If Matt Harvey had spent the first half of the season pitching as well as he has thus far in the second half, he might not have been around to make Friday night’s start for the Orioles.
Instead, the veteran right-hander’s struggles leading into the All-Star break kept contenders uninterested, even as he came out of it with consecutive starts of six shuout innings. Friday’s trade deadline passed with Harvey still a member of the Orioles. That meant he could keep that scoreless streak going in a 4-3 victory against the Detroit Tigers.
Pitching a season-high 6 ⅓ innings, Harvey became only the fourth Oriole in the past 50 years with three consecutive starts of at least six innings without allowing a run, joining Kevin Gausman, Fernando Valenzuela and Jim Palmer. The scoreless run survived thanks to left-hander Paul Fry, considered a more legitimate candidate to dealt entering deadline day, stranding two of Harvey’s runners in the seventh.
Harvey said the success is the result of moving past pitching how he used to as a flamethrower for New York Mets, starting the All-Star Game in 2013 and guiding them to a World Series in 2015.
“Now, it’s pitching backwards, just trusting my stuff and really trying to mix things in, not become predictable,” Harvey said. “When you’re throwing 100 or 97, 98 to 100 [mph], whatever it was, with a 92, 93 mph slider, things are a little bit easier, so now it’s about pitching, pounding the zone, getting guys off balance. That’s really been the biggest difference.”
Harvey retired the first six Tigers, then worked around base runners in the third, fourth and fifth. In the top half of each of those innings, an Oriole homered to support Harvey, with batterymate Pedro Severino, shaking off a poor first half of his own, offering two and Ryan Mountcastle supplying the other. After Ramón Urías added an RBI single in the sixth, Harvey worked a perfect bottom half, completing six innings on 73 pitches.
“Just continuing what he’s doing, which is really locating well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That slider tonight, I thought, was really good. But working ahead in the count, pitch count’s down. Just excellent pitching, both sides of the plate. Keeping guys off balance. He’s not trying to rear back and throw 96 and kind of miss in the middle it’s 93, 94 on the edges. Just totally under control.”
He allowed two singles to open the seventh before a hard lineout to center prompted manager Brandon Hyde to call on Fry. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said before the game the Orioles (36-66) came “pretty close” to trading away at least one reliever, with Fry among the likeliest possibilities. Instead, he got a popout and strikeout to push Detroit to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
His performance also held Harvey’s ERA improvement in place; since he entered the All-Star break with that figure at 7.70, it’s fallen to 6.20. He said he hasn’t allowed himself to wish he had pitched like this in the first half.
“I think if you do that, then you look back at your entire life and want to change things, and that’s not really possible,” Harvey said. “My whole thing is to keep moving forward and try not to think about the past too much.”
By enduring the trade deadline, Harvey will spend the next two months with the Orioles. He would like to “just keep this going.”
“Obviously, in a perfect world, you don’t give up a run, but that’s probably not realistic,” Harvey said. “Or maybe it is, you never know.”
Tanner Scott, another possible trade candidate, allowed a leadoff triple in the eighth then threw a wild pitch to produce the Tigers’ first run. A single, hit batter and walk followed, and Hyde called on Dillon Tate with the bases loaded and no outs to face future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, who homered twice in Thursday’s series opener. He nearly did so again, but his drive to Comerica Field’s deep center field was caught at the wall for a sacrifice fly.
At a projected 422 feet, it was tied for the longest out made against the Orioles since Statcast was introduced in 2015. Severino said he didn’t think the ball was out off the bat because of the ballpark’s deep dimension, but added, “If we were playing in Baltimore, yes, twice.”
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A Tate wild pitch allowed another run to score, but Cole Sulser pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the victory.
Through the first half of the abbreviated 2020 season, Severino was perhaps baseball’s best offensive catcher. But in the close to that year and the first portion of this one, he often struggled.
Perhaps he’s recaptured early 2020. With his two home runs Friday, Severino is batting .333/.400/.767 since the break, having gone deep in nine second-half games as many times as he did in 61 appearances in the first half. He cited a change in mentality.
“First half, when I go to the batter’s box, I was just trying to hit homers every single pitch,” Severino said. “I’m just trying to be more relaxed and just see the ball and get the ball to the barrel because I’ve got the power to hit the ball out, but I just have to make contact.”
Around the horn
- The Orioles activated Anthony Santander from the COVID-19 injured list and optioned right-hander Thomas Eshelman to Triple-A Norfolk. Santander started in right field and batted fifth, going 0-for-3 with a walk.
- Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann (left bicep tendinitis) will make a rehab start Saturday with High-A Aberdeen, Elias said. He’ll make one more rehab start next week before rejoining the Orioles.
- Elias said the hope is that left-hander Zac Lowther will be recovered from his left shoulder strain by the end of August.
Saturday, 6:10 p.m.
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