Orioles right-hander Dan Straily carried a no-hit bid into the fifth inning and was as good Monday as he was bad in his first two appearances with the team, helping the club secure an 8-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on Patriots’ Day at Fenway Park.
Straily, who allowed two home runs both in his debut relief appearance with the Orioles and his first start last week, allowed just two hits and one run as the Orioles used home runs by Dwight Smith Jr. and Chris Davis and a three-hit day by Renato Núñez to leave Boston with a four-game series split.
It all started, though, with Straily, who was told by pitching coach Doug Brocail after he finished his five innings that his performance Monday was far closer to what the Orioles expected when they signed him April 5.
“I thought Dan mixed three pitches really well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought he had a really good changeup today, and a good slider, like usual. But I just thought his pitch mix was awesome. He was totally unpredictable, got a lot of ground balls, got a lot of guys caught out in front, pitched ahead to most hitters. I just thought it was a really nice pitching performance.”
“A lot better,” Straily said. “Things are starting to come together, but are no means are we satisfied, you know what I mean? It's an ongoing process, and we still hope to do this 28 more times.”
Though he walked Rafael Devers with two outs in the second inning, Straily had a 4-0 lead when he finally allowed a hit thanks to a second-inning RBI single by Núñez, a run-scoring single by Villar in the fifth, and Smith's third home run in four starts.
Xander Bogaerts' infield single did the trick on a ball that shortstop Richie Martin slid to collect and threw from his knees behind second base. The second hit, a single down the right-field line by Devers, was with much more authority.
Bogaerts scored on a fielder's choice that resulted in Hyde's ejection after he believed it should have been a double play and replay review didn't agree. But Straily limited the damage from that lost out to end the inning with just one run in. He lowered his ERA from 19.29 to 10.24.
Straily said the performance overall was more in line with what he’s expected of himself throughout his big league career, though he and catcher Jesús Sucre liked his changeup so much in the pregame bullpen that they threw far more than the game plan called for against a heavily right-handed Red Sox lineup. He got seven swinging strikes, including his strikeout of Steve Pearce, and four in-play outs on the pitch.
He said the effectiveness of his day is typically his expectation, even if the pitch-mix varied from his norm a bit.
“That’s more of what I expect of myself each time out and what I’ve been bringing to the table, that’s a lot more of what I expect out of myself when I take the ball every fifth day,” Straily said. “But no matter what I think it just shows me that what I was working on is working. Instead of still trying to get back to myself, I was able to just go out there and pitch.”
Though the Orioles relief corps has been challenged at times this year, Jimmy Yacabonis (1 1/3 innings), Paul Fry (2/3 innings), Evan Phillips (one inning), and Miguel Castro (one inning) combined to allow two hits and two walks in four scoreless innings of relief.
Davis finally homers
Davis wore the same frustrated look on his face as he has countless times this season when home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater called a strike on a 3-1 changeup off the outside corner during his eighth-inning at-bat. But he responded with something that's anything but familiar for his 2019 season.
The next pitch was an 88-mph slider that Davis turned on and deposited into the right-field bleachers at Fenway Park for his first home run of the season, this of the two-run variety after Núñez doubled with one out.
According to MLB's Statcast data, at 108 mph off the bat, the ball was the hardest Davis has hit all season. He's now batting .089 after breaking his record hitless streaks Saturday.
“It felt good,” Davis said. “Any time I can contribute to a win, and not just with defense, I feels like I got a sense of accomplishment, I guess.”
Said Hyde: “I'm sure that feels great. Everybody's ecstatic for him. He smoked that ball. I think we kind of all saw that coming with the at-bats he's been having, and working a lot of deep, deep counts. But I'm sure it feels great for him.”
… and the Orioles don't allow one
Monday was the first of the Orioles' 17 games in which they didn't allow a home run, leaving them tied for the major league record of 16 straight games to start the season with the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies.
Some lineup protection?
Trey Mancini had a single and a double to continue his tremendous start to the season Monday, and Villar reached three times as his average continues to hover around .300. But both Smith and Núñez showed well for themselves in the Boston series, giving the Orioles some hope for lineup balance going forward.
Smith homered in the last game of the homestand Thursday and had two home runs and three walks in the middle of the lineup. His two-run double in the ninth inning extended the Orioles' lead to 8-1, and his four RBIs were a career-high.
Núñez homered Friday, had two hits Saturday and is taking a six-game hitting streak to Tampa Bay along with his .293 average thanks to his team-high three hits Sunday.
Hyde said the tack-on runs that this group contributed made things easier on several levels.
“Any time you have a chance to, when you have a lead, to be able to extend leads, it saves your bullpen,” Hyde said. “It's just so important. It's just so important, and I love the fact that when we have the lead today, that we continued to battle, we continued to take really good at-bats, and not try to cruise into the end of the game, but actually like continue to score. That's what good teams do.