It started with the starter.
For the second day in a row, a veteran left-hander who was signed by the Orioles to a minor league contract gave them a big effort on the mound. Tommy Milone today followed Wade LeBlanc from last night.
His pitching got the club off to a nice start on the mound. And after some early missed scoring chances, the Orioles plated three runs in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie and post a 5-1 win.
Using a pitch mix that showed 82 percent fastballs and changeups, Milone didn’t hit 90 on the radar gun, but showed how the art of pitching can get outs when a blazing fastball is not at your disposal. He spotted fastballs at 86 and 87 mph with an at times swing-and-miss changeup, often at 79 mph.
Milone took a shutout into the sixth inning on 78 pitches, but could not become the first O’s pitcher to go six innings this season. After Brandon Lowe hit a solo homer to left center, his day was done. Milone went five-plus on four hits and one run with no walks and eight strikeouts.
He threw 83 pitches and 36 were four-seam fastballs and 32 were changeups. Of his eight strikeouts, five came off changeups and three off the fastball as he kept locating and changing speeds. It was a much improved outing from opening day. Even then he pitched two scoreless, but then Boston exploded against him for four runs in the third inning.
He didn’t get the win, but pitched well enough to do that. Evan Phillips, who had another solid outing, did get the win.
But it’s encouraging to get the outings from the vets that the O’s did this weekend. They are looking for starters to pitch effectively to join John Means and Alex Cobb in the top spots in the rotation.
A few other notes on the win:
* The Orioles outscored Tampa Bay 3-0 in the seventh inning. They have now outscored their opponents 9-0 on the year in inning seven. The O’s and Cleveland are the only major league teams not to allow a run in that inning.
* The Orioles had no series sweeps last year, but two in 2018. They swept a two-game series on the road against the New York Mets June 5-6. They also swept three in a row from the Toronto Blue Jays at home Aug. 27-29. Before today, the Orioles last swept a series against Tampa Bay from June 24-26, 2016 at Oriole Park, and that was a four-game series. The last three-game sweep of the Rays came on Sept. 11-13, 2012 at Camden Yards.
* O’s pitching struck out 10 batters today and that set a club record. The club has fanned 10 or more for five consecutive games. They had done this in four straight games previously in 1966, 2013 and 2014.
* The Orioles began today’s game 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position but then went 4-for-10 the rest of the way.