Blach impresses in return to O's rotation

Lefty allows two runs in five solid innings in Game 1 win over Rays

September 3rd, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- On Aug. 24, headed to Triple-A Norfolk after struggling in all three starts since the Orioles claimed him off waivers. He returned on Tuesday, determined to stick around.

Blach carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning against the Rays in Baltimore’s 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the doubleheader at Tropicana Field, allowing the O’s to tie the series. He limited Tampa Bay to just two hits over his five innings, earning his first win since July 9, 2018, with the Giants.

“I faced these guys 10 days ago and had a good feel of their lineup,” Blach said. “I threw three good innings against them but had one bad one, so I just knew that if I could go out there and execute pitches, I was going to be in a good spot.”

While victory against a red-hot Rays squad that entered the twin bill owners of the top American League Wild Card spot was certainly a feather in Blach’s cap, being able to pitch to his potential -- as well as spell the bullpen as long as possible -- were what the O’s were looking for.

He delivered and then some, facing one batter over the minimum over his first three innings to give Baltimore’s bats time to warm up. Blach’s two runs allowed were a season low, and when he did slip -- Blach walked four -- the O’s defense was there to steady the ship, turning double plays in the first and second innings.

“The defense made a lot of really nice plays, turned a couple of big double plays for me,” Blach said. “It was nice to be able to keep the ball down and not let them leverage too many pitches.”

The performance brought relief to Baltimore’s bullpen and pitching staff alike. Due to caution surrounding the path of Hurricane Dorian, the Rays and O’s elected to move Wednesday’s scheduled game to make a Tuesday doubleheader. The unexpected two-game day that the decision brought gave both teams an off-day Wednesday but not enough time to maneuver their starters’ outings. Blach was given the nod Monday evening, with the O’s declining to tab a starter for Game 2 until they saw how heavily they needed to dip into their ’pen for the first go-round.

Sending a newly promoted arm to the hill was a risky move but mandatory, and it paid off in spades when Blach ate up five innings.

“He got through the order twice and only gave up that two-run home run; that was a tough decision, and he only gave up two hits,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He did his job, going through the order twice and minimizing damage and really changed speeds well and kept the ball in the middle.”

The offense came together just in time to back him, with Rio Ruiz’s ninth homer of the season scoring two in the fifth inning and Anthony Santander’s 17th representing the eventual game-winner.

Santander’s knock was the hardest-hit ball of the game, scorched at a Statcast-estimated 112.9 mph. It also extended his career-best hitting streak to eight games, a stretch during which he has hit .455 with five homers and 12 RBIs.

As novel as it was to rip what he deemed his hardest hit ever, Santander said the chance to hand a loss to a team in the American League Wild Card hunt appealed to his competitive side as well.

“They’re obviously competing for a playoff spot,” he said, “and we’ve just got to give it everything we’ve got and try to beat them.”

After a 1-13 stretch that Baltimore battled through Aug. 5-19, the O’s are 7-6. They’ve won three of their past four games against the Rays.