Spenser Watkins shines as Orioles defeat Rays for third straight win - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Orioles

Spenser Watkins shines as Orioles defeat Rays for third straight win

Spenser Watkins
Photo credit: Mary Holt - USA Today Sports

The Orioles finally found a way to beat the Tampa Bay Rays.

Spenser Watkins paved the way with a stellar start in which he allowed one run in a career-high six innings in a 6-1 victory Monday night at Tropicana Field.

Watkins was ready to walk away from the game this year and took a coaching job at Paradise Valley High in Phoenix before he got the call from the Orioles.

“He’s a great story,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “I just like that he’s pitching with confidence. The home plate umpire, who I’ve known for a long time, just mentioned to me that he was impressed with his stuff. He was surprised that he hadn’t been in the big leagues for very long, just because of the crispness of his stuff and how he can command.

“He’s not going to be overpowering, but he’s got a nice cutter, throws some good changeups to a mostly left-handed lineup, with a breaking ball, and is able to locate his four-seamer. Able to work in and out and change speeds, so he’s pitching. The old-school art of pitching instead of trying to blow the ball by everybody at the top of the zone. It’s fun to watch.”

Austin Hays took over the leadoff spot for Cedric Mullins, who is batting .167 (3 for 18) in five games against the Rays — his lowest against any opponent. Hays had three hits with an RBI and has hit safely in 15 of his last 20 games, batting .333 (24-for-72) during that stretch.

“It’s nice to give Mullins a day off and have production at the top of the order,” Hyde said.

The Orioles beat Tampa Bay for the first time in seven tries and have won three consecutive games, tying their longest winning streak of the season.

Watkins (2-0) showed solid command in his third major-league start, allowing just four hits with seven strikeouts and two walks. He has allowed three runs in 16 1/3 innings since the Orioles selected his contract from Triple-A Norfolk.

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Watkins joined Dean Kremer as the only Oriole pitchers to allow one earned run or fewer in his first three major league starts. Hyde confirmed that Watkins will remain in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

“I’ve learned pretty much entirely who I am as a pitcher,” said Watkins, who’s 28. “I’ve always kind of had an idea of who I was as a pitcher, but the ability that this staff has had to kind of maximize who I am as a pitcher and really upgrade me in a sense, I’m still me, but I think there were some upgrades that came along with just working different things and how to maximize my stuff. It’s just been incredible.”

Trey Mancini had two hits and is batting .375 (9-for-24) with four home runs and nine RBIs in seven games against the Rays this season.

Rays left-handed starter Ryan Yarbrough (6-4) has struggled against the Orioles this season. In his previous two starts, Yarbrough allowed eight runs and 11 hits in 12 innings.

The Orioles managed to put pressure on Yarbrough in the first inning. Hays and Mancini led off with singles before Ryan Mountcastle had a run-scoring double. Anthony Santander hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Mancini for the Orioles’ second run.

Mountcastle has 74 career RBIs, the second-most by an Oriole in his first 122 career games, trailing Trey Mancini (75).

Watkins got into a potential jam in the fifth when Brandon Lowe managed to reach on a grounder to second baseman Pat Valaika in the shift. However, Lowe was called out after a replay review.

The Orioles threatened in the sixth when Santander earned a 12-pitch walk and Ramon Urias singled up the middle. After striking out Pedro Severino and getting Ryan McKenna to ground out, Yarbrough allowed a two-run single to Valaika, who delivered his first RBI in 16 days. Kelvin Gutierrez lined a single that boosted the lead to 5-0 and ended Yarbrough’s night.

Matt Wisler replaced Yarbrough and gave up an RBI double to Hays.

The Rays finally scored in the sixth on a double by Randy Arozarena that scored Austin Meadows, who had walked.

“I thought he was keeping his stuff, he was throwing strikes, he was locating for the most part,” Hyde said. “We were playing good defense behind him. I didn’t have a couple of guys available today, so I was trying to get him to go as long as he possibly could. Once we got that 6-0 lead in the top of the sixth, I wanted him to go as far as possible. He did a nice job finishing that sixth inning and the bullpen guys did a good job after him.”

Cole Sulser pitched a scoreless seventh and was pulled for Paul Fry after issuing a lead-off walk in the eighth. Fry retired the next three batters. Tyler Wells closed out the game with a perfect ninth, striking out two.

The Rays have 28 comeback victories, second in baseball behind the Boston Red Sox (29). However, there was no comeback on Monday night.

“It’s so much better when you win,” Valaika said. “To start off the second half with a couple of wins has been really nice. So far, we’ve been playing some really good baseball with pitching and timely hits. Hopefully, we can continue to keep doing that for the rest of this half.”

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Birdman

    July 20, 2021 at 7:26 am

    With Means returning, Watkins’ emergence, and Harvey getting on track (hopefully), the O’s starting rotation is suddenly looking a lot better.

  2. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 20, 2021 at 8:06 am

    And with Bruce Zimmermann also returning by mid August and maybe Thomas Eshelman pitching as their 5th starter not so bad after all. 3 straight wins and 2 well pitched games is also making the bullpen look very well again also! It’s amazing how a couple of well pitched games can turn around a team. Just goes to show that pitching is the key to success in baseball. So the Orioles need to continue the development of all their young pitchers and don’t rush them! When they’re ready, they’ll bang on the proverbial door!
    Spenser Watkins just throws a lot of strikes. He doesn’t overthrow and screw up his mechanics. Just pitches within himself. Seems like an old school pitcher to me. Pitches ahead of hitters and also had 7 strikeouts! Doesn’t seem to be intimidated by other teams rosters so far. Kremer should take in what Watkins is doing and stop overthrowing and just pitch to your spots. Watkins also didn’t have his catcher playing like a goalie in hockey either, very much in control with no wild pitches unlike Kremer. But Kremer could be that guy too, he just needs to learn how to pitch and take a page out of Watkins.

