It was two innings at the end of a blowout win for the Orioles. But for the second time in two outings, right-hander Jorge López threw scoreless ball out of the bullpen. He’s now thrown three scoreless innings in his new role on the pitching staff.
Over two innings Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, López, who went 3-14 with a 6.35 ERA in 25 games as a starter, retired six of seven batters, fanned four, allowing no hits or runs.
In his first relief outing, when he pitched one inning versus Atlanta on Sunday, his fastball, averaging 95.2 mph for the year, was at 95.7 mph, topping at 96.3 mph per Statcast. Yesterday, his fastball averaged 97.0 mph, topping at 97.5 mph.
So three scoreless innings out of the ‘pen on one hit with one walk (to Shohei Ohtani) and six strikeouts.
The Orioles have to be intrigued with what they see. López has long looked like a potentially solid bullpen option because he often seems to begin his starts throwing quite well and almost always had hit a fifth-inning wall. Now, in a bullpen role, he can give the Orioles multiple innings and maybe even be a pitcher they could give some ninth-inning leads to and see how it looks.
He’s got the stuff to get outs any time in the game.
The stat sheet doesn’t agree with my assessment of him often starting well. He actually has an ERA of 6.48 and a .311 batting average against in the first inning this year. His ERA goes down after that to 5.04 in the second inning, 4.91 in the third and 3.80 in the fourth. Then comes the fifth and an ERA of 14.79.
On a team desperate for pitching, it’s worth looking at López in this role for the rest of the year. Sure, the Orioles need starters desperately as well, but if this can provide a bit of a reboot or fresh start for López, then go with it.
As we’ve seen on this team, a pitcher can start out in a low-leverage bullpen role and work his way into something bigger quickly. López was in a close game Sunday, pitching the ninth with the Orioles behind 3-1. When he came on for the eighth yesterday, the Orioles were leading 8-1 on their way to winning 13-1 over the Los Angeles Angels.
So far, so good on his move to the bullpen. Now let’s see more of where this leads.
Other O’s notes:
* The Orioles trailed the Angels 6-2 after the top of the fourth on Wednesday night. From the last of the fourth through the end of the game, they outscored the Angels 21-1.
* The O’s scored 31 runs in the three games, getting 23 over the last two wins, and this is their highest-scoring series of the year. The Orioles had 37 hits in the series, including 12 doubles and seven home runs. They went 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position on Thursday and 13-for-31 in the series.
* The Orioles held their opponent to one run or less for the 13th time this season and three hits or fewer for the sixth time, and the last was Aug. 2 at the New York Yankees. Their 13 runs Thursday tied for their second-most this year; they also scored 13 on June 29 at Houston. Their highest-scoring game of the year was June 6 in an 18-5 home win over Cleveland.
* The O’s win margin of 12 runs Thursday was their second victory by a run margin of 12 or more and topped only by that win by 13 runs over Cleveland. It was the first time the Orioles scored 13 or more runs while hitting just one home run or less since Aug. 30, 2019 at Kansas City.
* O’s lefty Keegan Akin picked up his first win since Sept. 16, 2020 against Atlanta and threw a career-high seven innings, allowing three hits and one run. This was his third start of the season allowing one run or less, and first since his first two starts of the year on May 30 and June 4. He is two strikeouts shy of 100 for his career.