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Orioles batters don't often get out in strike zone, but Rick Porcello had rare success there

After carving through the Orioles lineup Monday, Boston Red Sox starter Rick Porcello spoke of making his aggressive opponents expand the strike zone and swing at balls.

"Just trying to expand it beyond the spots where they want it," he said. "A lot of those guys are just — anything in the strike zone, they do a lot of damage with. So you know, we're just trying to work just off the plate, both sides, change up speeds."

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They're pitching platitudes at their finest, but they weren't exactly true. Porcello got the Orioles out in the strike zone more often than not, something few pitchers can say.

According to data on Brooks Baseball, Porcello got just six of his 14 swinging strikes on balls outside the strike zone, and 19 of the 20 balls in play that resulted in outs were pitches in the strike zone.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter often says that major league pitchers need to get hitters out outside the strike zone, but said Monday that when you live all over the strike zone the way Porcello did, it's the same as pitching outside of it.

"When you're able to work three or four quadrants of the plate, it's almost like being out of the zone," Showalter said. "You get in a little bit of a rocking chair, and you can't … hitters at this level try to box out a pitch that you can't throw over and can't get where you want to get it. Now, it cuts down the percentages of what you have to be ready for. We never really got to a point where we could box a pitch out. He threw his curveball over for strikes more early in the count a lot more than he did over there."

All this does is put Porcello in a special category of pitchers when it comes to facing the 2016 Orioles. It's not often that they get themselves out in the strike zone at that high of a rate.

For the season, according to MLB's Statcast data from baseballsavant.com, the Orioles are batting .304 on pitches in the strike zone, 13th-best in the majors. That drops to .194 outside the zone, which ranks ninth in the majors.

Their .566 slugging percentage in the zone is third-best in the majors and best in the American League, while their slugging percentage when they chase is .089, tied for fifth in baseball. Of their 237 home runs, 196 are on pitches in the strike zone, the most in the majors.

All that placed the Orioles in a precarious spot Monday. They know what happens when they connect in the zone, and got plenty of such pitches from Porcello. But that also resulted in a somewhat unfair rehashing of everyone's favorite Orioles pet peeve: they had quick at-bats. Twenty-five of their 32 at-bats lasted three pitches or fewer.

The Orioles get themselves out on balls out of the strike zone, but that wasn't the case Monday. They, simply put, ran into a pitcher who challenged them in the strike zone and came out with an 89-pitch complete game for his troubles.

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