Spenser Watkins slows Blue Jays bats, gets first major league win

For a player that has been in the major leagues less than a week, right-hander Spenser Watkins is quickly making a mark with the Orioles. Tonight, in his second big league appearance and first as a starter, he got his first major league win.

Watkins is a player who has pitched on the farm since 2014, was a 30th-round draft pick and didn’t make his major league debut until last week at 28. On Friday at Anaheim, he faced three batters and retired them all on just eight pitches.

Tonight, he was good again as the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-5 to begin a six-game homestand that will take them into the All-Star break.

Watkins had this solid outing against one of the majors’ best hitting clubs. Toronto began tonight first in the majors in slugging, and second in homers, OPS and runs. Toronto was 5-2 this year versus the Orioles and had won seven of its last nine games in the American League East.

Watkins-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgWatkins issued a leadoff walk tonight to Marcus Semien to begin the game, and the Blue Jays second baseman scored after advancing to third on a single and coming in on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s sac fly. He hit it well ,but the ballpark held it as Guerrero got RBI No. 70. After that run scored, he retired George Springer and Teoscar Hernández to end an 18-pitch opening inning.

Then Watkins got rolling. He allowed a two-out single in a scoreless second and a one-out walk in the third. But then he got Guerrero, who leads the majors in OBP, OPS and total bases, to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play. And it came on a 2-0 count as he got him on a cutter. He would pitch around a one-out walk in the fourth and a leadoff single in the fifth.

Watkins allowed just three hits and one run with three walks and two strikeouts. He has an ERA of 1.50 after two outings and six innings of big league work. Tonight, he threw 89 pitches, 52 for strikes, and the Blue Jays went 3-for-16 against him.

Watkins was having a solid year at Triple-A Norfolk, until his call-up. He went 1-2 with a 3.58 ERA over 32 2/3 innings, allowing a .205 average and 1.10 WHIP. He pitched to an ERA of 2.89 in his last four Triple-A outings for the Tides.

Of his 89 pitches tonight, he threw 47 percent four-seam fastballs that averaged 89.5 mph and topped at 91.7 mph, per Statcast. He added cutters on 35 percent of his pitches an at average velocity of 85.1 mph. He got eight swings and missed of 42 pitches Toronto swung at.

In snapping a five-game home losing streak, the Orioles scored twice in the fourth and five times in the fifth to break this game open. They improved to 28-57 overall, 13-26 at home, to 11-17 in series-opening games and to 5-5 in their past 10 games.

Following a Ramón Urías two-out single in the fourth, Pedro Severino homered to left-center for a 2-1 lead. It was his fourth homer of the year and he had hit just one over his previous 19 games.

An inning later, the O’s got two-run homers from Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander. Mullins hit No. 16 to take the team lead on a first-pitch slider from lefty Steven Matz. Mullins has hit five left-on-left homers this year in 114 plate appearances and has 11 homers on the year versus right-handed pitching in 246 plate appearances.

Santander absolutely crushed one onto Eutaw Street - a 431-foot blast with an exit velocity of 109 mph. It was the 109th homer all-time to Eutaw Street, the 50th by an Oriole and the fourth by Santander in his career.

Down 7-1, Toronto hit three homers over the final three innings to close to within 7-5. But they fall to 43-40 and are beaten for the fifth time in their past 15 games.

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