The Orioles’ pitching situation has become so strained that manager Buck Showalter has had to announce the starters for two of the three games against the Toronto Blue Jays less than 24 hours before they took the mound.
Rookie pitcher Evan Philips was designated to start Monday’s series opener just hours before game time and Jimmy Yacabonis was revealed as Wednesday’s starter late Tuesday night.
Showalter hates dealing with that kind of uncertainty, but it was rewarded in the series finale when Yacabonis pitched four scoreless innings and his bullpen mates helped him shut down the Blue Jays, 2-1, before an announced crowd of 11,337 at Oriole Park.
Yacabonis retired the first nine batters he faced, then worked out of bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fourth inning with the help of a big outfield assist by Adam Jones.
He left the game with a lead because fellow rookie DJ Stewart hit a ball off the right-field foul pole for his first major league home run in the third inning. Stewart also drove a ball into the gap in right-center field for his first career double in the seventh.
Stewart got his first major league hit in the Orioles’ record 108th defeat the night before, but the home run was a special moment at an important time.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’m up here to contribute to the team and help in any way I can, and to help right there where we don’t have any runs on the board and our pitcher is pitching pretty well to give him some confidence out there. It was a big momentum thing for us, I think. Yac went out there and did a very good job that last inning.”
Jays starting pitcher Marco Estrada has a long history of success against the Orioles. He came into the game with a 9-2 lifetime record and had won two of three previous starts this season.
Statistically, this was his best of the four 2018 outings. He gave up just a run on four hits over six innings, but was never in position to get the win.
Obviously, it wasn’t a particularly great offensive performance overall, but the bottom of the O’s lineup distinguished itself. Stewart was batting in the No. 8 slot and No. 9 hitter Austin Wynns had a pair of singles, so they accounted for four of their team’s six hits.
Wynns also caught a strong game and made a quick tag after receiving Jones’ critical fourth-inning throw on the wrong side of the plate.
“I though Austin Wynns was really good behind the plate,” Showalter said. “They had a good tempo. It’s not easy going through five pitchers and getting that done.”
Mike Wright Jr. took over in the fifth and pitched a pair of scoreless innings. Miguel Castro came on in the seventh and retired the side in order. But the Orioles were hanging onto a very slim lead throughout, and it’s not like they’ve had a lot of success in close games this season.
Rookie Cedric Mullins finally added a bit of breathing room when he followed up Stewart’s seventh-inning double with a sharp RBI single through the left side of the infield.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought on left-handed reliever Tim Mayza specifically to face Mullins, who did not have a major league RBI against a lefty.
His first arrived just in time, because Castro served up a long solo home run to left fielder Billy McKinney with one out in the eighth.
Wright got the win to move to 4-2, and Mychal Givens got three infield popouts to close out the ninth and record his eighth save of the season.
"That was definitely a team win on our pitching side and our defensive side,’’ Wynns said. “That's what we need to do, going ahead, bottom line … that's what we need to do."