Austin Hays, Tyler Wells lead Orioles win in final

Austin Hays, Tyler Wells lead Orioles win in final

BALTIMORE — A day later than they expected, the Orioles are en route to St. Louis for the first time since 2003. It took them a rain-slogged four-day stretch against another team from Missouri to make it to that point — all while riding their best stretch of winning this season.

The Orioles are victorious in four of their last five and six of their last nine after Monday’s breezy 6-1 win over the Royals at Camden Yards. The ways in which they have won only enhance the satisfaction.

“That’s what our goal is, to probably win every series,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “On the homestand we split with a good club in the Twins and won two series [against Boston and Kansas City]. Happy with how we played.”

Making a rare trip to the Gateway to the West, there are three revelations to keep in mind:

1. Wells is finding his footing

Tyler Wells’ weekend was as toyed around with as much as anyone’s along the Eastern Seaboard this past week. Initially slated for Saturday’s tilt, he was then pushed back to Sunday with the first postponement, then pushed even further when Game 2 was called, leapt over by Bruce Zimmermann in the pitching order.

But time spent idle was time not wasted, as Wells returned to action with some career feats: his first Major League win as a starter, and his first time completing six innings in the big leagues. Both were modest achievements, but ones he hadn’t accomplished since 2018, when he was pitching for the Twins’ Double-A affiliate.

“I wouldn’t call it a milestone,” Wells admitted. “Since Tommy John surgery, yeah, six innings and a quality start, I guess, is what you could consider the milestone. But the way I’m looking at it right now is just making sure that I go out there and I give my team a chance to win, and that’s exactly what happened today.”

“It’s not easy, doing what he’s doing in transitioning,” Hyde said. “That’s what people need to understand. It’s not easy transitioning from a bullpen to a starter, not pitching for two years prior to that, and to be able to post every five to six days the way Tyler is doing right now. That’s why we’re monitoring it so closely, because we care so much about the kid — we believe in him going forward.”

Wells is being pitched under a watchful eye due to a dearth of innings in recent years (Tommy John surgery, a pandemic-canceled Minor League season, a bullpen role). In each of his starts, he’s being reared in based on a calculation of pitches (usually 60-75), innings (usually five to six), how many of those were stressful and other factors, such as days of rest and bullpen availability.

Whether his long-term viability and maximized potential comes in a starting role or out of the bullpen is to be seen. What isn’t up for debate is this: he has not walked a pitcher in four consecutive outings, a span of 18 1/3 innings.

Also this: the Orioles received a quality start in every game of this wonky series.

2. The offense is finding its identity

The tools have been bountiful. When clicking, the O’s believed their offense could be the ones they’ve longed see come through Baltimore, with pressure coming from all angles — and in vastly different manners. Maybe it’s Jorge Mateo’s spark-plug nature, or Austin Hays’ complete profile (more on him later) or Ryan Mountcastle waking from his early-season slumber.

But the tools have been lacking, until this past week. Monday wrapped up a two-series slate in which O’s batters scored just three runs in their first two games, were called out by their manager, and then scored 28 across five. Six came in the fifth inning of the finale against the Royals, with four scored on singles and one more on a wild pitch and a forced errant throw on a stolen base from Mateo.

“Making things happen with his speed is a huge factor,” Hyde said. “Game changing.”

3. Hays is finding his groove

If Monday looked like how the Orioles have envisioned their offense long playing out, the past week was the same for Hays.

It’s not that their left fielder, who was one of their top prospects just a few years ago, wasn’t thought to be capable of such a stretch, but he was still searching for a clean and enduring bill of health.

Now he’s getting that lucky.

Hays went 2-for-3 on Monday, scoring when he reached via a hit by pitch as part of the six-run fifth. It was his fourth multihit performance in his last six games and his sixth in his last 11, batting 19-for-41 (.463) in that span with six extra-base hits. On the year, he’s hitting .327 (sixth in the AL as of last out Monday) with an OPS of .903 (eighth).

“He’s, for me, in that kind of that range right now where it’s kind of time to go,” Hyde said pregame, “and he’s got the ability to to be a really good player.”

It was a red-letter week for the 26-year-old, making a dynamite throw on Thursday to nab a runner at home. All told, he’s said he prefers defensive gems to home runs. But doing both at once?

That might make him an All-Star.


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