In Galvis' absence, Urías 'a nice addition'

Shortstop drives in two, continues to play well on both sides of the ball

July 24th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- When Freddy Galvis went down with a severe right quad strain in late June, the Orioles feared they’d lost not just their starting shortstop, but also a valuable trade chip one month before the Deadline. Galvis may end up proving attractive to contending clubs after all, especially if he can return healthy by the middle of next week, as the Orioles now hope he will. The added bonus for the Orioles is that a surprise contributor has emerged in his stead.

That player is , who continued to bid for more regular playing time, Galvis’ situation notwithstanding, in Friday night’s 6-1 win over the Nationals. Spanking a go-ahead double in the fourth and plating a key insurance run with a fielder’s choice in the sixth, Urías took two of the most important swings of the night off Patrick Corbin as the Orioles topped their regional rivals at Oriole Park.

“On a nightly basis, he’s doing something positive for us,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s been a nice addition since unfortunately we lost Freddy for a while. Ramón has filled in, done everything we’ve asked him to do. Made the routine plays, having competitive at-bats … he’s doing things to contribute almost on a daily basis.”

Friday night was the latest in what’s been a torrid stretch for the utility man. Urías has slashed .315/.367/.452 with two homers and 10 RBIs in his past 19 games, while starting every day at shortstop in Galvis’ place. He now looks like the likely candidate to assume primary second-base duties when Galvis returns, or remain plugged in at short in the event Galvis is dealt by the July 30 Deadline. Also in the picture is Pat Valaika, who achieved his second career multi-homer game with two solo shots in support of Jorge López and four relievers on Friday night.

“He’s kind of carried our team a little bit with Freddy gone,” Valaika said. “He came up and he’s been really hot, playing good defense, and I enjoy playing with him. I have nothing but good things to say about him.”

Together on Friday, Urías and Valaika teamed up to power a type of clean, economical win that’s become more common for the Orioles since the All-Star break. Anchoring it was Hyde’s latest allotment of go-to relievers. After the manager pulled López with two outs, a runner on and cradling a one-run lead in the fifth, Juan Soto strode to the plate. 

In came Paul Fry, maybe the likeliest Oriole to be dealt at next week’s Deadline. He induced a first-pitch groundout from Soto, then struck out the side in a dominant sixth. Cole Sulser, Tanner Scott and Dillon Tate followed with scoreless outings to seal the win, Scott bouncing back from his blown save on Wednesday vs. the Rays. Scott is also a trade candidate; combined, he and Fry own a 3.27 ERA and 108 strikeouts across 77 total innings. 

“Paul Fry and Tanner Scott both faced the middle of their order and pitched extremely well,” Hyde said. “Both the left-handers did a really nice job, and won us the game.”

The result brought more clearly into focus the contributions of Urías, who also stole a base, scored a run, and made two above-average defensive plays at short (Valaika also completed a difficult play on a grounder at second). The 27-year-old was a career Minor Leaguer when the Orioles acquired him off waivers from the Cardinals in Spring Training of 2020, having plateaued at Triple-A after signing out of the Mexican League in 2018. Urías impressed the Orioles in a tiny sample down the stretch in 2020, then made Baltimore’s 2021 Opening Day roster after Yolmer Sanchez was released in the final week of Spring Training. 

His first crack at everyday at-bats came via Galvis’ injury, with the Orioles lacking natural shortstop depth, getting near-league-worst production at second base and hesitant to promote No. 16 (per MLB Pipeline) prospect Jahmai Jones while he builds experience at the position at Triple-A. Barring injury, Jones should arrive in Baltimore by September at the latest; how they compete now could influence related decisions down the road.

Three of Valaika’s four homers have come in the past two games. The veteran is hitting .196 with a .554 OPS in 63 games, after batting .277 with eight homers and a .791 OPS in 52 games last season. Friday was his second career multi-homer game, and first since May 14, 2017, against the Dodgers as a member of the Rockies. 

Said Hyde: “It’s nice to see a smile on Pat’s face, because you know he’s been grinding for a while.”

“I think tonight I squared up those balls better than I have pretty much this whole year,” Valaika said. “It felt good to actually drive the ball and not see it die on the track, so hopefully I can continue that and keep it rolling.”