapped a seven-game losing streak at the Yard. The eight-run margin of victory matched their best of the year when they beat Oakland 12-4 on April 8. That also came the day after a blowout loss.

Fans are invited to tune into the “Extra Innings” postgame show I host about 30-40 minutes after the last out on 105.7 FM The Fan in Baltimore. Delmarva pitcher Grayson Rodriguez will be a guest tonight. Go here to listen live.

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