BALTIMORE—After eight consecutive losses, the Orioles finally broke their second-longest slide of the season with none other than Hunter Harvey getting the win.
A week ago, it would have been a stretch to think that Harvey would get a win in the big leagues after six years of injuries and struggles in the minor leagues.
But something changed for Harvey and the Orioles when he moved to the bullpen in June at Bowie, and then when he made his major league debut at Fenway Park with a scoreless inning last Saturday night.
Entering a 1-1 game with the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning on Tuesday, Harvey retired all three of his batters, striking out the last two, Whit Merrifield and Jorge Soler. His last pitch to Soler registered at 100 mph, something he didn’t know until his postgame interview.
His job done, Harvey watched Hanser Alberto hit a three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Mychal Givens then pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save, and the celebration began. Teammates pushed Harvey into a laundry cart, and toasted him after his first win.
“It was tough, but it was fun, though,” Harvey said. “They made sure I celebrated right.”
Seeing Alberto’s home run go out, Harvey had a special feeling.
“It was awesome. When Hanser hit that home run I kind of got little chill bumps and it was just a little wave went over me for a second because it didn’t even feel real, but it was awesome.”
Harvey’s first appearance at Fenway was more celebration. His first outing at home was more businesslike. After suffering through multiple injuries, including Tommy John surgery, the Orioles’ top pick in 2013 finally took the field at home.
“There’s nothing like pitching at your home field when the fans are behind you, so it was really nice,” Harvey said.
Dylan Bundy, who was the Orioles’ No. 1 pick in 2011, also had a difficult route to the majors, taking nearly five years. He, too, had to have Tommy John surgery.
“Couldn’t be more happy for him,” Bundy said. “He’s been through a whole lot of injuries, not just the arm. He deserves it more than anybody, I think, because he’s worked his tail off to get back up here.”
Bundy threw one of his best games of the season, allowing a run on five hits and striking out seven in seven innings before giving way to Harvey.
“That was seven really good innings,” manager Brandon Hyde said about Bundy. “Could have gone further. But I just thought that he threw fastballs in again tonight against a couple of their big guys that allowed him to have the slider away and the curveball and the changeup. I just thought he had really good stuff and he really pitched well.”
The Orioles had not only lost eight straight, but 13 of 14. Alberto’s eighth home run of the season was the difference.
Trey Mancini walked against Jacob Barnes. With two outs, Jace Peterson walked, and on a 1-1 pitch, Alberto deposited the ball into the Orioles bullpen, where it was caught by Richard Bleier. Alberto ran around the bases with his right arm aloft.
“That’s the first time,” Alberto said about the celebration. “It was a big one. I was so happy in the moment. Obviously, I hit a home run and put the team on top to win the game.”
The win gave the Orioles a 40-86 record. They last won on August 11 on Rio Ruiz’s ninth-inning, two-run homer for a walk-off victory against the Astros.
After two sloppy losses punctuated by sixth-inning breakdowns, the Orioles played crisply on defense in a game that lasted just two hours, 19 minutes.
“We played major league defense tonight and that was a huge key to the game,” Hyde said. “We just played good defense and obviously we have to do that to give ourselves a chance win games.
“We have not played our best defense as of late, and that’s been frustrating. That’s been bothering me quite a bit, our defensive execution and allowing extra outs and good teams to continue to roll the lineup over on us. Tonight we did not do that and it was fantastic.”
Last year, the Orioles won their 40th in the 134th game, putting them eight games ahead of that pace.
Davis sits: For the second straight game, Chris Davis was not in the starting lineup against a right-handed pitcher. Since he had his dugout dispute with Hyde, Davis is 2-for-16. He’s hitting .179.
“He’s fine. I just wanted Trey to play first base again,” Hyde said. “It’s nothing more than Trey not playing the outfield and trying to give him a little bit of a breather and playing first base.
“CD’s fine, and will be in there soon. It’s all about Trey with that decision.”
Trumbo update: Hyde continues to hope that Mark Trumbo, who’s still rehabilitating his right knee, will be able to play next month when the rosters are expanded.
Trumbo had surgery on his right knee last September, and he’s twice been forced to rehab assignments.
“He’s doing all baseball activities right now,” Hyde said. “We’re gearing him up for September … hopefully, there’s no setbacks, probably have to send him out to play some games prior to that. As of right now, everything’s on track. Hopefully, Mark can join us in September.”
Dwight Smith Jr. had three hits for Norfolk in the first game of his rehab assignment on Monday night. He was 1-for-2 on Tuesday night as the DH, and the plan is for him to play left field on Wednesday.
“Sounds like things went well [Monday] night,” Hyde said. “Sounds like there are no problems at all. He came out healthy.”
Starting five: Hyde added Ty Blach to the starting rotation on August 12, and he’s started twice. Some weeks back, Hyde said he thought the fifth starter’s spot could be in flux in the final weeks of the season. He’s sounding more confident now.
“Anything can happen,” Hyde said. “The way our pitching is, you can’t predict anything. I’m not planning on it. I hope that these five guys, they throw the ball well and we end the season with them.
“You never know, especially in September. That sixth month of the season can get to guys, so we’ll see.”