It’s not bucking convention on purpose, but in hitting the trio of Austin Hays, Hanser Alberto and José Iglesias at the top of their order, the Orioles don’t have a group of patient hitters setting the table.
They’re simply the productive ones, at least on days like Saturday when their aggression is rewarded.
That group combined for six hits and scored four runs while generating every Orioles rally in a 7-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday at Fenway Park in Boston. They combined with an eye-opening start from veteran Alex Cobb to serve as a palate cleanse after the Orioles’ disastrous opening-day loss Friday.
“It’s no secret: I like guys that make contact,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I like guys that make hard contact. All three of those guys are going to give you a competitive at-bat. They’re in there for the fight …
“They’re always going to be competitive, and I want to get those types of competitive at-bats up there as much as possible, especially against left-handed pitching.”
The trio came to the plate 15 total times and saw just 41 pitches — fewer than three per at-bat. It turns out they weren’t punished for not waiting.
Four pitches into the game, the Orioles already had runners on second and third with no outs when Hays singled and Alberto doubled. Both scored when Renato Nunez doubled with two outs to give the Orioles an early lead, and Nunez scored on an error a batter later.
By the time they came up a second time, there were two on and no one out again. Alberto and Iglesias each had run-scoring singles — with each on the second pitch of his at-bat — and the Orioles built an early 5-0 lead.
Alberto believes the top of the Orioles lineup is setting the team up well to produce.
“I feel pretty comfortable there because I know something can happen,” Alberto said. “We can do some damage at the top of the lineup, especially if we get on base. We’ve got (Anthony) Santander, we’ve got Nuney, we’ve got (Chris) Davis, so we can still do damage. I think right now, we feel pretty good at the top of the lineup.”
The offense got quiet after that as Martin Perez settled in for the Red Sox, and the Orioles didn’t have another hit until the seventh inning. Hays changed that with an 0-1 single before he was forced out on an 0-1 groundout by Alberto. But Iglesias singled quickly and both runners scored on a double by Santander.
Alberto rounded out the day with a ninth-inning single.
Opening day wasn’t a promising day for the Orioles’ pitching staff. Cobb, making his first start in over a year after missing most of 2019 due to hip surgery, more than made up for it.
With impeccable fastball command early and an effective split change-up late, the veteran right-hander pitched into the sixth inning and struck out six with only one blemish — a home run by Mitch Moreland.
Cobb hadn’t earned a major league win since Sept. 4, 2018. He said that while he hadn’t forgotten what it felt like to get a victory, he’s been working for over a year to achieve that feeling of congratulating his teammates after a win he helped earn.
“I didn’t forget it,” Cobb said. “It’s one of my favorite feelings in the game. It’s just something I’ve been wanting to have for a long time. I know it’s been over a year since it happened, but I’ll never forget that feeling. I love it. It’s my favorite.”
Hyde said: “Knows how to pitch and really did a great job.”
Cobb’s exit in the sixth inning brought some tense moments as three hits and some sloppy defense behind reliever Paul Fry brought the tying run to the plate at 5-2 for Miguel Castro.
Castro, however, struck out pinch-hitter Xander Bogaerts on three pitches. Left-hander Richard Bleier, featuring a swing-and-miss slider that he hasn’t featured before, struck out two in 1 2/3 innings.
“Richard Bleier today, that was an outstanding effort,” Hyde said. “Miguel Castro probably got the biggest out of the game. Kind of that middle part, we really struggled last year; really, really struggled in that sixth or seventh inning to keep a lead or to keep the game close. For him to punch out Bogaerts in that situation, that was the key for me.”
Mychal Givens got the final four outs, allowing one hit and striking out two.
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