Veteran starter Matt Harvey carried a shutout into the sixth inning to continue his pleasant late-career resurgence and didn’t have to stress too much after getting a big early lead as the Orioles topped the Oakland Athletics, 8-4, on Saturday at RingCentral Coliseum.
Harvey wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t have to be with a 6-0 lead after three innings. He had a long first inning thanks to the Orioles not turning a double play, and took a line drive from Matt Chapman off his thumb that inning and had to battle through it. He remained in control to ensure a series win for the Orioles (13-14) on the first leg of their two-city West Coast tour.
“That was a veteran performance,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Another gutsy pitching performance by him, and I just love the way he’s just so competitive. And I love the way our guys feed off that.”
He walked three without recording his first strikeout until the final out of the fifth inning, and got two quick outs in the sixth inning before a single Chapman and a run-scoring double by Seth Brown chased him.
The 32-year-old Harvey didn’t feel like he was at his best Saturday, and turned in a rare start where he didn’t register a single swinging strike on either his four-seam fastball or sinker.
“It’s nice knowing that I can have those days that are not great, don’t feel great, not throwing my best stuff and being able to battle through it and go 5 2/3 and keep runs off the board,” Harvey said. “I think that’s the biggest thing about coming back: the days you don’t feel great, being able to battle through them and to be able to get a win.”
Saturday was the third straight Harvey won, this with 5 2/3 innings of five-hit, two-run ball, lowering his ERA to 4.06. He last won three straight starts from June 21-July 1 in 2018 with the Cincinnati Reds. The last time Harvey had an ERA as low as this after April was 2015 — his first season back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction, when the Mets went to the World Series.
Harvey has long acknowledged since signing a minor league deal with the Orioles that he’s not that same hard-throwing young pitcher he was then. But he finds it satisfying to be able to pitch the way he has for the Orioles through five starts, considering he spent years in the baseball wilderness battling injury and ineffectiveness.
”I’m not really throwing 97-101 [mph] anymore so it’s definitely a different feeling,” Harvey said. “I think pitching back then was a lot easier when you have that kind of stuff, but like I’ve said all along, I think the work in between starts, realizing the pitch shapes, realizing the location, the mix, throwing more off-speed, more sinkers, really just mixing things up a lot more is definitely helping.”
Hyde said: “I know he’s had his ups and downs, but what he’s like right now is a guy that wants the ball. I see the stuff has ticked up ever since we first saw him in spring training. … I think his stuff’s improving, and he’s healthy. That’s probably No. 1. Happy to have him.”
Gifted a six-spot
The Orioles’ six-run third inning began badly for Oakland as DJ Stewart reached on an error to begin the inning and a single and walk loaded the bases for Austin Hays. Hays singled to left-center field to score two, and a third run came across when the A’s attempt to get Cedric Mullins out at third base led to a throwing error.
Hays scored when Trey Mancini skied a single into short left field that shortstop Elvis Andrus dropped on a basket catch attempt. Mancini went on to score on a scorched sacrifice fly by Ryan Mountcastle, and Maikel Franco rounded out the scoring by coming across on a wild pitch.
“I thought we had extremely good at-bats that inning, capitalized on a couple of their mistakes, but it was nice to see the line moving and see a nice rally put together,” Hyde said. “Ran the bases fairly well, good at-bats. Another good starter we faced in [Jesús] Luzardo. We got to him. I’m really happy with how we got him up in the zone. That was nice to score a bunch early.”
DJ Stewart was hitless in his last 21 at-bats before golfing a two-run home run to right field in the sixth inning for his second home run of the season.
Two innings later, he survived a scary moment when he hit the side of his head on a padded awning above the on-field bullpen in foul territory in the Coliseum while catching a ball. Stewart, who missed time in August 2019 with a concussion after being hit in the head by a fly ball, remained in the game.
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Stewart said the impact was worse on his jaw than anything else, and was glad to learn they just put padding on that rail above the bullpen bench this year.
“Thankful for that,” Stewart said. “If not, I would probably be going to see a dentist.”
Hyde wanted a big margin to let the bullpen relax, and relax they did. Cole Sulser allowed one of Harvey’s runs to score and another of his own on a home run by Mark Canha in the seventh, and Dillon Tate recorded the last five outs around a home run by Ramón Laureano. In between, Tanner Scott pitched a scoreless inning.