BALTIMORE –- Mike Wright started his day by reading a Harry Potter novel. He ended it by walking off the mound to an enormous ovation.
Wright made his major league debut an unforgettable one by pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings. He allowed just four hits, struck out six and didn’t walk a batter as the Orioles beat the Los Angeles Angels 3-0 before 41,733 at Oriole Park on Sunday.
He was pitching because Chris Tillman’s back stiffened up. Wright, who was recalled on Tuesday, but hadn’t pitched, learned Saturday that he’d be pitching instead of Tillman.
“That’s everything you dream of going into it, and it was really fun,” Wright said.
After Wright had thrown 90 pitches, manager Buck Showalter hopped to the mound and called for Brad Brach. It was time for Wright to bask in the cheers.
“I knew what to do. I knew to walk back into the dugout, but I just wanted to kind of savor it. Most of the advice I got was that you only make your debut once. There’s plenty of games, but you only make your debut once, so soak it all in and that’s definitely what I tried to do, I tried to, you know, like look up and see what was going on so I could make sure I remember that forever,” Wright said.
He retired his first nine batters, striking out three. Mike Trout, the game’s second batter, was his first. In the fourth, Wright faced his only real trouble when Kole Calhoun singled to center, and with one out, Albert Pujols doubled. Erick Aybar grounded to third, and Manny Machado threw him to nab Calhoun in a rundown. He ended the inning with a strikeout of Johnny Giavotella.
“That was amazing. Honestly, that ball Pujols hit I thought was gone. I missed with a fastball but when that stayed in I was like, ‘I really need to get through this and that was one of my really good sliders (for) a strikeout in that inning. So I was pretty pumped about that,” Wright said.
Wright (1-0) retired eight straight before Aybar singled with one out in the seventh, but Giavotella hit into a double play.
After Wright struck out David Freese to start the eighth, Joyce singled, and Showalter went to the bullpen for Brad Brach, and the cheers began.
“I was trying to tell J.J. [Hardy], it's safe to say they aren't yelling for me. They're probably unhappy about [him] coming out of the game. When you stop getting your hair to stand up and goose bumps, you need to go do something else. You're lucky to be there for that. Hopefully we can say we were there for his first outing one day,” Showalter said.
Brach struck out Carlos Perez and Marc Krauss to end the eighth.
Zach Britton retired Los Angeles (19-18) in the ninth for his eighth save, but not before Pujols and Aybar singled with two outs.
Before the game, Showalter spoke of his hopes for Wright.
“He wants to pitch a shutout and make us not send him back out. I got it. I want him to, too,” Showalter said.
Five hours later, Showalter joked when asked about Wright’s future.
“Well, he didn't pitch a complete game, so he's out of here. No. We'll look at it, we'll start talking about it,” Showalter said.
Tillman probably won’t pitch until at least Thursday. Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen will pitch the first two games against Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday though Showalter hedged slightly on Chen.
Bud Norris, who was scratched from Saturday’s game with bronchitis, has lost considerable weight, but was in the bullpen for an emergency.
The Orioles (16-19) scored the only run Wright needed in the fourth when Adam Jones had an infield single with one out. He moved to third on Delmon Young’s single and scored on a wild pitch by Garrett Richards (3-2).
In the eighth, Machado singled with two outs, Jimmy Paredes beat out an infield single and Jones doubled to left to score two, and the Orioles led 3-0.
The runs were big. Wright’s outing was bigger.
“I’ve seen him pitch in spring training. I’ve seen him pitch against a lot of good hitters. What I’m impressed with the fact that he went out there and went 7 1/3 innings,” Jones said. “He was economical. He threw strikes. He kept the defense in the game.”
NOTES: According to STATS, Wright is the first Orioles starter to win his major league debut at home since Jake Arrieta on June 10, 2010. … The Orioles have rescheduled their May 28 doubleheader. The first game starts at 1:05 p.m. … Orioles pitchers haven’t walked a batter in their last two games for the first time since Aug. 1-3, 2010.