Maybe the All-Star break was a nice reset for Matt Harvey. Maybe pitching on 10 days’ rest meant his arm was fresh and ready to go. Who knows exactly the reason why the Orioles right-hander threw well today, but he pitched six scoreless innings today.
The O’s beat the Kansas City Royals 5-0 to win the last two games and take this series as their road tripnow heads to St. Petersburg, Fla. to face Tampa Bay.
It was badly needed and very welcome for a rotation that began today with an ERA of 6.22. For a rotation that had covered just 7 2/3 innings in this series allowing 10 runs. Badly needed for a rotation that had thrown five innings or less in 14 of its last 15 games and six innings or less in 35 of its last 37 contests.
It was badly needed by Harvey, who began the day 3-10 with a 7.70 ERA through 18 O’s starts. His season had gotten off to a good start, but not much good had happened for him since about early May.
Harvey this year
* First seven starts: Recorded an ERA of 3.60, with .250 average against and .693 OPS.
* Last 11 starts: Recorded an ERA of 11.20 with .374 average against and 1.035 OPS.
But today, he allowed just three singles over his six frames as the Royals went 3-for-21 at-bat against him. He walked one and fanned two, throwing 74 pitches, 48 for strikes. Harvey improved to 4-10 and lowered his ERA to 7.13. Harvey’s fastball velocity today averaged 93.4 mph, per Statcast, and topped at 95.3 mph. And he got five swings and misses in 10 swings against his slider.
Harvey was good beginning with his first pitch this afternoon. He retired the side in order in the last of the first on six pitches. He needed 12 pitches and faced four batters in the second. He pitched a 1-2-3 third on 10 pitches. Through three, he had thrown 28 pitches, 21 for strikes.
But he got into trouble and his command got a bit leaky in the Kansas City fourth. With one out he hit Salvador Pérez and walked Carlos Santana. But Ryan O’Hearn then flied out on a first-pitch slider. With two on and two outs, Hunter Dozier hit one up the middle. Second baseman Domingo Leyba made a nice stop up the middle to hold him to an infield hit and keep a run from scoring. Then Harvey got Michael A.Taylor to ground out on an 0-2 pitch and Harvey had stranded the bases loaded.
Harvey allowed a one-out single in the fifth and pitched a 1-2-3 sixth on 10 pitches to clear six innings for the first time since April 26 against New York. That was his only previous outing this season of six innings.
He had allowed two earned runs or less in just seven of his 18 starts this season and just twice in the last 11 before today.
Today he threw six or more scoreless for the first time since Sept. 14, 2018 for Cincinnati against the Chicago Cubs. This was his first win since May 1 against Oakland.
This allowed the Orioles to improve to 4-1 this year in rubber match games and win this series. Since June 11 the Orioles had been 1-7-1 in nine series, a sweep at Houston their only series victory in that span.
Hot-hitting Ramón Urías, batting .321 his last 14 games, gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the third, scoring Austin Wynns, who had walked, and Austin Hays, who had singled. The O’s led 3-0 in the fifth when Hays doubled and scored on Trey Mancini’s single. Wynns’ RBI double scored fleet-footed Ryan McKenna from first in the sixth for a 4-0 lead. The lead expanded to 5-0 in the eighth when Leyba doubled to lead off the inning and later scored on an error.
This was the Orioles’ third shutout of the year and John Means started the first two. He led the O’s to a 3-0 opening day win at Boston and then beat Seattle 6-0 on May 5 when he pitched a no-hitter.