Notes on Friday’s loss, Lowther’s start and Aberdeen at 4-0

For the Orioles, the road to get back to the .500 mark is hard. Very hard. They have had seven tries since April 10, playing games where they were one game under .500. With last night’s 6-2 loss to Boston, they are 0-7 in those games.

The Orioles (15-17) had chances last night, going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and leaving 10 men on base. They fell to 2-14 when scoring three runs or fewer. They have scored two runs or fewer in 11 of their 17 losses. So yep, frustrating.

It was also frustrating when right-hander Matt Harvey allowed four unearned runs in the Boston fourth after failing to catch a throw from first baseman Pat Valaika as the pitcher was covering first base on a grounder. Harvey’s error extended the inning, and he hung a breaking ball to Bobby Dalbec, which the first baseman hit for a three-run homer that was a bit of a dagger. This from a player who began the game 0-for-27 and 1-for-34.

But there was some postgame excitement with the news that rookie lefty Zac Lowther will get the start tonight.

Another young pitcher will get his shot and he’ll face a first-place team. Lowther pitched a scoreless inning April 25 versus Oakland in making his major league debut. Now comes his starting debut.

Lowther’s strong minor league resume includes being named O’s co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year with Keegan Akin in 2018 and a stellar 2019 season when he was one of the best pitchers in the Double-A Eastern League, going 13-7 with a 2.55 ERA for Bowie. He’s been an All-Star in the New York-Penn and Eastern leagues. He led all O’s minor leaguers in strikeouts in 2018 and 2019.

He’s not yet pitched in a Triple-A game, but tonight he’ll start against Boston. When he got called up the first time this year, he said he was ready to meet the challenge.

“I feel like I’m really ready,” he said in a pregame interview that day. “Just being able to see the competition last year at (the alternate site at) Bowie and this year again and getting the outings in spring. So, the buildup was really good this year for me, and knowing what to expect when you go to your second big league camp and you’re around the guys that have done it before, asking questions and getting a feel of how things go up here. So, when I got here today, it was like I belonged and just being able to kind of find my way.”

Lowther throws his fastball anywhere from the high 80s to the low 90s, but always seems to strike out a lot of batters. A combination of good spin rates, some deception and good extension toward the plate have made that fastball play up. MLBPipeline.com ranks him as the O’s No. 11 prospect and puts 55 grades on both his fastball and curveball. He is rated No. 19 by Baseball America on their O’s top 30.

In a preseason interview for this entry, which includes a video interview at the end, Lowther told me about his confidence that is not cockiness. But it is just a belief that his stuff will play at the big league level.

“I wouldn’t say I have a chip on my shoulder, but I do have that sense that I do belong,” Lowther told me in that February interview. “But so does the hitter, and I’m not going to take him lightly. They are there for the same reason I am. But I’m going to stick with what I’ve practiced for all these years.”

It’s going to be a fun night to watch Lowther make his first big league start.

Hays-HR-Swing-Black-Sidebar.jpgMore notes on the series opener:

* The road teams are 7-0 this year in the Orioles-Boston games. And the road teams have won eight in a row when these teams have played, dating to last season.

* Boston is now 10-4 on the road and the Orioles are 4-11 at home.

* It was a long night and the game ended a few minutes after midnight. Time of game was three hours and 25 minutes. And that followed a rain delay at the start of one hour and 38 minutes.

* Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle went a combined 6-for-8 in the game with a walk, double and homer. Mountcastle hit his second homer, a solo shot in the Baltimore sixth. It was his first homer since April 8. He had gone 23 games without one and had just three RBIs in that span.

Aberdeen is rolling: The high Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds seem to be enjoying their first season ever at the full-season level. They beat Wilmington 4-2 last night and are 4-0 to start the new season. In fact, Aberdeen has not even trailed once in outscoring Wilmington 23-8 to begin the season.

Last night lefty Drew Rom was the latest IronBird to throw a strong game. He gave up just two hits in five scoreless innings on 62 pitches to win his high Single-A debut. Garrett Farmer threw two scoreless frames on 19 pitches to get a save. Zach Watson doubled in two runs while AJ Graffanino had three hits, including an RBI double, and Kyle Stowers singled in a run.

Aberdeen’s four starting pitchers so far - Grayson Rodriguez, Garrett Stallings, Kyle Brnovich and Rom - have combined to allow just one run and 10 hits over 19 innings with three walks and 17 strikeouts.

Double-A Bowie came up an out short of a 4-0 start. Altoona tied the game with two outs in the last of the ninth and beat Bowie 5-4 in 10 innings as the Baysox fell to 3-1. Chris Hudgins hit a two-run homer for Bowie and starting pitcher Ofelky Peralta allowed two runs and three hits over four innings.

Triple-A Norfolk (1-3) got its first win, 5-3 over Jacksonville. Mason McCoy and Ryan McKenna hit back-to-back homers in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie. Brett Cumberland added a two-run single. Akin started and allowed a two-run homer in two innings on 49 pitches. He likely came out early because he has just returned to pitch after getting stitches in his pitching hand and is building up again.

Low Single-A Delmarva (2-1) was rained out at home against Salem. Delmarva will host a single-admission doubleheader today at 5:05 p.m. in Salisbury.

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