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BALTIMORE—Andrew Velázquez is one of the most anonymous of the surprising Orioles. Velázquez, a 5-foot-8 26-year-old utilityman from the Bronx, is playing for his fourth major league organization and has finally gotten some playing time.
First, he started at shortstop when José Iglesias was slowed by a quadriceps injury. Lately, he’s been a defensive replacement in left field for Dwight Smith Jr. in the late innings.
On Saturday, when Austin Hays went on the 10-day injured list with a rib fracture, Velázquez got a new role — starting centerfielder.
In his first career start, Velázquez got his first major league triple, his first RBI and first two-hit game in the Orioles’ 7-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night.
“Athletic guy with a lot of speed,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Plays multiple positions, kind of a wild card on our team and covers us in a lot of ways, really athletic guys with great feet and an accurate arm, and he can go get it anywhere he’s at.
“He’s a threat on the bases. There’s a lot of things to like about Drew.”
The win was the Orioles’ seventh in their last eight games, and their record is 12-8 with the 60-game season one-third complete.
“I think our guys are playing with an attitude like they don’t really care what people think,” Hyde said. “They’re playing with nothing to lose, and I hope that continues for the next six weeks.”
The starting lineup against Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin included Pat Valaika in left field and Bryan Holaday, who mopped up the Orioles’ 15-3 loss on Friday night, as the designated hitter.
Holaday singled with one out in the second and scored on Velázquez’s triple to right. He came home on a sacrifice fly to right by Hanser Alberto.
That increased the Orioles’ lead to 4-0.
In the first, Anthony Santander walked with one out and moved to third on Iglesias’ double. Iglesias has nine doubles in 20 games. Both scored on Pedro Severino’s two-out double.
The Orioles have beaten Severino’s former team, the reigning World Series champion Nationals, in four of five games.
“We’ve been working hard,” Severino said. “We play hard every day. It doesn’t matter what team we play.”
Asher Wojciechowski, who started against Washington on August 9th in the game suspended because the field got soaked when it wasn’t covered by the tarp in time, gave up Juan Soto’s sixth home run in 10 games, a two-run blast in the fourth.
Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz, the only left-handed hitter in the starting lineup, homered to right in the fourth, his sixth.
Nationals shortstop Trea Turner started the sixth with a home run, and left-hander Tanner Scott relieved Wojciechowski, who allowed three runs on five hits in five innings.
Scott, who was dominant in retiring all five batters he faced, Mychal Givens and Cole Sulser combined for four, one-hit innings. Sulser picked up his fifth save.
“The bullpen has just been pitching extremely well,” Wojciechowski said. “We have so much confidence in them, and they have confidence in themselves.”
In Wojciechowski’s four starts, he’s yet to get an out in the sixth inning.
“As starters, we need to start working deeper into games, so they’re not working quite as much, but they’re doing a great job,” Wojciechowski said.
Alberto’s 11th double of the year, which leads the major leagues, drove in Velázquez in the sixth. Velázquez, who reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, his first of the season, and moved to third on catcher Yan Gomes’ throwing error, and the Orioles led, 6-3.
Iglesias’ RBI single in the eighth, his third hit, drove in Alberto, and produced the final margin.
“I’m not surprised at how we’re playing,” Wojciechowski said. “We all believe in each other. We all push each other. We’re getting familiar with each other.”
Wojciechowski, who at 31 is trying to prove himself as a starting pitcher, said that he’s ignoring those who dismiss the Orioles.
“I don’t care what people think,” Wojciechowski said. “We know what we have here … That’s the goal. Just don’t listen to any of the outside noise.”
Notes: Stephen Strasburg, who left Friday night’s game in the first inning, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right-hand injury … John Means, who’ll be reinstated from the injured list, will start against Max Scherzer on Sunday.
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