BALTIMORE—On Friday night, Stevie Wilkerson was surprised when he was asked to pitch for the first time in his professional career. The Orioles were being blown out, and with a doubleheader coming up, manager Brandon Hyde wanted to preserve his bullpen. Wilkerson pitched a perfect ninth.
On Saturday afternoon, in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, Wilkerson hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning for a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Orioles had just five singles entering the seventh. Wilkerson’s eighth home run of the season drove in Anthony Santander, who led off the inning with a single.
It was the Orioles’ first one-run win since they held on to beat Texas, 12-11, on June 4.
“They’re both good for the memory bank,” Wilkerson said about the past two games. “I’ll never forget either of those. I’ll take today’s over yesterday’s for sure.”
Aaron Brooks made his first start with the Orioles since he was acquired on waivers from Oakland a week ago. Brooks didn’t allow a hit and was lifted with two outs in the third.
Jimmy Yacabonis gave up a home run to Mike Zunino, his first hitter, and then singles to Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham before making it through the sixth. The three hits were the only ones given up by Oriole pitchers.
Richard Bleier got the win, his first since May 9, 2018. The Orioles hadn’t won a game not started by Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner or John Means since May 27.
Mychal Givens pitched the final two innings for his seventh save, his first since June 11.
“I love those games,” Wilkerson said. “Watching pitchers do their thing, especially on our side of the ball. To watch Brooks come in and throw really well and the rest of the bullpen come in and throw really well, it’s baseball, and it’s fun to be a part of.”
The Orio are 28-63. Last year, the Orioles didn’t win their 28th game until their 97th game. They’re six games ahead of last year’s pace.
Bundy shut down: Bundy was placed on the 10-day injured list with right knee tendinitis before the game. He left Friday’s game after the first inning. He allowed seven runs on eight hits in the Orioles’ 16-4 loss to the Rays.
Hyde wasn’t sure when Bundy first felt soreness in the knee. After the game, Bundy said he felt the soreness in the early part of his warmup.
“I don’t know if it just flared up pregame yesterday or what happened,” Hyde said.
Bundy, who is 4-11 with a 5.28 ERA, said he thought about telling Hyde and pitching coach Doug Brocail his knee was hurting.
“I give credit to a guy who tries to gut through stuff,” Hyde said. “Dylan’s obviously a really tough kid. I probably would like to know, but I give him a lot of credit for trying to grind through things.”
The Orioles recalled right-hander Tayler Scott from Triple-A Norfolk to take Bundy’s place on the roster. Hyde didn’t say who would replace Bundy in the rotation.
“We’re in a tough spot,” Hyde said. “We’ve been doing this all year, it feels like … all year long we’ve been trying to just piece things together and try to finish games.”
After the game, Hyde said that he thought that Bundy would miss just one start. He was scheduled to start Wednesday’s game against the Washington Nationals.
Wilkerson does the job: Wilkerson, who has played the infield and outfield, was the fourth position player to pitch for the Orioles this season.
Wilkerson said it was the first time he pitched since facing one batter in high school.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and not try to make too much of a mockery out of it,” Wilkerson said. “Actually, I was a little nervous to be honest … I hadn’t stepped on a mound in 10, 12 years.
Wilkerson never had a desire to pitch.
“I think a lot of guys want to get up there and see how hard they can throw,” Wilkerson said. “Make a little game out of that. I guess I haven’t been one of those guys.”
Brooks’ debut: Hyde may put Brooks in the starting rotation. His outing doesn’t hurt his chances. It was his first appearance since June 30, and his start since April 30.
“It’s been a little while since I’ve gotten out there,” Brooks said. “I just wanted to come in and throw as many strikes as I can. Early contact keeps pitchers in the game longer. I just wanted to come in and throw strikes and give us the best chance to win from the get-go.”
Brooks threw 32 pitches and hopes to increase his pitch count by 10 or 15 in each outing.
“I’m open to anything,” Brooks said. “Obviously, we don’t get hurt and push the subject, but I also want to get out there and get some innings in, so I’m just kind of easing my way back into it and slowly build up from where we were today.”
It was his first time pitching to catcher Pedro Severino.
“It was good. Sevy was good,” Brooks said. “We were on the same page today. All these guys are really good to get along with and to be around. We’re just trying to have as much fun as we can and win some ballgames.”