Orioles lefty Wade LeBlanc today became the first Baltimore starter in four games to put up a zero in the opening inning. Then he followed with another in the last of the second today at North Port, Fla., as the Orioles faced the Atlanta Braves.
LeBlanc got Ronald Acuña Jr. to pop out, Ozzie Albies on a grounder and Marcell Ozuna to pop to second in his 1-2-3 first. O’s starters had allowed five runs in three first innings before today.
In those games, in which the Orioles lost two and tied one, starters Thomas Eshelman, Jorge López and John Means had allowed 10 hits and five runs (four earned) combined in their outings over 4 2/3 innings.
LeBlanc got the first two batters in the second and then allowed a two-out single to Cristian Pache. He then fanned Johan Camargo to end the second frame and his outing.
“Always good to get the first one out of the way,” LeBlanc told reporters from the ballpark via a Zoom interview. “There are always some nerves, which is good to kind of exorcise those. And then there’s always, you know, just want to make sure you get healthy and that’s the most important part at this point in camp. To be able to go out there and get your two innings and feel good is definitely a good step in the right direction.
“Just to get out there and get all your pitches in (was a goal today). Get two ups. Try to get the boys back in the dugout to swing the bats.”
LeBlanc is a non-roster player in camp trying to win a season-opening rotation job. His 2020 O’s season included an ERA of 8.06 with a 1.567 WHIP over 22 1/3 innings. His season ended on Aug. 23 when he left a start after facing four batters in the first inning at Boston. He had a stress fracture in his left elbow, although it did not require surgery. He said he resumed throwing after about 10 or 11 weeks of rest.
“I think after you put up an eight (ERA) and fracture your elbow, I think there is a lot to prove,” LeBlanc said. “So we’re going to go out there and try to stay healthy and pump some strikes in there and get the offense back out there,” LeBlanc said.
The Orioles hold a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Chris Shaw led off the Baltimore third with a walk and scored when Jahmai Jones singled on a grounder where Camargo threw the ball away for an error, advancing Jones to second.
After LeBlanc’s two scoreless innings, Hunter Harvey allowed a leadoff walk in the third but pitched a scoreless inning, ending it by getting Acuña to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play.
In the win column: The Orioles have their first win in the Grapefruit League as they beat the Braves 8-1 this afternoon. Baltimore is now 1-2-1 and Atlanta is 2-2.
Austin Hays continued his hot start to spring, hitting a two-run homer in the O’s fifth. It scored Jones, who had walked, to put the Orioles ahead by three runs. Hays also told reporters that his dad was at the game in the right field area and got his home run ball which was later delivered to his wife and son, who were also at the game.
The Orioles play Boston on Thursday at Ed Smith Stadium and Dean Kremer is scheduled to pitch. You can hear the game on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore.
Hays on his start at the plate: “I just feel like the stuff I worked on in the offseason, with my swing mechanically, is starting to show up here. Trying to continue with my plate discipline I was showing toward the end of last year, the last 15-20 games. Having some early success right now in spring training, seeing those things show up in games.
“I really liked what I was able to do in my first at-bat and hit the ball to the right side of the field. I struggled with that last year and that was something I really tried to emphasize last year. I was pulling a lot of outside pitches. Early on this spring, I’ve been able to use the opposite field and it means a lot to me to see that show up in games.”
Hays on center field battle with Cedric Mullins: “I mean, he is my best friend on the team and we are rooting for each other to do really well. It just makes for a really fun competition just because we are such close friends. He gets a couple hits, I get a couple hits, and we go back and forth with each other. Just makes it really fun.”
Hays on the homer ball: “Mom (Samantha) and Levi traveled down here with me. So they were both here. Today was actually their first outing coming to a game, so my dad (Chuck) was in the outfield, because of the way the ticket situation works. He actually got the home run ball and had the fire and rescue bring it to my wife and Levi. She was sitting behind home plate. Kind of cool. First game he gets a home run ball. Maybe dad strength is a thing.”