Vavra giving O's just what they need so far

August 12th, 2022

BOSTON -- Since getting his first callup to the Majors just two weeks ago, has already checked off a number of career milestones. After making his MLB debut as a pinch-runner on July 29, Vavra recorded his first hit on Aug. 1. On Aug. 3, he notched his first extra-base hit (a double) and first RBI. On Friday, Vavra went 3-for-4 in his first multihit game.

While he’s still chasing that first big league homer, Vavra notched his first triple on Thursday night in the Orioles’ 4-3 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. In just 11 games with Baltimore, the club’s No. 14 prospect per MLB Pipeline has quickly settled in and is demonstrating that he belongs at this level.

Vavra drove in the Orioles’ first two runs with his sixth-inning three-bagger. With two outs and an 0-2 count against Boston right-hander Josh Winckowski, Vavra hit an 86-mph slider down the right-field line and into the corner. Vavra beat the throw from right fielder Alex Verdugo, safely reaching third standing up.

Before Vavra’s clutch hit, the O’s were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The designated hitter scored Baltimore’s only other run on the next play, after an out at first was overturned following an Orioles challenge, crediting Austin Hays with a game-tying infield single. That was the last run Baltimore would score, though, as the club finished 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, leaving six men on base.

“Any time you're up with runners on, you want to do your best to get them across the plate,” Vavra said. “Something I take pride in, just trying to do a [good] job when I can. And this game is not easy, it's not going to happen every time. That makes those moments a little bit more special.”

The 25-year-old struck out on five pitches in his first at-bat and hit a first-pitch single in the fourth. Vavra finished 2-for-4, and Thursday was his second consecutive game of recording multiple RBIs, as well as the seventh of his past eight in which he's recorded at least one hit.

“Yeah, I mean it's too bad, there were runners in scoring position there,” Vavra said of his first at-bat, in which he took two balls from Winckowski before taking called strikes on the next three pitches. “I think I could have done a better job of making that adjustment, realizing that he was going to be calling that pitch. But at the same time, we'll stick to what has got me here, and I think that gives me the best opportunity.”

Ahead of his promotion to the Majors, Vavra hit .324/.435/.451 with an .886 OPS over 45 games with Triple-A Norfolk. So far, Vavra has seamlessly carried his hitter’s eye up to the bigs, posting a .370 average and a .455 on-base percentage. Two weeks into his Major League career, Vavra is doing exactly what the Orioles needed him to do.

“He’s swinging the bat extremely well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He had a couple huge hits, hit that last ball on the nose, too, right at [Xander] Bogaerts. But [he's] taking good at-bats for us. It’s a short swing, he uses the whole field. He kind of got rung up there in the first on a couple tough pitches, but besides that, good at-bats tonight.”

Though it was just one game, Thursday’s loss -- one of three games rescheduled due to the late start to the season caused by the lockout -- counted as a series loss for the Orioles, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It marked Baltimore’s first series loss of August after the club swept Texas, took two of three from Pittsburgh and won a pair of games in a rain-shortened series vs. Toronto.

The Orioles now head to St. Petersburg for three games against the Rays, who hold a half-game lead on Baltimore for third place in the AL East, as well as the third AL Wild Card spot.

“Losing is not fun, never is, especially when you're in this situation. Obviously we want to go [and] win every night,” Vavra said. “But the reality of it, that's not going to happen. What we can do now is just focus on tomorrow, put our best foot forward tomorrow and take each game as its own and not try to get too far down the road. Just do our best.”