An encouraging weekend for O’s, especially on the mound

So that was a strong weekend of pitching for the Orioles. They allowed four runs in three games at Texas. Yet when they were shut out Sunday, it meant no series sweep against the Rangers.

Still, they began the road trip taking two of three and head to Miami at 7-9.

For the second time this season, the Orioles staff did not allow an earned run. They also did that in the opening day shutout at Boston. Baltimore pitching has allowed two runs or less six times on the season. They did it the first two games of the year and now they have done it for the last four games. They’ve allowed just six runs in those four games and 10 runs in the past five games.

The team ERA has been reduced in that span from 5.10 to 4.15. That ranks only 10th-best in the American League, but a club ERA under 4.00 would currently put a team in the top seven in the league in pitching. So trending in a good direction.

In 27 2/3 innings in Texas, Baltimore hurlers allowed 16 hits and three earned runs with eight walks to 34 strikeouts. The three starters - Jorge López, Dean Kremer and John Means - gave up three runs and 10 hits over 16 2/3 innings for an ERA of 1.62 with 23 strikeouts.

The O’s bullpen threw 11 innings in the series, allowing one unearned run. The ‘pen ERA is 1.61 over the past seven games and 3.49 for the year. That ranks sixth in the AL.

Means-Delivers-Black-TEX-Sidebar.jpgOver the course of the 2019-2020 seasons, Means made 37 starts and went seven innings or more five times. Now he has done that twice in four games and has pitched two scoreless seven-inning starts at that. He threw 96 pitches Sunday, including 46 four-seamers and 31 changeups. He was in command throughout his start at Texas and his season ERA is down to 1.52. In his three road starts, he has allowed one earned run over 18 2/3 innings for an ERA of 0.48.

“I just thought he was in total command,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought he had a great fastball that he was locating. Thought he threw some really good curveballs, the changeup was there. Seven shutout innings, nine punchouts pretty much says it all right there. Two really good starters that were on today. Pretty good baseball game. Two really good pitching performances by both sides.”

The Orioles were held to five hits yesterday and their leadoff batters were 0-9 through nine innings. They finally got a leadoff man on, but he was placed at second base to start the 10th. But that runner, Maikel Franco, would be thrown out at home on a single to right by pinch-hitter Trey Mancini.

The top of the 10th was rough on the Orioles. Ryan Mountcastle was robbed of extra bases and a go-ahead RBI and then Franco didn’t score on the single to right. He needed to go back to the bag at third to make sure he could tag up if the liner was caught. When it wasn’t, he got gunned down at home and it wasn’t that close. Mancini was credited with a single, even though an out was recorded on the play. Had it been a force play he wouldn’t have been credited with a hit.

But the pitching was a high note this weekend. The last time through the rotation has been pretty solid for the Orioles, especially if the starters begin to get deeper into games. The bullpen has certainly rounded into form in the last week. Some of the high-leverage relievers are now pitching well.

Three wins would have been real nice, a second road sweep already. It was within reach, but they didn’t get it.

What they did get was a couple of wins and some stability on the pitching staff. A 7-9 record is neither terrible nor good. The Orioles could be a team that plays respectable for sixth months, if some of the pitching signs continue to be positive.

But there’s a long way to go. This season is just starting and we’ve got a lot of action to come as we continue to learn more about the 2021 Orioles.

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