The Baltimore Orioles are 13 days away from the MLB All-Star game and find themselves sitting in fourth place in the American League East. While many around the web are arguing who should represent the team in the Midsummer Classic, the focus inside the clubhouse is fighting for the tightest division in the majors.
A lot has been said about the state of the Orioles starters and their options there. And while the starters have receiving much of the blame, it’s the entire team that is struggling. They are 10-14 in June and just tied a MLB record for most games allowing five or more runs.
Outside of Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini, the first half of the season has seen much of the Orioles stars fail to live up to their expectations. No one could have expected Manny Machado – a career .279 hitter – to bat .228 through 70 games played. Much of the league felt this was the season that Kevin Gausman would take a quantum leap, but he is sporting a 6.47 ERA after 16 starts. Add the injuries to Zach Britton, Chris Tillman, Darren O’Day, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and a banged up Adam Jones, just about everything that could go wrong has for Buck Showlater’s group.
Track record is a term that is thrown around loosely in baseball, but there is some merit to it. You generally know what to expect from many players around the league. What we have seen from many of the aforementioned players is not what the Orioles expected of them. With that said, there is still some internal optimism that things can get turned around.
Baltimore is still only 4.5 games back in the AL East race despite all the negative buzz that has surrounded them the past month and a half. They are 7-3 or 8-2 run away from being right back in the thick of things with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Coming off their first road series win since the April 18-20 series in Cincinnati, there is still plenty of time to get things turned around.
The sign of encouragement for the Orioles is how they responded after the 15-5 beat down at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night. In Saturday’s matchup, they squandered a 3-0 lead in the third on home runs from Corey Dickerson and Evan Longoria. Based on recent history, many thought another meltdown on the mound was on tap.
Dylan Bundy and the bullpen shut the door on the Rays to snap the streak of five or more runs scored at 20 games, and the O’s tacked on five runs over the sixth and seventh innings to get the win. It ended a spell of four losses in five days and out of a tie for last place in the AL East.
The comeback win on Sunday was more impressive for much of the same reasons. The Birds jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fourth on a Caleb Joseph home run, but Tillman allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings of work to give Tampa the lead and another outing with five runs scored.
Schoop, the player most worthy of the All-Star selection, tied the game with solo blasts to tie the game in the eighth. And while he would rather record a RBI in another way, he was hit by a Alex Colome pitch in the ninth with the bases loaded to give his team a two-run cushion. Jones’ sac fly in the next at bat gave the O’s their final run in the 8-5 win.
Showalter can take a lot away from that series. They did not pack it in after losing 15-5 and have their opponent comeback in consecutive days. The bats have started to come alive and the bullpen did not allow any runs in those two wins. The club was happy to welcome back O’Day from the disabled list this weekend and Britton should be with the team the first day he is eligible on July 4. They are also hopeful that Davis can return to baseball activities in the near future and give the Orioles the majority of the team they felt could be contenders this season.
Now, if only the starting pitching would get in order. Gausman has an opportunity to get things started on the right foot tonight in Toronto.