ANAHEIM, Calif. — Here he was, glove held up below his eyes, fingers fiddling for a changeup grip, one of the best batters in the sport standing 60 feet, 6 inches away.

Here was Albert Suárez against Mike Trout. One is a perennial All-Star, a future Hall of Famer, and the other is … an unknown? An afterthought? An emergency option that the Orioles called upon to fill in for an injury-induced rotation hole?

Any descriptor may fit the bill, even though Baltimore’s pro scouting department certainly had some inkling of Suárez’s potential as a depth piece. But even they may not have expected this from Suárez, who started his second game for Baltimore in the Orioles’ 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

He went to the changeup in that third-inning plate appearance between one of the most recognizable players in baseball and one of the many players who never give this sport up, no matter how far away the highest level appears. There was a man on second, Trout at the plate, and Suárez unfurled the offspeed pitch on the inside corner that Trout swung through for strike three.

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“I see every hitter almost the same,” Suárez said. “I feel like, every time, I execute a pitch the way I’m supposed to, I’m going to get good results.”

So many things needed to fall into place for the 34-year-old to be here. The Orioles needed to convince him in September 2023 to not return to South Korean baseball and instead sign a minor league deal for Baltimore. Suárez needed to show his lively fastball during his time at spring training. He then needed an opening in Baltimore, which arrived when right-hander Tyler Wells landed on the injured list with elbow inflammation.

The circumstances aligned so Suárez could make his return to the major leagues after seven years away.

Against the Minnesota Twins last week, Surárez pitched another 5⅔ scoresless innings that included the strikeout of Trout. He induced 16 swings and misses, with eight of those coming against a fastball that averaged 94.2 mph. And with a flash of his glove, Suárez showed there was luck on his side. In the sixth inning, with his pitch count approaching 90, he snatched a 95 mph liner off the bat of Taylor Ward before turning it into a double play, nabbing Trout off first.

“I prepared myself for it, and that’s what I’m here for,” Suárez said.

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“Once again,” manager Brandon Hyde added, “he gives us a great start.”

And with two starts, the descriptors that might define Suárez are wavering. He’s quickly becoming known for his 11⅓ scoreless frames.

Suárez had run support from his battery mate. Catcher James McCann pulled a solo home run off left-hander Reid Detmers in the second inning, and designated hitter Adley Rutschman plated two RBIs later in the game. His single brought home Jorge Mateo in the third before his laser of a double in the fifth drove in Gunnar Henderson.

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In doing so, Rutschman raised his average to .307. While Rutschman’s power numbers haven’t been as robust as some of his teammates, Hyde called him“one of the best hitters in the game from both sides of the plate.”

“Just gets big hits,” Hyde said. “Takes unbelievable at-bats. Drives the ball into the gap. Can go deep on you. Just huge, huge hits, the guy you want up there in big spots, because the at-bat is going to be so good.”

With Suárez out of the game, Colton Cowser added another run and continued his strong start to the season. In a left-on-left matchup, Cowser clobbered his sixth homer of the season to deep right-center field to give Baltimore a four-run lead in the seventh.

The Orioles would need those runs. Right-hander Mike Baumann, who replaced Suárez to end the sixth, allowed a leadoff homer to Jo Adell before a single and walk put two on with no outs. And while right-hander Yennier Cano induced the double-play ball required to minimize the damage, a second run charged to Baumann scored.

The leaks didn’t end there, but right-hander Craig Kimbrel was able to walk the tightrope and close the door in the ninth after loading the bases, notching his 423rd career save — passing Billy Wagner for seventh all-time.

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In all, it secured Suárez his first win as a starting pitcher in the majors since 2016. Between then and now is a full baseball life. From Japan and Korea and Venezuela to the lights at Angel Stadium, a plate appearance against Trout, and a changeup to strike him out.

“Feels good to get a win,” Suárez said. “It was a tough one, but at the end, we get the win, so I feel good about it.”

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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