For an Orioles team that had given up nine runs on Friday night and allowed 27 runs in three games against the Chicago White Sox before the break, Sunday was needed and a very nice change.
Right-hander Matt Harvey had pitched to an ERA of 11.20 over his previous 11 starts with an OPS against of 1.035 in that span, but he and four relievers teamed on a shutout. The 5-0 win over Kansas City lifted the O’s record to 30-62 and they ended this series with 13 consecutive scoreless innings.
It was their third shutout of the year, and Harvey’s first scoreless start since six innings without allowing a run on Sept. 14, 2018 for Cincinnati at the Chicago Cubs.
“I think you go through so many struggles in the middle of the season leading up to the break and it just kind of wears on you a little bit,” Harvey said via Zoom. “Having, in my mind, that restart where I came into today and put in my mind that I was starting over, really trying to go out there and flip the switch on such a poor first half.
“Obviously, if you didn’t have the break and you keep going out there, I don’t know if it would have continued. Obviously, I didn’t want it to. But having those four days off to just kind of recharge, and got to see the family and spend some really quality time with loved ones, it definitely helps and definitely gets your mind back into a better place where it’s easy to flip the switch and get after it in the second half.”
Harvey provided a lift to a rotation that began Sunday with a 6.22 ERA ranking last in the majors. A rotation that had seen its starter throw less than five innings in 14 of the last 15 games and less than six in 35 of the previous 37 games.
Harvey recorded his first win since May 1 at Oakland, snapping a 12-start winless skid in which he went 0-9 with a 10.20 ERA. He threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 23 batters and that was big. So was getting five swings and misses among 10 times Royals batters swung at his slider.
The Orioles have a series win as they begin a new series tonight at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Elias on the draft: Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was on the 105.7 The Fan morning show on Friday and discussed the club’s 2021 draft. A draft where they selected just one pitcher in the first 10 rounds and just one high school player among their 21 picks.
It should come as no surprise that he’s pretty high on the team’s top two draft picks, Sam Houston State outfielder Colton Cowser, taken No. 5 overall, and East Carolina infielder Connor Norby, taken No. 41 overall in round two.
He described them as elite college hitters with pure hit tools. Cowser batted .374/.490/.680/1.170 this season with 10 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, 17 steals, 61 runs and 52 RBIs. He was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year.
Norby batted .415/.484/.659 with 15 doubles, 15 homers, 18 steals, 64 runs and 51 RBIs. He led the nation in hits, finishing eighth in batting average while being named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
“He’s tooled up and he’s huge - he can run, he can throw, he has power,” Elias said of Cowser. “Just a real bat-to-ball plus contact ability. Left-handed hitter. I think it’s the type of hitter that you see in championship lineups. You know, that left-handed bat that is an impossible out that can hit the ball to all fields, can hit it out of the park, draws walks and doesn’t strike out. I think that is what we are getting here with Cowser.
“Connor Norby from East Carolina, who led the country in hits and hit over .400, hit for really good power this year too and he’s a real technically correct, efficient swing, and I just think both these guys are really exciting guys that I expect to be in the lineup for the Baltimore Orioles in a couple of years.”
And now, after getting picks signed, the club will soon send these players out to start their pro careers.
“Used to be you would take a college hitter in the first round, a DJ Stewart or Adley Rutschman, and they would go kind of get their feet wet in Florida, take a physical, they sign and they see our spring training facilities, and play a game or two in the Florida Complex League. And then they would go to Aberdeen, which used to be our short-season summer league,” Elias said. “But now that league is gone.”
“So it’s different. We don’t have that. So I think what we will see with a lot of these college hitters, they will, like I said, go to get their feet wet and get introduced to the organization in Florida. These guys haven’t been playing for two months, so kind of get back into game shape. And then we will ultimately try to get a good group of these guys up to (low Single-A) Delmarva to finish up the summer.”
On the farm Sunday: Double-A Bowie right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the top-rated pitching prospect in the Baseball America top 100, had another outstanding outing.
In Game 1 of a doubleheader, he allowed two hits and one unearned run over five innings as the Baysox won 6-2 at Erie. He walked one and fanned a career-high 12, getting 21 swings and misses. He is now 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in eight starts for Bowie.
In 13 games for the season, Rodriguez is 7-1 with a 1.86 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and .153 batting average against. In 63 innings, he has walked 13 and fanned 97.