Tonight was a battle of starting pitchers. One is a former All-Star and eight-year veteran. The other is Jorge López. Whose odds did you like?
After last Sunday, when López gave up three homers and seven runs to Boston in four innings, you might have been forgiven for thinking, Maybe this is the last we’ll see of this guy.
Well, take everything you know about Jorge López and throw it in the toilet. He looked mostly unhittable tonight, striking out eight Rangers over four innings while leaving the rest looking very flummoxed, indeed. He was so good that, after one strikeout, he got one of those “Okay, okay” nods of recognition as the defeated hitter walked to the dugout.
Well, except for one thing: López ran out of gas in the fifth inning and turned very hittable. He started missing around the strike zone, then gave up two consecutive solo home runs. Haha. Totally López!
The difference this time was that Orioles bats had woken up to support him with five runs, and that he held on to get the final three outs of the inning and his first win of the season. It’s hard to know what to conclude about Jorge López after this start—maybe he still profiles as a Tampa Bay-style “opener”?—, but if he continues to flash this velocity, location, and movement, the Orioles will take it.
On the other side, Mike Foltynewicz had sort of a similar outing in the sense that when he looked good, he looked really good. But tonight, he wasn’t good for very long. Foltynewicz’s arsenal features a 95-mph four-seam fastball, a 96-mph sinker, an 83-mph slider, and an 87-mph changeup. But after a three-up, three-down first inning, he faded quickly, which may reflect the injury concerns that led the Braves to cut him just three seasons out from an All-Star season in 2018.
By the third, Foltynewicz’s velocity had dropped by three to four miles, and the Orioles made him pay. Freddy Galvis led off with a deep drive to center field that turned into an easy triple. Cedric Mullins followed immediately with a run-scoring double over the right fielder’s head to put the Birds up 1-0. Unfortunately, Santander, Stewart, and Mancini made quick outs, and the rally died there.
There’d be more in the fourth, though. With the velo down, Foltynewicz turned away from his fastball and leaned heavily on his sinker. Eventually the Birds figured this out. He tossed one sinker over the plate to Rio Ruiz in the fourth, who took it deep the opposite way. 2-0 Birds.
The bats saved their biggest blows for the fifth. Freddy Galvis, who had Foltynewicz’s number all night, led off with another extra-base hit, a double to center-right. The unstoppable Cedric Mullins (hitting .404 at this point in the game) followed with a single to right. Galvis got a late jump on the ball and held up at third, but a deep sac fly from Santander scored the Orioles’ third run.
Back on April 10, the Orioles called up DJ Stewart in an attempt to give this team an offensive shot-in-the-arm, and what Stewart gave his team tonight was that. Still in the fifth, Stewart came up, took the fifth pitch he saw from Foltynewicz, another sinker, and drove the ball 436 feet deep into the bleachers. 5-0 Orioles. So far, the Orioles had seven hits, six of them for extra bases.
Back to the pitching/defense side. You may recall that Jorge López has a way of falling to pieces in the fifth inning. Tonight was no different. After no-hitting the Rangers through four, his control faltered, he started falling behind hitters, and all of a sudden, two consecutive Rangers had taken him deep. To his credit, López didn’t collapse, pushing back for three quick outs to limit the damage.
After that, the bats fell silent as the bullpens went to work. The Rangers pulled Foltynewicz for Kolby Allard, a lefty the Rangers have used as a starter in past seasons. They might want to use him as one again. He totally shut down Orioles bats over three innings, with five K’s.
Meanwhile, the Orioles bullpen, which has had shaky moments of late, had a solid night. Lefty Paul Fry pitched the sixth and the seventh. His rising fastball was zippy and strong and his slider was nasty. He faced five hitters and struck out three. Dillon Tate, who’s had issues with wildness, didn’t exactly tame them tonight, but he did get a key strikeout to end the seventh. Adam Plutko, meanwhile, continued to be reliable, this time in a late-innings role. He pitched a solid eighth, aided by a defensive gem from Maikel Franco. (The marvelous Ben McDonald: “C’mon, now! Who says Maikel Franco can’t play a little D!”)
César Valdez has had some shaky outings in the closer role, and he had a shaky one tonight, but it was good enough for the save. A flyball out was followed by a throwing error by Franco. Mancini made a great play to snag a ground ball for the second out, but failed to nail the lead runner. When a roller to third put two men on with two outs, you might have started to sweat a little. No worries, though: the dead fish came through for its team tonight, as Valdez got a swinging strike for the Rangers’ 15th and final strikeout of the night.
Kinda nice to be on the other end, isn’t it?
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Friday, April 16th?
This poll is closed
DJ Stewart (2-run dinger)
Freddy Galvis (2-for-3, 2 R)
Cedric Mullins (2-for-4, RBI, run, still hitting .396)
Jorge López (5.0 IP, 2 R, 8 Ks, 1 BB, win)
Paul Fry (1.2 IP, 3 Ks)