Throughout 2022, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde usually retired Tyler Wells before he really wanted to. Three years removed from his last start as a starter — missing a season each due to Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, the coronavirus pandemic and time spent in Baltimore’s bullpen as a Rule 5 draftee — Wells has faced severe limitations in every exit.
Consider it unleashed. In 6-2 from Baltimore win on Wednesday to take a series from the Boston Red Sox, Wells followed his career-high seven innings last week against the Detroit Tigers with his first major league 100-pitch outing.
“It’s great to be able to go out there and give the team length and not have those restrictions,” Wells said.
Wells’ 102 pitches were not only seven more than he had thrown in any outing since arriving in the majors in 2021, but also the most of his professional career, which began in 2017. He had not reached triple figures in any output from August from August. 2018 in a start for the Minnesota Twins’ double-A team.
Wells wasn’t particularly effective in reaching that same benchmark, with those pitches getting him into the sixth inning, but not through the sixth inning, in a start he admitted was “a grind there”. But buoyed by the early offense, he pitched effectively to give the Orioles (16-8) their first series win in three tries against an American League East team.
“Honestly, I didn’t think he had his best stuff,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s a great competitor and he thought he tried to get out of a lot of things. Lots of deep counts. But it is a very good attacking club. And I thought he wanted his way all the way, to be honest with you.
“I know he was a little frustrated with his command throughout the outing, but the competitor in him, I thought, got him through that outing. … I’m a big Tyler Wells fan and he’s earned that confidence.”
Baltimore’s eighth win in nine games left the team tied for the most wins before the end of April in franchise history with four games left to play this month.
Wells will not pitch in either after 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball Wednesday. The Orioles gave him a run in the first inning when Cedric Mullins singled, went to third on an error and scored on Anthony Santander’s sacrifice fly. Wells got that run back on Masataka Yoshida’s solo homer, but after a walk, he retired the next 10 Boston batters.
That included hitting the side against the middle of the Red Sox order in the fourth, and the Orioles offense responded with a three-run bottom half. Adam Frazier, Ryan O’Hearn and Ramón Urías — their No. 1 hitters. 6, 7 and 8 — opened the frame with back-to-back singles. After Terrin Vavra struck out, Mullins hit a single that deflected off second baseman Enmanuel Valdez, and Adley Rutschman followed with a sacrifice bunt.
“It was a big momentum builder, for sure,” Wells said. “I was kind of slow out of the gates myself and I think I went in there and hit the sideline, we scored three, I definitely think we built momentum for the rest of the game.”
The score remained 4-1 until the sixth when Alex Verdugo doubled with one out and scored a batter later when Justin Turner singled, ending Wells’ afternoon. Lefty Danny Coulombe got the last out of the sixth before the Orioles added a run on Santander’s sacrifice fly. Baltimore had five combined sacrifice flies and bunts in the game.
“I think we do the little things really well,” Hyde said. “We need to. We’re not going to be first in offense and we’re not going to lead the league in homers. We need to be able to run the bases well, be able to move runners over, be able to score runners from third and we did that well today .”
Coulombe allowed hits to two of the first three batters in the seventh, prompting Hyde to turn to Yennier Cano. The sinkerballer stranded Coulombe’s runners, then recorded the first two outs of the eighth to give him 24 consecutive retired batters to open the season, tying Fred Holdsworth’s franchise record set in 1976. On his next pitch, he struck out on Turner in the elbow, ending the streak before making Yoshida tap out.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve had in my career, the best thing I’ve done in my career, and I’m just enjoying it with the team right now,” Cano said through the Orioles’ interpreter, Brandon Quinones. “…Unfortunately I couldn’t break the record, but I’m still glad I was able to do my job and hopefully someone will come along and break that record.”
Urías’ career-high fourth hit led off the eighth, and McKenna recorded his second of the day off Baltimore’s bench, an RBI double. That insurance run meant it wasn’t a save situation as Félix Bautista pitched the ninth but managed a scoreless frame despite allowing the first two hitters to reach base.
The series win was Baltimore’s fifth in a row heading into a 10-game road trip to Detroit, Kansas City and Atlanta. Mullins said the run exemplifies the Orioles’ “winning way.”
“Every day, coming in, staying relaxed, grinding at bats, throwing with that dog in you,” Mullins said, “and getting results.”
Around the horn
- Outfielder Austin Hays was out of Wednesday’s lineup after exiting Tuesday’s game with a bruised right hand suffered while trying to retreat. Hyde said Hays felt “much better than last night” but was “pretty sore,” saying the hope was Hays was out for “just a few days.”
- Shortstop Jorge Mateo, who missed several games last week with right hip discomfort, was given the day off Wednesday.
- Following his first rehab appearance Tuesday with High-A Aberdeen, right-handed reliever Dillon Tate (right elbow flexor strain) said his remaining outings until the Orioles resume will come with Double-A Bowie. Right-hander Mychal Givens (left knee inflammation) said he will take a live batting practice session Thursday in Bowie, with Hyde saying the hope is for him to pitch in a game there this weekend.
Orioles at Tigers
Thursday, 6:40 p.m
TV: MASN2, MLB Network
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM