So much for easing in a Rule 5 draft pick. That was the hope and goal for O’s skipper Brandon Hyde with his Rule 5 pitchers, but it doesn’t always work out that way. One Rule 5 pick, righty Tyler Wells, made it into the blowout win Sunday. But right-hander Mac Sceroler did not.
A pitcher that had not thrown above High-A ball took the mound last night. It was the Yankee Stadium mound. It was to face Aaron Judge. Did I mention the bases were loaded?
Go get ‘em, kid.
And he did.
It would be easy to sit on the couch and say it wasn’t a high-leverage spot with New York leading 7-0 in the sixth inning, but when you were pitching in places like Bradenton, St. Lucie, Fort Myers and Lakeland in the High-A Florida State League in 2019, Yankee Stadium is a big step up. A huge step up.
But the nephew of O’s broadcaster Ben McDonald did the family proud. He threw Judge eight straight fastballs ranging from 92 to 94.4 mph. The eighth pitch was a called strikeout on a 3-2 count. When Aaron Hicks was retired on a foul popup, the kid had stranded the bases full of Yankees.
Then he pitched a 1-2-3 seventh with a strikeout of Gary Sánchez on a split-change. Then he started the eighth by getting Jay Bruce looking at the same pitch. He walked two that inning, but stranded those runners too.
So Sceroler goes 2 2/3 innings, allowing no runs or hits with two walks, and he fanned four. The Yankees went 0-for-8 against him and they could not hit his split-change.
They could not put the pitch in play. According to Statcast, they swung at the pitch seven times and whiffed seven times. They also swung at his slider once and missed, and the same with the curveball. The Yankees swung at his secondary pitches nine times, whiffing nine times.
Don’t even ask me if that is good.
It’s a little better than merely good.
In Wells and Sceroler the Orioles might have the rare finds of a Rule 5 pitcher they can actually use in games and not often expect impending disaster. They might have Rule 5 pitchers they are not just looking to hide for six months.
Long way to go, but maybe, just maybe.
“First off, it’s a blessing just to get this opportunity and to be put in a situation like that,” Sceroler said last night during a postgame interview. “I think that’s kind of what every person wants to be put in to just kind of prove themselves, that I can be here in tough situations, I can pitch and get the job done. It was definitely comforting for me to be put in that situation and succeeding. Kind of lifts bricks off your shoulders, knowing I can compete here, my stuff is good enough to play here,”
He stared down a challenge and got Judge and Hicks to get out of that fifth inning.
“I could finally breathe,” Sceroler said. “I knew that I was still in the game, so I couldn’t relax too much, but I could take about five or 10 minutes to kind of relax, process what just happened and breathe and just get back to competing out there.”
The Orioles have now lost 11 straight in the Bronx dating to May 15, 2019. Late last year they ended a 19-game losing streak against New York.
After O’s batters struck out seven and 11 times in the season’s first two games, they have fanned 15 and 13 times in the last two.
The club ERA, which was third in the majors through three games, increased last night from 1.67 to 3.09.
After the O’s loss, Boston’s 11-2 win over Tampa Bay and a Toronto win over Texas, the Orioles and Blue Jays are 3-1 and tied for the American League East lead. New York and Tampa Bay are 2-2 and Boston is 1-3.
Tonight at Yankee Stadium, Dean Kremer faces righty Gerrit Cole. Cole, who went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA last season, got a no-decision in his opening day start against Toronto. He went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and two runs with two walks and eight strikeouts on 97 pitches.
Cole went 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA in three 2020 starts against the Orioles. In five in his career against Baltimore, he is 2-1 with a 1.65 ERA and 0.765 WHIP. In 32 2/3 innings he has walked six and fanned 44.