    • Buzz1979

      July 20, 2021 at 8:08 am

      Ethelman released to make room for means.

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        July 20, 2021 at 8:23 am

        Buzz – I didn’t read that anywhere but I don’t doubt it either. A move needed to be made. Just wondering where you saw that. Anyway, I guess someone else will have to grasp the opportunity just like Watkins!
        Also, forgot to mention Lopez. He can be another good starter if he can get over the mental block of the 5th inning. He has the stuff to do it.

    • CalsPals

      July 20, 2021 at 10:46 am

      Doesn’t make sense, Valdez, yes, last roster move dates 7/20 sending Franco for rehab assignment, mentions nothing about Eshelman…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 20, 2021 at 2:26 pm

      Ahh, you didn’t say that…go O’s…

  3. Buzz1979

    July 20, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Boddicker all over again!!!

  4. Balt mp

    July 20, 2021 at 8:12 am

    He throws 90-93 with control . But there are two things that seem right now at least to seperate him from Akin and Kramer he can control his off speed stuff and he gets the mental part of the game he has a plan and so far can execute it unlike the other two that just rare back and try to throw it thru a wall with no idea of where it’s going.

    • OhMy!

      July 20, 2021 at 8:37 am

      Stat check – BB/9IP:
      Akin 3.7
      Kremer 4.3
      Watkins 4.4

      • Buzz1979

        July 20, 2021 at 1:25 pm

        Meaningless!

      • Birdman

        July 20, 2021 at 2:09 pm

        Stat check – 2021 WHIP:

        Watkins 1.163
        Kremer 1.611
        Akin 1.800

  5. Orial

    July 20, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Damn Todd you were doing so good and then you had to go and say–“Spenser first O’s pitcher to give up 1 run in his first 3 starts since—Dean Kremer”. Ouch!! He’s impressive,knows where to throw strikes,has a purpose AND he actually makes Severino look pretty good. Gotta love Tyler Wells’ demeanor on the mound. Reminds me of a Mark Trumbo with a chip on his shoulder. This Kelvin Guittierrez really looks like a ballplater–big,strong,strappy. Afraid that might be all. Palmer saying(and I agree) “Hays just needs to stay on the field,play everyday” to make his projected progress. Good luck with that. Fun to watch.

    • ToddKarpovich

      July 20, 2021 at 8:44 am

      LOL. Don’t shoot the messenger.

  6. Orioles20

    July 20, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Watkins has looked good. Hopefully he’s able to sustain it. Hays and Urias need to be in the lineup everyday. Stop putting Stewart in the lineup. He’s not good and is a bust. I don’t care about his two hit game the other night. Two hits means nothing when your as bad as him.

  7. EkimC

    July 20, 2021 at 9:31 am

    The key sentences in Todd’s report were from Hyde… “Able to work in and out and change speeds, so he’s pitching. The old-school art of pitching instead of trying to blow the ball by everybody at the top of the zone. It’s fun to watch. “ That has been what I’ve see from Alex Wells going back to his days at Delmarva. He’ll never impress you with power because he “pitches” and doesn’t throw. For the current road trip he’s on the “taxi squad”. I just hope he gets a fair shot. Watkins performances have hopefully opened some eyes that will allow him a chance to show that “pitchers” have a role too.

  8. willmiranda

    July 20, 2021 at 11:37 am

    Hey, Todd, how does Rich feel about your getting to write about wins all the time?

    • ToddKarpovich

      July 20, 2021 at 11:41 am

      Rich is back tonight. The Orioles might clamor for me to continue writing, ;>

    • CalsPals

      July 20, 2021 at 11:52 am

      Lol, good point…go O’s…

  9. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 20, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Young Mr. Watkins has certainly caught our attention, ‘eh boys?

    Personally, he’s reminded me of Greg Maddux these first two games. That’s right, I’m comparing him to quite possibly the greatest ‘pitcher’ of all times after only 2 games.

    But then I remember thinking that Harvey may have rediscovered his Dark Knight persona earlier in the year after but a couple of starts or so. How wrong was I then? So, what did I learn from this mental gaffe?

    Well I’ve learned to pull hard on the reigns of optimism when dealing with such a small window of success, and that I need at least ONE more performance like last night before going all in on the kid! Only then then can I compare him to one of the greats with confidence.

    No Coke …. Pepsi

    • CalsPals

      July 20, 2021 at 1:00 pm

      Agree, we all need to see some light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully it’s not Mikey & his Crazy Train.;)….go O’s…

  10. dlgruber1

    July 20, 2021 at 1:06 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated with Watkins success so far, but as was pointed out in the article, the guy he duplicated with his success is Kremer. The league hasn’t seen Watkins and that’s been an advantage for him so far. I’d love nothing more than for him to sustain this success but I’m also gonna contain my enthusiasm. I’ve been burned WAY too many times in the past. If he is able to continue on pitching so well I wonder tho, is there such a thing as a playing pitching coach?

  11. Buzz1979

    July 20, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    The Kremer thing screams “D’Oh!”

  12. jimpalmer65

    July 20, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    Watkins is a great story. Hope he can maintain it. Oh yeah, No Coke… Pepsi

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