Matt Harvey and Miguel Cabrera once collided at the center of baseball stardom. The former was a young fireballer for the New York Mets when he started the 2013 All-Star Game, while Cabrera was the American League’s No. 3 hitter amid a campaign that earned him a second straight AL Most Valuable Player award. Harvey struck out Cabrera on five pitches.
When the All-Stars realigned Wednesday night at Camden Yards, the wears of the time passed were apparent. Once reliant on velocity, Harvey has seen those values dip as age and injuries have taken their toll, though of late he has recaptured some effectiveness. Cabrera is not to be feared as he once was, his days of dominance fading over the past half-decade, but he still bats in the three-spot for the Detroit Tigers. It was in that spot of the order, in the third meeting of a rain-delayed matchup with Harvey, that Cabrera jump-started the Tigers to a 5-2 victory, breaking a scoreless tie in the fifth inning with his 499th career home run.
Harvey had not gotten to that moment smoothly, having left the bases loaded in the first and third innings. His first half with the Orioles (38-74) saw him serve as, in many ways, the majors’ worst starter. But as he took the mound for the fifth, Harvey had allowed only two runs in 26 1/3 innings since the All-Star break, time off he said allowed him to recharge physically and mentally. Even after Detroit struck for three runs in the fifth, his second-half ERA of 1.65 ranks as the third-best among qualified starters.
He’s improved largely by diversifying his repertoire. Wednesday, he set season-highs in both curveballs and changeups thrown. Since MLB’s Statcast began tracking in 2015, Harvey has never used both pitches as frequently as he did Wednesday night.
“I think it’s just a trust thing,” Harvey said. “It’s learning how to use [those pitches] in certain counts, learning how to not revert back to my old ways of just kind of overpowering guys with the fastball and slider. It’s getting in tough situations and being able to feel comfortable using it with runners on, or behind in the count. It’s all the work that’s been put in, and the trust, and just being able to feel comfortable using every single pitch in any count. It hasn’t been easy the whole time, but it’s obviously something that we’re continuing to work on.”
Cabrera had singled in both of the Tigers’ fruitless bases-loaded efforts, but he finally broke Harvey’s dam by sending a hung curveball delivered in a 1-2 count out to left field. The solo shot left him on the precipice of a career milestone but was only his 12th of the season; he has not hit more than 16 home runs since 2016, the year of his most recent All-Star selection.
A subsequent double, passed ball and walk put runners on the corners with one out. A shovel toss home from first baseman Trey Mancini on a bunt attempt got the inning’s second out, but Niko Goodrum grounded Harvey’s 1-0 pitch down the right-field line past a diving Mancini for a two-run double, then exiting with a left groin strain after reaching second. Manager Brandon Hyde categorized the hit as being to “the right spot down the line” and said Harvey pitched “extremely well.”
“I just see him making a lot more quality pitches,” Hyde said. “The changeup was really good tonight, the slider was really good tonight. It’s unfortunate he hung that curveball to Miggy there, but he made pitches all night long. And they kind of got some good luck there in the fifth. But he’s executing pitches a lot better than he was the first half and mixing pitches much better and not center-cutting fastballs behind in the count. He’s had a good sinker the majority of the year, and it doesn’t seem like he’s trying too hard. Now, he’s really just pitching and pitching to corners and keeping guys off balance, so he has come a long way since early in the year.”
Cabrera came up two more times with a shot at No. 500, hacking at the first pitch each time. He lined a sacrifice fly to right off Dusten Knight in a two-run sixth and grounded out in the ninth against Dillon Tate.
Only Anthony Santander’s eighth-inning home run, his fourth homer in three games, prevented the shutout as he continued a torrid August, but couldn’t stop a seventh straight defeat. Santander tied Luke Scott with his sixth Eutaw Street homer and trails only Chris Davis’ 11 for the most in ballpark history. Cedric Mullins (18 games), Austin Hays (nine) and Santander (eight) all extended their respective hitting streaks.
The Orioles got to former first overall draft pick Casey Mize a few times in Tuesday night’s series-opening loss, but the second of the three rookie starters they’ll see from Detroit shut them down.
Left-hander Tarik Skubal limited them to five hits and a walk while striking out six in his six innings. Baltimore did not put multiple base runners on against him until they were already down five in the sixth. Skubal escaped by getting Ramón Urías to ground out to Cabrera at first.
Urías, who has been dealing with soreness in the upper part of his right leg and groin area, was replaced by Maikel Franco at third base in the eighth inning. Hyde said he aggravated the injury on that groundout.
Around the horn
- First baseman Ryan Mountcastle won’t be activated from the seven-day concussion injured list when first eligible Sunday, but Hyde said he is improving.
- The Orioles activated left-handed reliever Tanner Scott (left knee sprain) from the 10-day IL and optioned left-hander Alexander Wells to Triple-A Norfolk.
- After the game, the Orioles optioned reliever Isaac Mattson. Hyde said pregame the Orioles expect to activate right-handed reliever Tyler Wells (right wrist tendinitis) on Thursday.
- When the Orioles activate left-hander Bruce Zimmermann (left bicep tendinitis) from the 10-day IL, he will join the rotation.
Thursday, 4:05 p.m.
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