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Orioles shut out Reds, 3-0, behind another Cole Irvin gem: ‘He’s been nails’

CINCINNATI — Reds fans were hoping to witness a fireworks show both in the sky and on the diamond Friday night.

After a lengthy rain delay, it appeared the display would be called off because the game would end too late. Instead, the fans who endured the 2-hour, 41-minute interlude were treated to a fireworks exhibit shortly after the sun went down and players warmed up on the field.

Those were the only fireworks the Reds would put on Friday.

Cole Irvin twirled another beauty to extend his scoreless innings streak and tame the up-and-coming Reds in Baltimore’s 3-0 victory in front of an announced 25,861 at Great American Ball Park. The left-hander was coming off two stellar starts, and he was perhaps even more masterful Friday, surrendering just two hits without issuing a walk in 6 1/3 innings.

“Pregame was different, obviously. I felt like I was in ‘The Sandlot’ warming up, so that was pretty cool,” said Irvin, who is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA. “It felt like it was a sandlot game, Fourth of July, fireworks going off, loud music, couldn’t hear anything with how loud the music was. But it was awesome.”

Irvin’s scoreless streak is up to 20 2/3 innings. He’s pitched at least 6 1/3 scoreless innings in three straight starts — a feat only five other pitchers in Orioles history have achieved, and none in the past 30 years. The others on the list are: Fernando Valenzuela (1993), Jim Palmer (1978), Tom Phoebus (1967), Milt Pappas (1967) and Jack Fisher (1960).

Since 2020, only four MLB pitchers have accomplished what Irvin’s done the past three starts: Arizona’s Zac Gallen (2022 and 2023), Texas’ Nathan Eovaldi (2023) and Toronto’s Chris Bassitt (2023). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, an Orioles pitcher has gone at least 20 2/3 innings scoreless in each of the past four seasons. The previous ones to do so were Yennier Cano (21 2/3 innings in 2023), Dean Kremer (22 2/3 innings in 2022) and Matt Harvey (21 1/3 innings in 2021).

“It’s a little bit of what he’s been doing the last couple starts,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Just great pitch mix, working ahead of hitters, keeping guys off balance, slider looks really good, throwing his changeup at the knees and below, two-seam has some sink and run to it. He’s just really pitching, he did a great job.”

Baltimore’s bats started cold, too, but got hot in the seventh. Adley Rutschman broke the scoreless tie with an RBI double that scored Jorge Mateo, who reached on a single. Ryan O’Hearn then blasted a two-run homer — and admired it justly — to give Irvin and the Orioles’ bullpen insurance it didn’t end up needing.

Manager Brandon Hyde pulled Irvin at just 72 pitches with one out in the seventh and Elly De La Cruz on second base to give work to the suddenly rested back end of the Orioles’ bullpen. Sinkerballer Yennier Cano got two ground balls, including a web gem defensive play himself, to strand De La Cruz. Danny Coulombe bridged the game to closer Craig Kimbrel, who slammed the door for his eighth save. The Orioles’ pitching staff has allowed just six runs in its past five games.

The veteran right-hander struck out the side in order in his first appearance since his two blown saves last weekend against the Oakland Athletics. With his save, Kimbrel passed John Franco on MLB’s all-time list and moved into a tie for fifth with Kenley Jansen at 425.

“The stuff was amazing — great breaking ball, a ton of life to his heaters, strikes,” Hyde said of Kimbrel. “He looked awesome out there.”

The shutout is the Orioles’ fourth this season — all in the past 12 games — as they maintain their one-game lead atop the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East. The Orioles (21-11) have the best record in the AL, and Irvin is having a blast being with Baltimore, which is 5-1 when the southpaw toes the slab.

“I’m just blessed to be in the major leagues and be able to wear the uniform,” said Irvin, who struck out four. “I’m going to enjoy every bit of it. While I’m playing, I’m going to have a blast. I love what I do.”

O’Hearn said Friday was the first time he’d seen a fireworks show during warmups. The grand finale blasted away about 10 minutes before first pitch.

“For the grand finale to be right before the game started, it was pretty cool,” O’Hearn said.

“Adley and I watched for a handful of seconds,” said Irvin about watching while warming up in the bullpen. “It wasn’t dark enough, but other than that, it was good, it was awesome. When they got to the finale when I was in the bullpen, I was like, ‘This anthem needs to come so I can just get a breath really quick.’ You can feel it ricochet off the walls.”

Hyde said he’s up for pregame fireworks displays, especially if his team wins after.

“That’s my first one where we’re warming up that the fans are into a fireworks show,” he said. “I kind of like it. Let’s do it tomorrow. Maybe it helped us out. Well, actually, we didn’t score much early. It helped out Irvin and our defense. Offensively, I think we were still starstruck by the fireworks.”

Starstruck, indeed, as Baltimore had trouble barreling up Reds fireballer Hunter Greene, whose high-90s mph fastballs kept the Orioles’ homer-happy offense at bay. But they worked Greene’s pitch count up, accepting four walks, to chase him in the sixth. Mateo, Rutschman and O’Hearn then teamed up in the seventh for a three-run frame. O’Hearn’s homer was his fifth, making him the sixth Oriole to reach that mark this season. He joins AL Player of the Month Gunnar Henderson (10), AL Rookie of the Month Colton Cowser (six), Cedric Mullins (six), Jordan Westburg (five) and Ryan Mountcastle (five). Baltimore leads the majors in home runs with 49.

Irvin gave up a single to De La Cruz in the first and didn’t allow another base runner until the Reds superstar doubled in the seventh. In between, Irvin induced 11 groundouts, none of which were classified by Statcast as hard-hit balls (95-plus mph exit velocity). All five of his pitches — four-seamer, sinker, cutter, changeup and curveball — generated a groundout, with his changeup leading the way with four. He relied on his curveball more than normal, throwing the pitch 51% of the time, but that unpredictability was key in keeping the Reds (16-16) off-balance.

“I would really like ground balls to be a more consistent part of my game,” Irvin said. “I just have to keep focusing on making good pitches and be the best I can at being down in the zone.”

Hyde said Irvin is pitching with more belief in himself this year than he did in 2023 when he struggled to maintain a rotation spot and bounced between Triple-A Norfolk, Baltimore’s starting corps and the bullpen. The only bouncing Irvin is doing now is off the mound after throwing up another zero on the scoreboard.

“Man, he’s been nails,” O’Hearn said. “Seems like his last three or four outings he’s just been nails — throwing strikes, attacking guys, getting a lot of outs, a lot of ground balls. We need him be good. He’s become a big-time pillar in our rotation, and he’s got to keep that going.”


Orioles at Reds

Saturday, 6:40 p.m.

TV: MASN2

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

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    Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman (35) and pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) celebrate on the mound after winning a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, May 3, 2024, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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