Raise your hand if you thought the Orioles would win their second straight game against the Nationals tonight with Matt Harvey pitching another great game? Put your hand down, no you did not! But that’s what happened! Harvey looked very good and the O’s offense had two solo home runs and one crooked number inning to score five runs. The bullpen struggled but thankfully not enough to ruin the evening.
In his last start against the Royals, Harvey pitched six shutout innings with just three hits allowed. Could he do the same tonight? Yes, yes he could. Harvey was simply on tonight, looking completely different from the pitcher we have seen run out there over and over again this season.
Harvey retired the first 10 batters of the game, getting into the fourth inning before the Nationals got a baserunner. That runner was Trea Turner, who launched a double off of the out of town scoreboard in right field. But Harvey wasn’t thrown off. He quickly got a ground out and a fly out to end the inning. He then went on to pitch a 1-2-3 fifth inning and a 1-2-3 sixth inning to finish his night. It was just an incredible showing by Harvey.
I’m just really happy for Matt Harvey. Will this last? I wouldn’t bet money on it, but I will enjoy it while it lasts. Harvey hasn’t minced words about his troubles this season and how frustrating it has been for him to pitch so poorly. His anguish has been on full display and to see him bounce back is very satisfying.
In support of Harvey, the offense had another fine night. They got the bonus of not having to face Max Scherzer, the originally scheduled starting pitcher. Scherzer has a sore tricep. I wish him all the best because I am a Scherzer fan, but I don’t mind that he didn’t appear in this game.
The Orioles got on the board against the replacement starting pitcher, Jon Lester, in the first inning. With two outs, Trey Mancini hit a 414-foot blast into the bullpen for his 17th home run of the season. That gives him the team lead over Cedric Mullins and was his first home run since he participated in the home run derby.
Ryan Mountcastle joined in on the fun in the fourth inning with a solo home run of his own, giving the O’s a 2-0 lead.
Lester didn’t have a terrible night. Those two homers were the only hits he allowed through five innings. He started the sixth inning but was pulled after giving up a leadoff double to Mullins. That was the start of a three-run inning for the Orioles, and it turned out those runs were needed.
Relief pitcher Austin Voth came in and things did not go well for him. Austin Hays greeted him with a double to right field that knocked in Mullins. Not a nice thing to do to a fellow Austin!
Mancini singled for his second hit of the night and Mountcastle walked to load the bases. If you’re like me, you were wondering how they were going to blow this opportunity. But they didn’t! Pedro Severino plated a run with a single and the third run came in on a sac fly from Maikel Franco. Franco’s hit looked like it would go to the right-center gap, but Juan Soto made a nice diving catch. That guy is pretty good.
After watching Harvey dominate and the offense score five runs in six innings, it might have felt like the Orioles were going to cruise to a victory. After all, the bullpen has been pretty good lately, right? Weeeeellllll...not so fast.
Manager Brandon Hyde gave the ball to Adam Plutko to start the sevent, whose only post All Star break appearance was a third of an inning last Sunday. Plutko almost immediately blew the shutout courtesy of a Juan Soto home run, but the real trouble came in the eighth inning. I’m not gonna give someone a hard time for failing against Soto.
Plutko was pulled in the eighth inning after giving up a double to Josh Harrison in favor of Tanner Scott, who is supposedly a guy who pitches in high leverage situations. But if you’ve watched Scott this year, you know it’s not always easy. Tonight was no exception.
The first thing Scott did was hit the first two batters he faced. The second one was questionable enough to challenge, but there wasn’t any evidence to prove the pitch didn’t graze Tres Barrera’s shoe. That loaded the bases. This is when I was sure the Orioles were going to blow it. You know what I’m talking about.
Scott roared back to strike out the next two batters but Turner jumped on the first pitch for a two-RBI single. That brought the fearsome Soto to the plate, but he thankfully popped up to end the inning. That made the score 5-3, which is decidedly less comfortable than 5-1.
Dillon Tate came in for the ninth inning and shut things down properly. He did give up a two-out single, but actually looked like a proper closer. Well done.
Orioles win, 5-3! The crowd of 30,398, the largest of the season, went home happy with a win, a Jim Palmer bobblehead, and a game that took place in under three hours. The series finale is tomorrow at 1:05 as the Orioles look for the sweep.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, July 24th?
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Matt Harvey (6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K)
Ryan Mountcastle (2B, HR, BB)