Earlier this week, with closer
Strop, who has spent most of the season pitching in an eighth-inning set-up role, thrived under the late-inning pressure, throwing 98-mph two-seam sinking fastball that cuts off the corners of the plate.
And lost in Orioles’ five-run ninth-inning rally in their 5-2 win over the
And Strop was front and center again, pitching out of a ninth-inning jam. With the Orioles trailing 2-0, Strop allowed a one-out double to pinch hitter
It didn’t necessarily seem that important at the time because the Orioles were trailing and had been handcuffed by A’s starter
After acquiring Strop from the Rangers late last season – he was 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA in 12 1/3 innings with Baltimore -- the Orioles were excited about him being a key part of the bullpen this spring. And while the Orioles have plenty of late-inning possibilities, Strop's live arm would make him a favorite for eighth-inning duty.
Strop (3-1) has thrown three straight scoreless ninth-inning outings, lowering his ERA to 2.08 (13 IP/3 ER) on the season.
This season, Strop's ability to establish his mid- to high-90s fastball for a strike early in the count – and specifically leaning on his two-seam sinking fastball to compliment his mid-80s slider in order to keep hitters off balance – has helped the 26-year-old become a late-inning factor.
"I'm pitching more with my fastball now," Strop said. "I used to be throwing off-speed pitches and trying to be sneaky, but now I know I can challenge people with my sinker and make them hit it. It makes it easier. More ground balls and stuff, less pitches in innings. Like before I would get in an inning and throw a lot of pitches. I'd have two strikeouts, three strikeouts, but have a lot of pitches. It's a long season, so the less pitches you throw in an inning, it's better for keeping you not hurt."
Strop has honed that two-seamer into a pitch he can control better, and Strop's two-seamer has incredible movement.
"I was working a lot on my sinker, trying to control it the most I can because before I had good movement, but I couldn't control it for a strike or anything," he said. "I was just practicing. If I throw some for strikes they're going to swing at some that are balls. Before they knew they didn't have to swing at it because they knew it was a ball. I was focusing on getting a couple of sinkers for strikes so they could swing on the ones that were balls."