O’s game blog: Looking for a series win against Washington

The Orioles will not face three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer tonight, but rather lefty Jon Lester as they host the Washington Nationals in the second of a three-game series. The Orioles won 6-1 last night as five pitchers combined to hold the Nats to five hits with 11 strikeouts and the visitors went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Washington (45-51) began this series eighth in the majors in team OPS and batting, fourth in OBP and 10th in slugging. But the Nationals, who were 40-38 on June 30, have now lost 13 of their past 18 games. The Nats are 18-26 on the road and 3-1 versus the Orioles in 2021.

Scherzer (7-4, 2.83 ERA) was scheduled to make his 19th start. But he was scratched because of mild discomfort in his right triceps related to hitting, not pitching. He told reporters he expects to make his next start.

So Lester (3-4, 4.99 ERA) instead will make his 16th start. He is coming off an outing where he threw seven scoreless innings against Miami on 81 pitches.

In 28 career starts against Baltimore, Lester is 15-4 with a 3.03 ERA. He faces the Orioles for the second time this season, after allowing six runs and five hits in four innings on May 22 in Washington. This marks his first career start at Camden Yards since March 31, 2014. In 14 career starts at Baltimore, dating to Sept. 7, 2007, he is 8-2 with a 2.95 ERA (29 earned runs over 88 1/3 innings pitched) with 25 walks and 81 strikeouts.

Since the start of the 2016 season, Lester has 57 starts of at least six innings and one earned run or fewer allowed, tied with Gerrit Cole for the fourth-most in the majors during that span behind only Jacob deGrom (68), Scherzer (61) and Justin Verlander (58).

Pat Valaika hit two solo homers for the O’s in Friday’s series-opening win. Valaika hit just one homer in his first 61 games and 161 at-bats this year, and then he hit three over the past two games in a stretch of just seven at-bats. It was his second career two-homer game after doing so May 14, 2017 for Colorado against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His multi-homer game was the Orioles’ 10th of the season, tied for the third-most in the American League and tied for the fifth-most in the majors. Center fielder Cedric Mullins’ four multi-homer games are tied for the most in the AL.

The O’s bullpen threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in the Friday win and Nats batters went 1-for-14 versus that ‘pen. The Orioles are 4-3 since the All-Star Game and their bullpen has thrown 14 2/3 scoreless innings with 19 strikeouts in the four wins.

Thumbnail image for Sulser-Delivers-Orange-ST-sidebar.jpgReliever notes:

* Lefty Paul Fry has not allowed a home run this season in 37 2/3 innings and in facing 157 batters. He is one of four pitchers in the majors to have not surrendered a home run (minimum 35 innings pitched). He is the only reliever in the big leagues to have allowed just one extra-base hit this year (min. 30.0 IP).

* Right-hander Cole Sulser owns reverse splits for his career, with lefties batting .164 (19-for-116) against him, compared to right-handers hitting .258 (32-for-124).

* Lefty Tanner Scott leads the team with 44 appearances, the second-most by a southpaw in the AL. Opponents have not recorded a hit in 24 of his 44 outings, and his 13.04 strikeouts per nine innings is the highest among O’s relievers, and ranks 10th among qualified AL relievers.

* Righty Dillon Tate fanned multiple batters in a career-high six straight outings from June 23 through July 6. This year, 13 of his 33 appearances have been 1 1/3 innings or more.

Right-hander Matt Harvey (4-10, 7.13 ERA), who is coming of his best start of the year, gets the ball for Baltimore tonight. Pitching on 10 days’ rest last Sunday at Kansas City, he pitched six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits as the O’s beat the Royals 5-0. Harvey needed just 74 pitches to get 18 outs and threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 23 batters. Kansas City went 3-for-21 against him.

This is how his season had gone leading up to that outing:

* 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.

Harvey’s fastball velocity 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 in that outing. 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.

He pitched six or more scoreless innings for the first time since Sept. 14, 2018 for Cincinnati against the Chicago Cubs. This was his first win since May 1 against Oakland.

The Orioles have just eight series wins in 31 series this year. But they have half of them in the last 12 series, going 4-6-2. A win tonight or tomorrow would give them another series win.

The Nationals today recalled infielder Carter Kieboom from Triple-A Rochester and placed infielder Jordy Mercer on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to July 21) with a left calf strain. Kieboom hit .236 with seven doubles, five homers, 23 RBIs, 26 walks, one stolen base and 26 runs scored in 44 games at Triple-A. He hit safely in seven of his last 11 games, going 11-for-43 (.256) with three doubles, two homers and eight RBIs during the stretch.

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