Few Orioles fans had heard of Spenser Watkins before Tuesday night’s game. Watkins is one of nine Oriole pitchers to make his major league debut this season, and one of 29 pitchers the team has used.
The Orioles signed a number of free-agent pitchers, including Watkins, just before spring training. There were so many, manager Brandon Hyde acknowledged before he pitched for the first time on Saturday night that he knew little about him.
Watkins pitched a scoreless inning on Saturday and, with a starting spot open, Hyde decided to give him a chance against the Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday night.
In five innings, Watkins gave up just a run on three hits for his first major league win as the Orioles beat the Blue Jays, 7-5, before 7,338 at Oriole Park.
Only Marcus Semien, who drew a walk to begin the game, scored against him, and the Orioles (28-57) backed Watkins with three home runs.
“For his first-ever major league start, I thought he threw with no fear,” Hyde said. “We haven’t gone five innings very often. To see a starter go five innings was fantastic.”
Watkins became the first Oriols starter to win a game since Bruce Zimmermann on June 8th.
“There were absolutely some nerves going on,” Watkins said. “Getting my feet wet in Los Angeles was a huge step for me in the sense that I knew what to expect coming in, with the adrenaline and everything.
“Nerves were definitely there, but adrenaline was showing through.”
Since he pitched so well, Hyde is eager to see more of Watkins.
“We’re going to run him out there his next time out,” Hyde said. ‘We’re going to give him an opportunity to start for us. We’re short in the rotation. [John] Means is going to come back here pretty soon, but there’s a lot of season left, and we’re going to need people to pitch innings for us and, hopefully, Spenser can continue to throw like that.”
Catcher Pedro Severino hit a two-run home run, his fourth, against Steven Matz (7-4) in the fourth.
The Orioles scored five runs in the fifth. Domingo Leyba, who was inserted into the lineup after third baseman Maikel Franco was scratched because the ankle he sprained on June 30th still hasn’t healed, reached on an error by shortstop Bo Bichette.
Centerfielder Cedric Mullins followed with a two-run homer, his team-leading 16th, for a 4-1 lead.
Designated hitter Trey Mancini singled against Trent Thornton, first baseman Ryan Mountcastle doubled, and Mancini scored on a wild pitch by Thornton. Rightfielder Anthony Santander followed by crushing a 431-foot home run onto Eutaw Street, his sixth home run of the year and the 50th by an Orioles batter to land on Eutaw.
Santander has struggled since returning from a month on the injured list because of a sprained left ankle.
“It’s been tough, for sure, especially when you’re trying to help your team win,” Santander said through a translator.
Dillon Tate inherited a 7-1 lead and pitched two innings, allowing a home run by Randal Grichuk in the seventh. Grichuk has 21 homers in 48 games against the Orioles.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hammered a 438-foot home run against left-hander Tanner Scott with one out in the eighth, his 28th. The Toronto (43-40) slugger has five in eight games against the Orioles this season.
Lourdes Gurriel hit a two-run home run with one out in the ninth against Tyler Wells to make the final score 7-5.
The Orioles are scrambling for starters, and Watkins appreciated Hyde’s decision to give him another start.
“It feels incredible,” Watkins said. “If anything, it pushes me to get ready for that next start right away. I’d love to soak it in and take it, but I’m ready to get my feet back on the ground and get to work. Having that opportunity to be relied on, to go out and eat some innings is a huge thing.
“It’s something I’ve prided myself on my entire career, of being able to eat innings, go deep into ballgames, give my team a really good chance to win. So to be blessed with that opportunity is massive for me.”
Notes: Baltimore Ravens Hall of Fame tackle Jonathan Ogden threw out the first pitch. … Matt Harvey (3-9, 7.34 ERA) will face Hyun Jin Ryu (7-5, 3.65) on Wednesday night.
Minor Matters: Dean Kremer allowed seven runs, four of earned, on five hits in 1 2/3 innings as Triple-A Norfolk lost to Durham, 11-0. The Tides had just four hits. Rightfielder Yusniel Diaz struck out four times and is hitting .194.
Rightfielder Kyle Stowers had three hits, and leftfielder Robert Neustrom, designated hitter Doran Turchin and centerfielder Johnny Rizer each homered to lead Double-A Bowie over Richmond, 9-4.
Cody Sedlock (2-1) allowed three runs on six hits in five innings. He struck out seven without walking a batter.
Gunnar Henderson had three hits, including his first home run, as High-A Aberdeen lost to Greenville, 6-5. Henderson, who played third base, raised his average to .114.
Centerfielder Mason Janvrin had two hits, including his sixth home run, in Low-A Delmarva’s 4-2 loss to Salem. Third baseman Jean Carmona also had two hits.
Jake Lyons allowed one unearned run on three hits in four innings of relief.