When a pitcher has an ERA of 11.20 over an 11-start stretch, just getting three or four decent innings from him might seem like a mountain to climb. Right now, Matt Harvey is an exceptional mountain climber.
After getting bashed by opponent hitters from May 12 through July 7 - a stretch where he went 0-8 with that unsightly ERA and a 1.035 OPS against, now he is putting up zero after zero. He may have skipped a step in improving and went right from terrible to great.
Just what did this guy do at the All-Star break?
Whether it was getting extra rest around the break, using a better pitch mix, showing a better slider, better luck or some combination of all of that and more, Harvey is suddenly a pitcher very hard to score even one run against.
Now in games against Kansas City, Washington and Detroit, he has thrown 18 1/3 scoreless innings on 10 hits with one walk and 11 strikeouts. Opposing batters in those three games hit just .156 (10-for-64) against him. He dropped his ERA a run and a half, from 7.70 to 6.20.
The last Orioles pitcher to throw three consecutive scoreless starts with each going six or more innings was Kevin Gausman in late August and early September 2016. Against the Nationals, Yankees and Yankees again, Gausman threw 19 scoreless frames.
Now Harvey joins him in that feat, producing an amazing turnaround.
“Very impressive,” manager Brandon Hyde said in his postgame Zoom. “Just totally in command. Seemed like the body language, you know, composure. He’s just pitching with a ton of confidence right now. He really is enjoying having some success.”
Harvey took the mound for the seventh inning last night at Comerica Park with a 4-0 lead on the Tigers, having thrown 73 pitches. But he gave up two singles and a lineout and Hyde went to his ‘pen.
“You know, I think having him go seven is a real push for him, even though the pitch count was down, just because of the length of the season and where he is right now, physically,” he said.
The O’s bullpen bent big, but did not break, and Cole Sulser got the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Harvey picked up his 50th career win and provided the Orioles their 19th quality start this year. The team has eight scoreless starts, with four by John Means, one by Keegan Akin and three - all in a row - by Harvey.
“It’s amazing,” Harvey said after the O’s held on late for Friday’s 4-3 win. “You know, like I’ve said a few times, it’s tough to keep going out there knowing it’s in there but not having results. And you know this game is, obviously, extremely humbling, so staying with the work and trusting the process, trusting the coaches, (Chris) Holt and (Darren) Holmes, and the work that we put in in between starts, it’s not always easy to do. But staying with it, staying strong and, like I said, staying with the process, it’s been paying off.”
Deadline day quotes: The Orioles had a mostly quiet trade deadline day. Everyone who was on the major league roster yesterday morning is still with the club today. No big trades, no big names moved. Shortstop Freddy Galvis was traded to Philadelphia even as he is currently on the injured list, and the club got A-ball pitcher Tyler Burch for him. Burch has gone 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA on the farm this year with eight walks and 49 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.
The Orioles’ rebuilding has reached the point where parting with good talent - especially talent with many years of team control remaining - is not something Elias is looking to do. The elite talent pipeline is still being built, but the process of finding players that he wants to keep here to play for the next winning Orioles team is well underway.
“You know, I think it’s (the chance to be a winner) getting closer,” Elias said. “We’ve seen some very good individual developments this year, particularly with Cedric (Mullins). Trey (Mancini) coming back healthy. You know, getting some positive steps forward from Austin Hays and, obviously, John Means. And some of our core impact talent in the minor leagues is inching closer and we’ve made progress in repairing a lot of the critical kind of infrastructure areas that we were lacking in. So, the organization is in much better shape.
“But I continue to be daunted by what I see in our division, what I see around the league. You see super teams on both sides of the league right now, American League and National League. It’s a very loaded roster. So we have a very long way to go, we have a lot of work to do. It’s hard for me to forecast. I just know the direction we want to continue to push in and there is talent on the way. And I think that deficit between the Orioles and the AL East that we’ve seen the last few years is closing. And that’s important, and we are going to get more competitive in this division very soon. We know that.”
On another topic, Elias was asked about a possible promotion of top prospect Adley Rutschman from Double-A to Triple-A.
“I think it’s become, increasingly, a conversation of when and what to do with him next,” he said. “You know, he’s certainly had a very successful season thus far in Double-A on both sides of the ball. It’s been great to see. He is not a fully finished product or polished player. All these kids missed a whole year last year.
“His control of the strike zone has been outstanding, but he’s doing a lot of work with Ryan Fuller, our hitting coach, and Jeff Kunkel, our catching coach, there and just every day getting better and perfecting things with his swing and consistency of his mechanics. He’s working with the pitching staff and they’ve got a really good thing going on.
“We do not feel like he’s wasting time or not getting anything out of Bowie, despite the success that he’s had thus far. We are also mindful of the fact that the Triple-A season is going to be a long one this year. There’s a lot of time left on that season. It goes into October. So, when it becomes the correct thing for his development, we’ll make that move. It is certainly something we are talking about organizationally and we want to get right.”
For more with Elias from yesterday on the trade deadline and more, click here.
Thanks in part to a game shortened to five innings by rain last night, right-hander Mike Baumann both won his Triple-A debut last night and pitched, officially, a complete game. Baumann allowed four hits and two runs over five frames as Norfolk beat Durham 8-2.