It just seems so simple. We all know it’s not.
But what unheralded right-hander Gabriel Ynoa did Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays had to be met with a collective face palm from the Orioles’ fan base.
That’s what it takes to succeed in the majors. So simple. And yet apparently so hard to execute, especially for the Orioles’ beleaguered 2017 rotation.
Ynoa, 23, threw strikes, attacked the zone and turned in his best performance of his young big league career: one run in eight innings in a 3-1 Orioles victory.
Yes, the Rays are basically playing out the string, too. Yes, a performance like this was too little too late for an Orioles club that has won three of its last 15.
Yes, September outings can be deceiving. And, yes, this is the same Ynoa who was 6-9 with a 5.25 ERA in 21 starts at Triple-A this year, so he wasn’t exactly banging on the big league door for most of the season.
“So what do want him to do, pitch poorly? And say, ‘OK that’s an aberration, so he’s going to be real good next time.’ This is the thing that makes you go, ‘OK, can he continue to do that?’ As opposed to what? Tease us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Sometimes the game plays better when guys are more aggressive or pitches around the plate more. That’s the equation you have to figure out. He did his part and he’ll get the ball again. See if it continues against another team.”
When a guy like Ynoa, acquired in February from the New York Mets for cash considerations, mixes pitches, throws strikes and keeps the pitch count low – he threw 94 in eight innings – well, it shows that it can be done.
“Command my fastball and then work on my breaking pitches and try to get the hitter out of balance. That was the game plan for today,” Ynoa said through interpreter Ramon Alarcon. “You have to be very efficient against this team. They try to swing early, swing hard. So, I just tried to manage my count, try to get ahead of the count. Try to get the hitters as quickly as possible.”
Now, before we anoint Ynoa as a member of the 2018 rotation, let’s be frank: We have no idea what the Orioles have in the Dominican Republic native.
Maybe he is the guy who allowed five runs in nine innings in his first two starts for the Orioles this month. Or maybe he is the guy who kept a solid Rays offense limited to five hits and two walks.
He’ll get a chance in spring training, I’d imagine, to show he can do it more consistently.
But, for a night anyway, what he proved is that a simple pitching formula – work fast, throw strikes, mix your pitches – really can work.
“Every game, I take it as it’s the last game of my career,” Ynoa said. “So, I’m just trying to take advantage of these opportunities and show that I can help.”