As Hanser Alberto’s go-ahead home run sailed over the left-center field fence at Camden Yards, the realization of a potential milestone six years and several injuries in the making entered Hunter Harvey’s mind.
Alberto’s eighth-inning, three-run homer pushed the Orioles past the Kansas City Royals, 4-1, after they had lost eight straight and 13 of 14. Harvey, the Orioles’ 2013 first-round pick, pitched a scoreless eighth in a 1-1 game for his second career appearance and first at Oriole Park, earning his first major league win thanks to Alberto’s tiebreaking shot.
“When Hanser hit that home run, I kind of got little chill bumps,” Harvey said. "A wave went over me for a second. It didn’t feel real.”
Harvey’s electric stuff announced itself to an announced home crowd of 11,826 Tuesday, the 24-year-old right-hander’s first appearance since his scoreless debut in Boston on Saturday night. That outing followed a minor league journey that saw him miss most or all of three seasons with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and most of last year after suffering a shoulder injury dodging a foul ball hit into the dugout.
Although his debut was scoreless and featured two strikeouts, Tuesday’s showing was perhaps more impressive, with Harvey retiring all three batters he faced in the eighth inning of a tie game, including strikeouts of All-Star Whit Merrifield and Royals home run leader Jorge Soler. He punctuated his outing by catching Soler looking on a 99.8 mph fastball, the third-hardest pitch an Oriole has thrown this season.
Statcast tracked 11 of Harvey’s 20 offerings at 98 mph or higher.
“The guy’s been through a lot,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “To be able to stand on the mound with presence and a no-fear attitude, I’m really into it. I just love the way he attacks guys. He’s going to have rough outings, also. But the stuff is so good, and I just love the composure. I love his make-up.”
Hyde was so enamored with Harvey that he pulled starter Dylan Bundy after 83 pitches in seven one-run innings. The Orioles (40-86) trailed until the seventh, when Rio Ruiz’s RBI single evened the game to spare Bundy from what would’ve been a hard-luck loss.
Regardless, though, the eighth was Harvey’s.
“I was throwing him if we were down 1-0 or tied or up a couple,” Hyde said. “He was in the game in that eighth inning. I wanted to see it.
“I’m not worried about throwing him out there in any situation.”
And Harvey isn’t afraid to be in any situation, though this wasn’t a reality he imagined when he got moved to Double-A Bowie’s bullpen in June as what he figured was part of a plan to manage his innings. In the two months since, he has a 2.60 ERA as a reliever with Bowie, Triple-A Norfolk and the Orioles.
Bundy, the Orioles’ 2011 first-round pick who overcame his own share of injuries before sticking with the club permanently, was one of many players who got Harvey into a laundry cart after the game to douse him with various liquids in what’s become a traditional celebration for the Orioles and their milestones.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Bundy said. "He got his first win, and we celebrated in here for it. It’s been a long time coming for him.
"He deserves it more than anybody, I think, and he’s worked his tail off to get back up here.”
Alberto: ‘That was a big one’
After Harvey’s scoreless eighth, Trey Mancini walked and Jace Peterson did the same two outs later. Alberto then punished Jacob Barnes’ 1-1 cutter for his eighth home run of the year.
He trotted around the bases with his right arm extended in the air.
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“That was a big one,” Alberto said. “I was so happy in the moment.”
Mychal Givens earned his 10th save with a scoreless ninth as the Orioles ended their losing streak.
“It’s been tough,” Alberto said. “It’s not a secret. Hopefully, things change from tonight, and tomorrow, we can win the game and win the series and continue putting some W’s on the board.”
Clearing the sixth
The sixth inning has doomed Orioles pitchers all season, but especially lately. It seemed they could be in for more trouble when Soler singled on Bundy’s first pitch of the frame.
But Bundy, who entered Tuesday’s start with a 12.10 ERA in the sixth inning, bounced back by getting Hunter Dozier to hit into a double play before Alex Gordon lined out to end the inning. His seven one-run innings came on only 83 pitches as he cruised after allowing back-to-back singles and a sacrifice fly to start the second inning.
“He pitched, and that’s what he’s been doing,” Hyde said. “He’s just had really some tough luck, from my standpoint, of that sixth inning has been a bugaboo for our whole club, especially for him. I was just really happy with how he threw the ball.”
A single and walk in the third put another Royals runner in scoring position, but Bundy worked out of the jam and ended his outing with five scoreless innings. He allowed only two hits from the fourth inning on and eliminated both runners on double plays, striking out seven.