The solution to scoring very few runs is to give up none. That's a tall order to give to a rookie making his major league debut, as Mike Wright was doing for the Orioles on Sunday afternoon. Wright was up to the challenge, blanking the Angels for 7.1 innings to help lead the Orioles avoid a sweep with a 3-0 victory over the Angels.
Wright, a third round pick from the 2011 draft out of East Carolina University, is the sixth player to make his debut out of that draft class. He's already got a better career than four of the five others. He worked through the Angels lineup quickly and without a lot of drama. They only got four hits off of him and he never walked a batter. Is that allowed? It turns out that it is. Wright also had six strikeouts, the first of which was recorded in his first inning against none other than Mike Trout,
There was only one hairy inning for Wright. After retiring the Angels in order each of the first three innings, he gave up a leadoff single to Kole Calhoun to start the fourth inning. All the no-hitter oxygen was sucked up by Shelby Miller today. Wright got an easy popout to second from the dangerous Trout before giving up an Albert Pujols double off the left field wall.
That set up two men in scoring position with only one out for the Angels. Luckily for the Orioles, the Angels employed the bold strategy of using Erick Aybar as the cleanup hitter. Aybar is slugging .312 this season. It's hard to describe it as "slugging" when it's that low. Aybar hit a grounder to the drawn-in Manny Machado, who fired home and threw out Calhoun. Wright escaped the jam by getting Johnny Giavotella to strike out swinging at an off-speed pitch. That was one of six strikeouts.
The fourth was the only inning all game where Wright even allowed multiple baserunners. Good thing too, because he was not given much of a margin to work with. The O's scratched out a run in the bottom of the same inning. Adam Jones beat out a single off of a swinging bunt and hustled his way to third on a routine single up the middle off the bat of Delmon Young. The alert Jones took advantage of the fact that Trout plays so deep out in center field.
Taking the extra base proved to be crucial. When Angels starter Garrett Richards uncorked a wild pitch, his second of the game and sixth of the season, Jones was able to race home when the ball bounced far away from the catcher. That gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead, which for a long time felt like it was all they were going to get.
Wright kept mowing down the Angels, keeping his pitch count low. He was hitting 98 on the radar gun in the first inning and still hitting 97 as he struck out David Freese to start the eighth inning. That's a good way to get noticed. Matt Joyce reached with a single, which prompted O's manager Buck Showalter to lift Wright from the game. Wright had only thrown 90 pitches and was about to face the bottom of the order, but Showalter didn't feel the need to push it any farther.
As he walked to the dugout, the crowd of 41,733 fans rose to its feet to applaud Wright's effort. His teammates were waiting for him in the dugout to congratulate him. He earned the accolades, and, thankfully, Brad Brach kept Wright in line to win his big league debut by striking out the next two Angels batters.
The O's picked up some insurance runs with a two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth. Machado hit a two-out single to finally chase Richards from the game. He was no slouch himself, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out seven in 7.2 innings. Most days that will get you a win. Not today.
Angels reliever Mike Morin was welcomed to the game by Jimmy Paredes hustling out an infield hit, giving a nice chance for insurance to Jones. The face of the Orioles franchise did not disappoint, driving a ball that made it all the away to the wall in left center. Both runners scored, with Paredes rewarding an aggressive send with a good slide into the plate. The Orioles were up 3-0, still in save range, but with a bit more breathing room.
As it ended up, they could use a bit of breathing room. O's closer Zach Britton got a couple of ground ball outs to start things off. Trout nearly beat out his grounder to Machado with one out. Machado looked a bit hesitant after his recent problems. Despite a double clutch, he was able to fire the ball to first and retire Trout.
Pujols hit a clean single to left and ended up on second base when Aybar grounded a ball deep enough into the hole at shortstop that J.J. Hardy wasn't able to throw anybody out. Just like that the tying run was at the plate. Britton never lost his cool. He whiffed Giavotella to get the Orioles back into the win column.
CSN Baltimore writer Rich Dubroff noted that Wright winning his debut in Baltimore was the first time that had happened for an O's pitcher since Jake Arrieta did so on June 10, 2010. This was the first scoreless MLB debut start for an Orioles pitcher at home since Anthony Telford on August 19, 1990, which I mention only because I was there that day.
For his effort Sunday, Wright was rewarded with a post-game pie to the face. Jim Palmer asked Wright what flavor was the pie. "Delicious," Wright replied. He will probably never taste a better pie.
Will Wright be sticking with the big club for a while? Showalter wouldn't commit to that in the post-game press conference. After all, Wright only made the start due to a Bud Norris illness and a very minor Chris Tillman injury. When those situations are resolved, he could be back down in Norfolk. It's a safe bet he'll be back.
The Orioles get an off day on Monday before the Mariners come into town on Tuesday. Neither team has announced their starting pitcher for the 7:05 game.