The version of Mychal Givens who has pitched two straight scoreless outings for the Orioles against the Toronto Blue Jays entering Sunday’s game did so before the ninth inning, with manager Brandon Hyde going back to his early-season emphasis on the reliever facing opponents’ best hitters.
While there are times that those matchups have been in the ninth inning in traditional save situations, Givens has, for whatever reason, been better both this season and throughout his career when the finality of a ninth-inning save isn’t looming over him.
Hyde said early Sunday that he’s not sure whether that comes down to the stakes or whether simply facing the best players gets the best out of Givens. All Hyde knows is there’s a little more to what he’s seeing in those situations, especially recently.
“I do feel like Mike turns it up against premier hitters,” Hyde said. “He gets a little extra when he’s facing [Mike] Trout, [Justin] Upton in Anaheim. I don’t know if it’s the inning or what it is. I’ve only known him for a few months. I just want Mike to — I feel like Mike is our best guy against their best hitters, and so whatever role that is, I feel like he does turn it up in those moments a lot of times.”
At least statistically, Givens has fared better when those have come earlier in games. In 26⅓ innings in the ninth or 10th inning, Givens has allowed 19 of the 21 earned runs on his account this year, with a 6.49 ERA. He’s yielded just a pair of solo home runs as he’s scattered seven hits in 17⅔ innings before the ninth, good for a 1.02 ERA. His WHIP is 0.623 in the eighth inning or earlier, and 1.557 after it.
Those numbers are similar to ones throughout his career. Hyde allowed that Givens “might be” a different pitcher earlier in games than later.
“I haven’t pitched him much in the seventh this year, so this whole time, I just wanted our best pitchers against their best hitters,” Hyde said. “A lot of times, it worked out where that was the ninth. I haven’t tried to slot him to be the end-of-the-game person; it’s just worked out that way a lot of times this year.
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"In Anaheim, same thing. Trout was coming up in the ninth inning. That’s when he was going to throw. If Trout was coming up in the eighth inning, Mike was going to throw then. Same thing here. [Vladimir Guerrero Jr.] has come up in the eighth inning, [Lourdes Gurriel Jr.] has come up in the eighth inning. I wanted Mike to pitch that inning. I think going forward, it’s going to be the same sort of thing — [the New York Yankees’ Aaron] Judge and the big boys come up, Mike’s going to probably pitch that inning.”
Hyde has been able to move Givens around thanks in part to the emergence of right-hander Shawn Armstrong, who struck out three while notching his second save of the week in the ninth inning of Sunday’s win.
“The last two times he’s thrown in the ninth, it’s been fantastic — San Diego and here today,” Hyde said. “That was great stuff, and he was throwing strikes in the ninth, which is what you need to do. Attack their hitters. He just did a really nice job. I think Shawn is improving, too. I think his fastball has ticked up, 95-96 [mph] and being able to locate it. It’s nice to have. Obviously, you want to have as many options as you can at the back of your bullpen. Hopefully, we can find a few more guys.”
Right-hander Dillon Tate showed promise in his three outings with the Orioles, but was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after Sunday’s game to continue his development there.
Tate allowed a run on two hits with two strikeouts, a walk, and two wild pitches in an eventful seventh inning Sunday. He yielded three home runs over three appearances, and struck out seven in six innings, impressing Hyde in the process.
“I put him in a tough spot, facing the meat of their order in the seventh inning, but did a nice job of pitching out of it, minimizing damage and getting a big punch-out with a runner at third base and one out, then leaving them stranded,” Hyde said. “A good experience for him.”
Around the horn
Hyde said right-hander Gabriel Ynoa will start Monday in a bullpen game against the New York Yankees. … Right-hander Miguel Castro is still dealing with an illness, Hyde said, so the Orioles might continue with a short bench until he’s able to pitch again. Tate being optioned could allow them to add a position player or another arm Monday.