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In vintage pitching matchup, Matt Harvey outlasts, outduels Jon Lester in Orioles’ 5-3 win over Nationals

The All-Star break allowed Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey to flush an atrocious first half. Perhaps no pitcher has been better to start the second.

Building off the six scoreless innings he pitched against the Kansas City Royals, Harvey held the Washington Nationals to one hit over another six shutout innings Saturday night as the Orioles secured a series victory over their regional rival with a 5-3 win in front of a season-high announced crowd of 30,898 at Oriole Park. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde called the break “a nice little recharge of the batteries” for Harvey, who said that boost came both physically and mentally.

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“When you feel like you’re so close and you go out there and one inning here and there gets the best of you, it gets a little mentally draining,” Harvey said. “I think definitely being able to just kind of flip the switch and just really pretend that I’m starting fresh and trying to concentrate on being out there every fifth, sixth, seventh day, whatever it is with all these off-days, and just trying to try to win as many games I can for this team and really just kind of start over.”

The day began with Harvey set to oppose Nationals ace Max Sherzer; the two faced off as the starting pitchers of the 2013 All-Star Game during Harvey’s heyday with the New York Mets. Instead, another matchup from his past was renewed. With Scherzer scratched with right tricep discomfort, the Nationals turned to Jon Lester, who started for the Chicago Cubs against Harvey and the Mets in Game 1 of the 2015 National League Championship Series.

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Before Saturday night at Camden Yards, that August marked the last time Harvey pitched consecutive scoreless starts. He retired the first 10 Nationals he faced Saturday before Trea Turner doubled to right, but then retired Juan Soto and Josh Bell to strand Turner at third. He did not allow another base runner, his night ending after 83 pitches. Hyde considered sending him out for the seventh but could tell “it was time to go with somebody else” when they spoke after the sixth.

“This guy didn’t pitch much last year,” Hyde said. “Kind of the last four years or so has been sporadic outings, injury, etc., then didn’t do too much last year at all. And this year, he’s pretty much stayed regular. I pushed him back a bunch of days at times, but I think the All-Star break, giving him that nice nine-, 10-day break really helped.”

With the trade deadline less than a week away, perhaps those 12 innings could convince a contender desperate for pitching to give Harvey, a 32-year-old pending free agent, a shot after he ended the first half with a 7.70 ERA, having lasted five innings in only one of his final dozen starts. Harvey said the possibility was not of concern to him.

“Obviously everybody knows when it is and it’s there, but really, my job is to go out and prepare for each start and see what happens,” Harvey said. “I obviously haven’t put up very good numbers, other than the previous two, to really be a target or whatnot, but at the end of the day, those decisions aren’t mine, so I can’t really worry about them. My job is to go out and win ballgames for the Orioles, and luckily, I’ve been able to do that the last two, and I’m going to continue to do that from here on out.”

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With his scheduled start moved up a day, Lester mostly matched Harvey, with a long home run from Trey Mancini on the first pitch he saw from Lester accounting for the only hit by either team through three innings. But after Harvey stranded the tying run in the fourth, Ryan Mountcastle doubled Baltimore’s lead with another solo shot in the bottom half.

The Orioles (33-64) broke the game open in the sixth. Cedric Mullins led off with a double to knock Lester from the game, then Austin Hays soon doubled him home. Hays scored on a bases-loaded single from Pedro Severino, with Mancini recording the inning’s third run on Maikel Franco’s sacrifice fly. The crowd roared with each score, and Hyde said the players talked in the dugout about the “noticeable difference” in energy.

“We need to have Jim Palmer bobblehead night more often,” Hyde quipped.

With Harvey out of the game, Adam Plutko surrendered a home run to Soto in the seventh, then allowed a leadoff double in the eighth. Behind him, Tanner Scott hit two batters in the foot, struck out the next two, then allowed a two-run single by Turner. But Scott got Soto to pop out in foul territory to end the inning.

“He made the pitch of the game getting Soto out there,” Hyde said. “I think we all know that that he’s got electric stuff. The fastball’s upper 90s, the slider’s a wipeout slider. At times, he can be a little erratic. I think you kind of have to ride the wave a little bit.”

On the three-year anniversary of the trade that sent him and two others from the New York Yankees to Baltimore for closer Zack Britton, Dillon Tate pitched a scoreless ninth for the save, his second of the year but first when entering with a narrow lead in the final inning.

Greene latest newcomer

Having placed right-hander Tyler Wells on the 10-day injured list Friday, the Orioles selected the contract of right-hander Conner Greene from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday. Greene, 26, has been a member of the Orioles’ taxi squad for several road trips this season and had a 7.39 ERA with the Tides; his first appearance with Baltimore will be his major league debut. Because Anthony Santander and Keegan Akin are on the COVID-19 injured list, there were already openings on the 40-man roster for Greene.

Hyde praised Greene’s personality and arm. Through a former coach, Greene has become friends with actor Charlie Sheen and even appeared as an extra in his show, “Anger Management.” He selected the show as his favorite sitcom after quipping, “I would say ‘Two and a Half Men,’ but I don’t know if Charlie even likes that anymore.”

Draft class nearly finalized

The Orioles signed three more members of their 2021 draft class Saturday in sixth-round pick Collin Burns, seventh-round pick Connor Pavolony and 20th-round pick Trendon Craig. All three players signed overslot deals, with Craig receiving a bonus of $250,000, according to a source with direct knowledge of the agreements.

Based on reported bonuses, the Orioles have less than $200,000 left in their allotted bonus pool to use toward their final unsigned selection, 14th-rounder Daniel Lloyd, who can sign for up to $125,000 without counting against the pool.

NATIONALS@ORIOLES

Sunday, 1:05 p.m.

TV: MASN, MASN2 Radio: 105.7 FM

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