Povich goes 6 scoreless in second start to push O's win streak to 6

June 13th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- was so antsy for his MLB debut last Thursday that he had trouble sleeping and couldn’t eat breakfast. The 24-year-old left-hander expected to have the same anxiousness Wednesday, when he would return to the mound for his second big league start and his Camden Yards debut.

Sure enough, Povich did, again while trying to have his final pre-start meal.

“Still a little difficult to eat lunch,” Povich said. “I was able to get a little bit more down.”

But the Orioles’ No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline didn’t look nearly as nervous once he stepped on the mound in Baltimore.

Povich blanked the Braves over six scoreless innings, turning in a terrific showing in the Orioles’ 4-2 win. The southpaw scattered five hits, issued no walks and collected six strikeouts for the O’s (45-22), who extended their winning streak to a season-high six games thanks to Colton Cowser’s tie-breaking two-run homer in the eighth.

After allowing six runs in 5 1/3 innings in his first start at Toronto, Povich fared much better this time out. He retired eight of Atlanta’s first nine batters and escaped multiple jams, stranding a pair of baserunners in both the fourth and sixth during an 89-pitch outing.

Every offering in Povich’s five-pitch mix was working, as he generated 14 whiffs -- six with his curveball, three by four-seam fastball, two apiece with his sweeper and his changeup and one with a cutter. He leaned mostly on his four-seamer (40 times) and curve (23) to carve through the Braves’ lineup while throwing 70.8% of his pitches for strikes.

“That’s something we talked a lot about with him at the end of spring, about command and how important commanding your fastball is and being able to land offspeed in fastball counts for strikes, and he did all of that tonight,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “The curveball was really good. The cutter was good. He had life to his fastball. Just threw a ton of strikes, did an unbelievable job.”

It’s only the fifth time an Orioles pitcher has gone six or more scoreless innings with six-plus strikeouts in either his first or second MLB outing, joining Mike Wright Jr. (2015), Tom Phoebus (twice in 1966) and Charlie Beamon (‘56).

Hyde and several Baltimore players lauded Povich for the advance work he did ahead of his debut. On the morning of the start, he sat in the visitors’ clubhouse at Rogers Centre fixated on his iPad, doing his homework on Blue Jays hitters.

Povich was even better prepared to face the Braves, citing the knowledge he’s already gained from the five other members of the Orioles’ six-man rotation.

“Learning from some of our other starters throughout this week,” Povich said, “I picked up on some cues just to be prepared going into the start, who I’m facing.”

It helps that Povich is now part of one of the best staffs in baseball this season. Over the past turn, Baltimore’s six starters combined to post a 1.01 ERA (four earned runs in 35 2/3 innings), with Povich fitting right in on a rotation that ranks third in MLB with a 2.96 ERA behind only the Phillies (2.69) and Yankees (2.79).

Povich was so impressive that he’s already drawing comparisons to one of the best left-handers in the big leagues -- Atlanta’s Max Fried, who had an uncharacteristically tough start on the same mound a night earlier (four runs allowed in five-plus innings).

“He throws like Fried,” said Braves starter Spencer Schwellenbach, Povich’s former teammate at the University of Nebraska. “He has a lot of good pitches and can locate really well.”

“We were joking around on the bench. Me and [outfielder Kyle Stowers] were talking about how he’s like ‘Fried Light.’ He looks just like Max up there,” Cowser said. “Kind of the same build. He’s got really good stuff.”

The Orioles haven’t announced how long they’ll stick with a six-man rotation. But Povich is quickly making a case to stay in the big leagues long term.

If that happens, Povich should begin to feel a bit more at ease -- at least as much as he can on the day of a start.

“Today, I could feel my body a little bit more,” Povich said. “I mean, it’s still baseball, and the job is to win. Just going out there and feeling like myself and just trying to stay on attack. ... Just kind of calming everything down, making pitches.”