Cole Irvin’s season didn’t start the way he wanted. After coming in from Oakland in a trade, Irvin had a 10.66 ERA in his first three starts, and he was sent to Triple-A.
His comeback as a starter on Saturday also didn’t start as he would have hoped. He gave up singles to two of the first three hitters, getting into a position he was in regularly in early April – throwing with his back against the wall.
Fittingly, it was a stellar hold against the wall from right fielder Anthony Santander that allowed Irvin to exit the first inning with a zero on the board and weight on his shoulders.
Irvin and his defense were stellar for the remainder of his start, as the left-hander threw 5 1/3 one-run fly ball innings to earn his first win as an Oriole in Baltimore’s 6-1 win. on the visiting Kansas City Royals.
Irvin exuberantly threw up his arms and tipped his cap at Santander, who received roaring cheers from the announced 34,136. Later, he tipped his cap to center fielder Aaron Hicks for a sliding catch in the second inning and to second baseman Adam Frazier for a jump shot in the third.
While his defense was outstanding, Irvin was sharp himself. He scattered six hits and struck out five, combining his lead and change to great effect. He didn’t walk a hitter, which should be expected for someone with his strike-pitch pedigree from his days with the Track and Field, but he struggled to command his pitches early this season. Fifty-five of Irvin’s 72 pitches were strikes.
Simply put, Irvin looked like the Cole Irvin the Orioles thought they were getting when they traded field prospect Darell Hernaiz for him in January.
Five Orioles made points in the win. Santander and Ryan O’Hearn both had RBI hits in the first. Gunnar Henderson, who hit for the first time this season, homered in the second. Austin Hays hit an RBI single in the fifth and Frazier homered a two-run in the eighth.
Irvin was retired about 25 pitches early, but the bullpen backed him up. Bryan Baker, Austin Voth, Cionel Pérez and Mike Baumann combined to pitch 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Their success, along with insurance runs from Hays and Frazier, were crucial given that relievers Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista were unavailable after pitching the last two nights.
The Orioles are 40-24 years old. They only won their 40th game last year on July 7. In 2018, 2019 and 2021 – seasons in which the club lost more than 100 games – Baltimore did not claim 40 wins until late August.
Kyle Gibson and the Orioles will go for a series sweep of the Royals (18-46) on Sunday afternoon.
Gunnar the First
Henderson led three times in his young major league career. He homered in two of those games.
With Cedric Mullins on the injured list, manager Brandon Hyde picked his youngest player to lead Saturday’s game. Henderson, 21, led twice in September after his late season call-up, hitting a homer in the first game he hit there. On his second at bat on Saturday, he threw a first-pitch slider 408 feet into the Orioles bullpen at left center to give Baltimore a 3-0 lead.
Hyde’s comfort in putting Henderson, who went 2-for-4 on Saturday, in first place is a result of the rookie starting to warm up at home plate after a slow start, as well as his discipline to marble. Henderson also led Triple-A last season.
“He led a bit in the minor leagues. With his profile on base and the way he swings the bat right now, he feels good right now,” Hyde said. “I felt like he was good at home plate and comfortable in the batting box.”
The infielder has spent most of the season hitting below .200, but entered Saturday with an OPS of .874 since May 8. In his last 26 at bats, Henderson had 10 hits with three homers.
“I know it just takes a while to get my feet under me here at the big league level because I’ve never had to start a season here,” Henderson said. “It’s a bit different in the minor leagues, you can get up a bit faster. Here you face the best pitchers day after day. I knew it would take a little time.
around the horn
- Ryan Mountcastle is still feeling bad, Hyde said before the game, and hasn’t started for the fourth time in eight games. Hyde said the collapsed first baseman could be available on the bench, but Mountcastle has not been called up.
- Hyde said Mullins, who is in Sarasota, Fla., is rehabilitating his right groin strain, has started baseball activity. “Looks like he’s progressing really well,” Hyde said.
This story will be updated.
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
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