Go figure. The chances of right-hander Jorge López giving the Orioles length on Friday night seemed slim. Not only was he off to a slow start this season, but he had an 11.88 ERA over his past four starts, dating back to 2020.
But López authored a different story against the Rangers at Globe Life Field. He was dealing, throwing five solid innings as the Orioles defeated the Rangers, 5-2.
López was in cruise control during the first four innings, allowing no hits and striking out eight batters. His fastball torched Texas. It was clocked as high as 97 mph. At one point, López struck out seven of eight hitters.
“I was much better,” López said “It was so much different than the last two [starts]. The two-seam [fastball] was running really good. I pounded the zone, attacking guys. The curveball, changeup were really good. … It was really huge. It was a big win today. …
“Sometimes I have to battle more than I’m used to. Today, I didn’t have to make any effort. I just had my location. [Even those 97 mph pitches] felt much nicer. I felt much stronger.”
López is not known to have a lot of swings-and-misses. Since the start of the 2020 season, Lopez has allowed an average exit velocity of 91.9 mph. That is the highest in the Major Leagues among 165 pitchers with 100-plus batted balls, according to the MLB Network research staff.
“I was so encouraged by his first four innings,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He was so aggressive. He was using his fastball from both sides of the plate. He was showing a good curveball. He was just dominating.”
The no-hit bid ended in the fifth inning, when David Dahl led off with a monster home run over the right-field wall. Nick Solak made it back-to-back homers to cut the Orioles’ lead to 5-2.
But López settled down and retired the next three hitters before leaving the game. He threw 75 pitches.
Lopez could have gone an extra inning, but Hyde wanted López to leave the game on a positive note and let the bullpen pitch the rest of the game.
“I wanted another inning, but [the manager] has his plan and I believe him,” López said.
It worked out. By the time the game ended, the Rangers had struck out 15 times. Left-hander Paul Fry, for one, struck out three of the five hitters he faced.
“I just know that 15 punchouts and one walk on the offensive side isn’t going to get it done,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “… I felt like [López] came out and attacked us and we just didn’t attack back.”
“It’s great to see Rio drive the ball the other way,” Hyde said. “That was the shortest swing he had this season. It’s nice to see DJ contribute there with a home run.”