Orioles right-hander Jorge López was throwing a decent game. He had allowed just one run over 4 2/3 innings but the hook came with two outs in the top of the fifth and the Orioles leading 2-1 over the Washington Nationals.
Manager Brandon Hyde saw hot-hitting Juan Soto - a batter who had 12 hits in his last 24 at-bats - coming to the plate. And he went for a fifth-inning left-on-left matchup, bringing in Paul Fry. On one pitch, a 92 mph four-seam fastball, Fry got Soto to ground out to first to end the inning. López would not get a win and he came up an out short of giving the Orioles a fifth-straight start of five innings or more.
But for the O’s bullpen, it was just the start of a big night.
Fry struck out the side in the sixth, getting Josh Bell, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Harrison all swinging at sliders. Cole Sulser started the seventh with a 5-1 lead, but when two reached against him with two outs Hyde went for lefty Tanner Scott to face Trea Turner. And Scott got the O’s ‘pen another huge one-pitch out against one of the top Nationals batters. He threw Turner a 97 mph four-seamer and the Nats shortstop flied out to left.
Scott then threw a 1-2-3 eighth, getting two strikeouts, and Dillon Tate pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning. So four bullpen pitchers threw a combined 4 1/3 scoreless innings on one hit with one walk and eight strikeouts. Nats batters went 1-for-14 against the Baltimore bullpen.
Fry got three swings and misses on six sliders they offered at, and touched 94 mph with his fastball. Sulser topped out at 95. Scott got four swings and misses on five swings against his slider, touching 98, and Tate topped at 98 mph.
A good night for the bullpen, showing at times dominant stuff.
“Both the left-handers did a really nice job and won us the game,” Hyde said. “It’s nice to see Tanner come in after kind of a tough inning a couple of days ago and face a tough middle of the order and go 1 1/3 and punch out two of them. It was nice to see him bounce back the way he did. Tanner’s got under a 3 ERA, so he’s doing a lot of things right.”
While the O’s ‘pen let the game get away in Wednesday’s walk-off win against Tampa Bay, Scott bounced back nicely last night. And the Orioles are 4-3 since the All-Star Game, with the bullpen factoring big in each win.
In those four victories since last Saturday, the bullpen has thrown 14 2/3 scoreless innings on seven hits with four walks and 19 strikeouts.
Cowser and Norby take BP at the Yard: The O’s top two draft picks got jerseys on the field from O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias before Friday’s game and got a nice hand from the crowd during the game. Colton Cowser and Connor Norby took batting practice with the Orioles and spoke with local media before the game, as well, on Friday.
“I mean, it’s a lot of excitement. It’s kind of been hectic,” said Norby, who led the nation in hits at East Carolina, where he batted .415. “Just the last few weeks, for sure, going down to Sarasota and getting settled and coming back. I mean, it’s an honor to be here, and me and Colton are really excited to come back.
“I just bring a lot of fire, like I play hard all the time,” he said, noting Whit Merrifield as a possible big league comp for him. “I can do everything. I consider myself like a jack of all trades, in a sense. I can do everything and I want to be good at everything. There is a lot of improvement in my game I want to work on. That is what I’m looking forward to most.”
Cowser hit .374 with a 1.067 OPS at Sam Houston State before the Orioles made him the No. 5 pick in round one.
He has very little swing-and-miss in his game and he walked more than he struck both this year (42 to 32) and for his college career (78 to 70).
“Yeah, it’s definitely a big contributor (to my game, the good plate discipline),” Cowser said. “I think that it also contributes to some of the power numbers that jumped up. You know, just getting your pitch to hit. By doing that you end up having a lot more productive at-bats.”
Cowser takes some pride in being a well-rounded player, one that gets good scouting grades for his speed, arm and defense in addition to his bat.
“It’s just kind of how I was raised to play the game,” he said. “Kind of an old-school player, you know, be able to contribute on both sides of the ball. You know, say you are not having a great day at the plate, but you go out on the field and take away some outs. There are always ways to contribute in the game of baseball.”
The Orioles have now signed 17 of their 21 draft selections. Those still officially not signed include sixth-round pick Collin Burns, a shortstop from Tulane, seventh-rounder Tennessee catcher Connor Pavolony, round 14 right-handed reliever Daniel Lloyd from South Carolina and 20th-round juco outfielder Trendon Craig from Louisburg (N.C.) College.
On the farm: While Triple-A Norfolk got blasted 17-8 by Gwinnett, the O’s three other full-season clubs all won last night and combined to allow just two runs. The three starters for Double-A Bowie, high Single-A Aberdeen and low Single-A Delmarva were, respectively, Mike Baumann, Garrett Stallings and Houston Roth. Those right-handers combined to allow just one run over 16 1/3 innings.
Baumann went six scoreless innings on two hits with seven strikeouts as Bowie beat Hartford 5-0 for its second straight shutout and ninth of the year. Baumann, who threw 85 pitches, lowered his season ERA to 4.89. But over his past four starts for Bowie, his ERA is 2.05. In that span he has thrown 22 innings, allowing 13 hits and five earned runs with four walks and 26 strikeouts. Looks like Big Mike is rolling.
And so is Bowie again, which has won seven of its last nine games. The Baysox at 40-28 have the best record on the O’s farm by a half-game ahead of Delmarva at 40-29.
Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez (4-1, 2.04 ERA) gets the start for Bowie at home tonight at 6:35 p.m. at Prince George’s Stadium.