BOWIE — Orioles pitching prospect Michael Baumann took his dominance since joining Double-A Bowie to a new level Tuesday night with the third no-hitter in Baysox history. He mowed down Harrisburg on 95 pitches in a 6-0 victory to solidify what’s been one of the most significant leaps any pitcher in the farm system has made this season.
Baumann issued just two walks — one to the first batter of the game, and another with two outs in the seventh inning — but faced just one batter over the minimum and got better as the game went on. He ran his fastball to 97 mph in the ninth inning with a swing-and-miss slider, highlighting a dominant four-pitch mix.
“He was nasty today” manager Buck Britton said. “That’s big league stuff tonight, for sure.”
The no-hitter seemed fated early in the night for the Orioles’ 2017 third-round draft pick, even if it came with a little luck. Baumann delivered a 3-2 fastball at the knees to Michael A. Taylor that was a shade outside to walk the leadoff man, but a smooth double-play turn by Mason McCoy and Jesmuel Valentin on the next pitch erased it. Baumann was out of the first inning with a ground ball on the next pitch, and never saw any kind of trouble again.
His fastball started out 92-93 mph but climbed as the game went on, mostly saving his 89-mph slider as a chase pitch with two strikes. In between, and impressively considering the economy of a 95-pitch complete game, Baumann was working on his development goals of throwing more changeups and curveballs, especially to left-handed batters.
"His slider is probably his best right now," pitching coach Kennie Steenstra said. "We're really emphasizing trying to use his changeup and curveball a little bit more, especially to the left-handers, to try to get them off. As you well know, as you continue to move up the levels, you have to get something a little softer. That's been the emphasis with him so far, trying to get those two pitches implemented into the mix a little bit more."
Catcher Carlos Perez, who Britton said was “really good,” made sure Baumann threw those pitches early in at-bats, knowing he had the fastball command and bat-missing slider to get him back in counts if needed. While the curveball seemed to be the clear fourth pitch Tuesday, his changeup was far more effective than a pitch he was simply just working on. The pitch had good fade and was finding weak contact off the end of the bat, which he says will help going forward.
"It gives me confidence just to go out there and say, ‘Hey, these pitches can help you and you can use them to your advantage,’ " Baumann said. “To be able to see some guys take not-the-best-looking swings on them and throwing other pitches off that was pretty encouraging.”
The Senators had to respect every pitch, though, and were unable to take advantage of Baumann’s fastball. He had 21 swinging strikes Tuesday, and nine were on fastballs. It’s an effortless mid-90s fastball with four-seam ride, and he gets downhill on it from a delivery that brings the ball deep behind his body.
"It's one of the better fastballs in the league, if not the best," Britton said. "He creates some serious angle with that fastball."
Like all no-hitters, Baumann’s was aided by the defense. Outside the first-inning double play, a pair of fifth-inning standout plays in the field allowed him to achieve Tuesday’s feat. Left fielder T.J. Nichting sprinted in for a tricky catch about 10 feet behind the infield dirt down the third-base line for the second out of the fifth, and two pitches later, third baseman Rylan Bannon charged and bare-handed a dribbler down the line for the third out.
To that point, Baumann was matching zeroes with Harrisburg starter Steven Fuentes. It was after that inning that he began to think about what was before him.
“Honestly, I kind of knew throughout the game — the other guy on the opposing mound was pitching pretty well, too, so I knew I had to keep going out and matching what he was doing out there,” Baumann said. “Once the fifth inning came around, I was aware, and then once I got through the seventh, it kind of was in my mind more.”
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Baumann was made to wait through Bowie’s five-run eighth inning before he could continue, though, and got antsy as his teammates built the final 6-0 margin. But the wait didn’t affect Baumann. The eighth was the second inning of his night in which he didn’t throw a single ball, and he showed how much he had left in the tank, throwing 96 mph in the eighth and hitting 97 mph on his first strikeout of the ninth.
His 95th and final pitch froze Taylor for the right-hander’s 10th strikeout of the game and solidified that Baumann is perhaps doing the most of any pitcher in the Orioles’ system to enhance his reputation.
After a dominant start to his full-season career at Low-A Delmarva in 2018, with a 1.42 ERA in seven starts, he went to High-A Frederick and had his fastball-heavy approach challenged. He was far better there at the start of this season, with a slider he says he’s just getting more feel for and a fastball that’s finding an extra gear to help him more than double his strikeout rate over the two stints in the Carolina League.
He debuted with Bowie on June 22, and after two scoreless relief outings, he’s made three starts, totaling 27 innings with one earned run allowed on 10 hits and 32 strikeouts against eight walks in the Eastern League. His 0.33 ERA gives the Bowie rotation four of the five best ERAs in the league — alongside Alex Wells (1.95), Zac Lowther (2.54) and Bruce Zimmermann (2.69) — and he does it with a level of stuff that the Orioles’ organization is short on.
“First impression has been really good,” Steenstra said. "He’s got the body, he’s got the stuff, he’s got a really good work ethic from what I’ve seen so far. Has a good idea of what he wants to do between starts and during his starts. Obviously has some pitches already that are very good quality and we’re working on a couple more. He’s been as-advertised so far.