ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — The Orioles haven’t won many low-scoring games this season, and there are many reasons for that. A major reason why was on display in their 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
The win was the Orioles’ first in 19 games this season in which they’ve scored two runs or fewer.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter always preaches about the value of looking at the game in 90-foot increments, that keeping a runner from taking an extra base is key to limiting opposing offenses.
And on Friday, the Orioles cut down three Tampa Bay runners on the bases. Getting those outs were incredibly valuable in making a strong starting pitching performance from rookie right-hander David Hess hold up.
“That’s the corner we need to turn and get back to those things,” Showalter said. “Won a couple games on the road, close to winning two in Boston. I’m hoping we are making some progress toward getting back there.”
There have been times this season when opposing teams were able to move around the bases at will against the Orioles. And the Orioles entered Friday’s game having allowed 35 stolen bases, tied for fourth most in the majors.
Combine that with the fact that Orioles also entered Friday’s game ranked last out of 30 major league clubs in defensive runs saved with minus-45, a mark that was 13 runs worse than the second-lowest team (Philadelphia Phillies, minus-32), and they haven’t helped themselves defensively or by controlling the running game.
But on Friday, the Orioles helped themselves early. Hess’ 6 2/3-inning scoreless outing could have gone much differently. Hess opened the game allowing a leadoff double to Rays first baseman Brad Miller, but two batters later, Hess picked Miller off second on a well-timed throw and nice tag by shortstop Manny Machado.
That at-bat ended with a Joey Wendle single, so had Hess not erased Miller, he likely would have scored to tie the game at 1.
“To be able to have a clean slate even after that makes a big difference and you’re able to lock in and keep going,” Hess said.
Catcher Andrew Susac entered Friday having thrown out just one of six potential base stealers – a number that is slightly skewed because he had few opportunities in last week’s game in Boston when the Red Sox stole five bases on Kevin Gausman by timing his pickoff move. But on Friday, Susac threw out two runners on the bases in key situations.
He threw out Mallex Smith, who drew a one-out walk in the second inning, to end the second inning as he attempted to steal second base.
A bigger play came in the fourth inning, when the Rays put two on with one out in the fourth and a slider in the dirt got away from Susac. But he stayed with it, and was able to throw out Wendle, who attempted to move to third on the play. Hess induced a force out to escape that inning.
Hess took it upon himself to get out of the fifth when a leadoff walk to Smith quickly led to a base runner on third on a balk call and a pickoff throw that went through Jonathan Schoop at second for an error. But Hess was able to induce three straight groundouts to the left side to strand Smith at third.