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Inside the Orioles' batting-practice meeting that sparked their run of well-pitched games

Their meeting wasn't meant to go as long as it did, but there the Orioles pitchers were on the left-field grass of the Texas Rangers' Globe Life Park, huddled in a circle as their teammates buzzed batting-practice line drives past them ahead of last Wednesday's game.

The night before, they had turned a 12-5 lead in the ninth inning into a 12-11, stress-ulcer of a win. So after they loosened up and played catch to prepare for Wednesday's game, pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach John Wasdin called them all together for a message that sparked the best week of pitching this team has had.

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Tuesday night's 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays was the sixth game in a row in which the Orioles pitched like, well, big leaguers. And that was the idea the coaches chose that unique venue to push across.

"It was basically just to kind of wake us up a little bit, and realize that we're here for a reason," left-hander Paul Fry said. "We're not here because we're getting endless opportunities. We're here for a reason. We've got to do our jobs. … It just instilled confidence in us again, and also lit a fire under our butts.”

"They don't just hand baseballs to anybody to go pitch in the major leagues," right-hander Dan Straily said. "You've got to earn this, and everybody here has earned the chance to be here."

In the six games since that moment in Texas, the Orioles have allowed 17 runs, 15 of which were earned, in 56 1/3 innings for a 2.40 ERA in that span. The bullpen has allowed four earned runs in 21 1/3 innings for a 1.69 ERA.

It's just six games out of 66, accounting for a fraction of what's been a painful major league season for a rebuilding team, albeit a year in which every success is to be savored. Even pitching this well, they’re 2-4 in that stretch, having scored 15 runs.

But it's bad business to beat up a team that loses so often after a loss, so for the pitchers and coaches to open a conversation like that on a day after a win was appropriate.

"I feel like there's never a good time for those conversations because it usually means that something didn't go right before, and I think we got fortunate that we still won that ballgame in terms of like, we got a chance to experience something negative but still learn from it with a positive outcome," Straily said.

"We just had a good meeting of all the pitchers and tried to tell everybody you're here for a reason and need to start pitching in the zone and try to get guys out and just have fun," closer Mychal Givens said.

The recent run of success is owed a bit to the message that came that day.

"It was needed,” Fry said. “We all just had gotten into a groove — I know I did, too — where I was just picking corners and not trusting my stuff. It was there for us to wake up and trust our stuff, start going right at hitters. We see the results when that happens. We're in close games all the time. I'm glad that things turned around."

While the starters have carried their part of the success with five straight quality starts before John Means' five-inning, one-run effort Tuesday, the bullpen's success comes after much more significant struggles. The Orioles bullpen entered Tuesday having allowed 45 of 121 inherited runners to score (37%), the fourth-highest rate in baseball.

They haven't allowed one to score in the past six games, though, with left-hander Richard Bleier stranding the tying run at second in the eighth inning Tuesday. Right-hander Josh Lucas said the meeting did a lot to address the practice of cashing in teammates' runners, too, and served as a reminder of the consequences of that.

"You've just got to kind of reinforce that in the bullpen we're a brotherhood," Lucas said. "We've got to have each other's back. I loved it. Anytime we can have little talks like that and pick each other up is great."

"We kind of generated those meetings among each other after that, how we're going to attack guys, from our long guys to our closer," said right-hander Shawn Armstrong, who pitched two scoreless innings Tuesday to give him 13 outings without an earned run in 15 since joining the Orioles. "I think us doing that together and working with him, working with our catchers and the wonderful job our scouting department does, I think it makes our job easier."

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The result has been a little more comfort for all involved. Hyde is certainly noticing.

"We had that one hiccup in Arlington, but besides that, the other six games, our bullpen was throwing the ball great, and they’re kind of feeding off each other a little bit right now," he said. "Pitching with a little bit of, it seems like, more purpose. They’re throwing more strikes, they’re attacking hitters more, they’re able to get to two strikes and put guys away. It’s been great.”

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