A look at the Orioles’ improved play during a 5-3 stretch

TORONTO - So why have the Orioles played much better lately? They looked bad during a 1-6 road trip and not much better in getting swept two in a row at home recently by San Diego.

But they beat Cleveland 13-0 on back-to-back nights and are 5-3 over their last eight games. It’s been a bit of a team effort.

The O’s offense has scored 21 runs the last three games and 53 over the past eight games. They’ve hit 13 homers in that span. The starting pitchers are 4-2 with a 2.05 ERA in the eight-game run. They came within one out of having three straight seven-inning outings from John Means, Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner.

They have even had some web gems during this span, including one yesterday by center fielder Keon Broxton. He ran into deep center and made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Freddy Galvis in the Toronto fourth.

“I’ve seen him do that so much,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a premier defensive center fielder with incredible range and confidence out there. I saw him break his hand or wrist in the bricks in Wrigley one day making a similar catch to that one today. Just a really athletic guy that has confidence defensively.”

Saturday’s game featured the 20th homer of the year for Renato Núñez. His two-run blast to left in the fourth started a five-run inning. He drilled that ball 109 mph off the bat.

According to STATS, Núñez joins Boog Powell (1964) and Manny Machado (2018) as the only other players age 25 or younger with 20 or more home runs before the All-Star break in Orioles history. Powell was 23 years old and had 21 home runs before the 1964 All-Star break. Machado had 24 home runs before the 2018 All-Star break, but three came after he turned 26 years old on July 6, so he had 21 home runs as a 25-year-old before the break.

Núñez has hit four homers his last six games, and over his past 39 games has hit 13 homers and 30 RBIs. Not bad for a player Dan Duquette acquired on waivers from Texas on May 13, 2018.

But when sizing up this recent eight-game run, Hyde starts with those on the mound.

cashner-gray-in-dc-sidebar.jpg“When we get pitching, we have a chance to win,” he said. “For the most part this year, Bundy, Means and Cash have given us some good starts. The bullpen did a nice job last night and tonight. So it’s all about pitching. I think we’ll score runs, and we have some athleticism and we usually play pretty good defense, and so being able to limit tough offenses in American League, when we win the game that’s why.”

Asked how the Orioles could look so bad on a recent 1-6 West Coast trip and be playing so much better now, Cashner, who started Saturday, replied: “I just think our defense. You watched on the West Coast and it was horrendous defense. I think a lot of plays we were trying to get outs at home and create things. When you are struggling, you are always trying to create stuff. As a pitching staff, we’ve done a lot better job of minimizing damage versus the West Coast trip.”

And Cashner is now 9-4 with a 3.83 ERA a year after he posted just four wins. Over his last five starts Cashner has an ERA of 1.41. Of the Orioles’ 23 quality starts this year, he has been on the mound for 10.

“I owe a lot of it to Broc (pitching coach Doug Brocail),” he said. “Just working with him. Having a pitching coach and being able to communicate and that kind of stuff, it’s a big difference.”

Farm notes: Double-A Bowie beat Harrisburg 3-1 in a game shortened to five innings by rain yesterday. The Baysox (14-4) are in first place in the second-half race and have won 10 straight series. Winning pitcher Alex Wells allowed two hits and one unearned run over five innings. He is now 7-1 with a 1.92 ERA and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 14 starts. Wells is headed to Wednesday’s Eastern League All-Star game.

Single-A Delmarva (13-4) is in first place in the second half, and on Saturday scored eight runs in the first inning in beating Hagerstown 12-3. Alexis Torres went 3-for-3 with a double, a triple, two runs and three RBIs.

The Gulf Coast League Orioles beat the Pirates 3-2 and are also in first place, with the best record in the GCL at 9-2.

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