In just his fourth game as manager, new O’s skipper Brandon Hyde faced a huge decision – about as big of one as could be imagined during the first week of the season.
Starter David Hess was cruising to the tune of 6 1/3 IP, one (very questionable) walk, and a career high eight strikeouts.
He was cutting through the Toronto Blue Jays’ revamped lineup (one that, to my eye, isn’t any better right now on paper than the O’s lineup that seems to be the constant butt of jokes from national media types, but I digress) like a hot knife through butter. It took Hess just 28 pitches to get through the first three innings, and was showing a noticeable velocity bump compared to the pitcher we saw make a 19 (yes, really) starts in 2018.
Three strikeouts after a leadoff walk for David Hess in the fourth inning. He's at 50 pitches, and with four tonight and five on Thursday in relief, he already has more pitches over 95 mph than all of 2018. 5-0 Orioles.
— Jon Meoli (@JonMeoli) April 2, 2019
During Sunday’s Birdland Radio, on The Payoff Pitch I talked about the “secret sauce” the Houston Astros seem to have found with pitchers, and hoped Mike Elias, Sig Mejdal & Co. would bring that to Baltimore. Here’s an early isolated data point that says “maybe they did!”
After six no-hit frames, O’s fans started to allow the unthinkable to creep into our minds.
A no-hitter…man, wouldn’t that be awesome? In a season where everyone expects the team to loss 100-plus games again, what could be cooler than a one-game shining moment like that to which we could point?
The Orioles’ last no-no came waaaaay back in 1991, when four pitchers combined to blank the Oakland A’s in the hit column, while they’ve of course been on the wrong side of several in the same span. The Birds’ last no-hitter by a single pitcher? You have to go back to 1969, when Jim Palmer did it.
So forgive us for dreaming.
Complicating matters, of course, was that Hess not only isn’t ready to throw 100-plus pitches (most hurlers aren’t in early April), but that he also pitched last Thursday in New York out of the bullpen, a 42-pitch outing.
When Hyde left the dugout and approached the mound in the seventh, while many understood what was about to happen, our orange hearts dropped. Even Hess was a little surprised.
Are you ^#^# kidding me? Dude! pic.twitter.com/QoMjWq8Zwy
— Rob Daniels (@oriolesfactoids) April 2, 2019
To his credit, Hyde knew what he had to do, and didn’t hesitate. As hard as it was to pull the young pitcher, as easy as it would have been to let him keep going, the new skipper did what (in his mind) needed to be done.
While many O’s fans understood the decision, it was still a bitter pill to swallow for a good bit of Birdland.
When introduced, I will boo Hyde on Thursday for that decision.
— Greg (@Talk2Carter) April 2, 2019
This exactly. Both things can be true. It can be precisely the right move, and be the death of fun, all at the same time. https://t.co/6gJSPyD8mV
— Bird’s Eye View – Orioles Podcast ⚾️🎤 (@BirdsEyeViewBal) April 2, 2019
I get it. I’m not mad at Hyde. He made the right call. Hess wasn’t going to finish the game. But damn if it doesn’t feel awful right now.
— Orioles Fan Problems (@OriolesFanProbz) April 2, 2019
The fan in me is screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
But I have to realize that Hyde had his pitch limit for Hess in his first start (also worth noting he pitched 2 innings just three games ago).
— Dillon Atkinson (@DAtkinson94) April 2, 2019
As for Hess, after the game he seemed to appreciate his manager sticking to his guns, even in a tough situation.
Fortunately, the Birds were able to hang on to win – barely – 6-5, as the stream of relievers who came in after Hess were less than inspiring. Pedro Araujo walked the first batter he faced in relief of Hess, then gave up a two-run homer to the next. Mike Wright also gave up a dinger and two runs. In the ninth, Richard Bleier gave up a run on two hits, and fanned the 27th Blue Jay to be retired on the night with the tying run standing just 90 feet away.
Shockingly, the Birds are 3-1 on the young season. They’ve won three consecutive games, something the 2018 squad didn’t accomplish until early May. They’ve won three straight on the road, something the 2018 team NEVER did.
It would have been awesome to see Hess get the chance to toss a no-no. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. Here’s to the young man’s improvements being real and sustainable, and to him getting another chance in the near future.