Jon Lester and the Red Sox shut out the Orioles in the finale of the three-game series in Baltimore, highlighting one of the O’s few offensive weaknesses - their numbers against left-handed pitching. The Birds were held to four hits against Lester, walked just twice and struck out eight times. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and grounded into three double plays.
Forty-one of the Orioles’ 58 wins have come against right-handed pitching, and they have gone 17-15 this season against lefties. Despite being near the league lead in nearly every offensive category (fourth in batting average at .267, first in slugging percentage at .433, first in home runs at 141, third in RBIs at 482 and third in doubles at 204) the O’s find themselves near the bottom of the league against lefties. Baltimore’s .245/.291/.401 slash line against left-handed pitching places them 19th in average, 27th in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging. That last one isn’t so bad.
Here’s how the Orioles lineup has hit against left-handed pitching in 2013:
* Nate McLouth: .240/.313/.413
* Manny Machado: .280/.309/.434
* Nick Markakis: .270/.304/.316
* Adam Jones: .250/.311/.435
* Chris Davis: .241/.297/.496
* Matt Wieters: .257/.313/.457
* J.J. Hardy: .217/.266/.435
* Henry Urrutia .333/.333/.333 (3 PA)
* Brian Roberts: .205/.238/.308
Of the above list, six players with more than 28 plate appearances are hitting .260 or higher this season (McLouth, Machado, Markakis, Jones, Davis, Roberts). Four of those six are hitting below that mark against lefties.
Of course, Davis and Machado’s recent slumps have much to do with these numbers. On the season, Davis is hitting .304/.378/.673, but has batted just .202/.277/.467 in July. Machado has posted a .297/.326/.456 slash line this season, hitting .208/.232/.333 this month.
How do the O’s solve their problems against southpaws? For starters, they are relying on their new designated hitter Henry Urrutia. The 26-year-old Cuban defector has just three plate appearances against lefties, but recorded an RBI single with his lone hit. Down on the farm, he hit .353/.421/.353 against left-handed pitchers in the International League with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides.
As Wednesday’s non-waiver trade deadline looms, the Orioles find themselves linked to a number of sluggers including Phillies third baseman Michael Young, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, Mariners first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse and Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin.
I’m sure Dan Duquette is keeping a watchful eye on their numbers against lefties this season. Here’s how they stack up:
* Young: .217/.314/.380
* Morneau: .239/.283/.336
* Morse: .304/.364/.594
* Quentin: .284/.376/.486
While Young seems to be getting the most attention, he’d also be one of the more costly options for the Orioles. Looking at his slash line, it doesn’t appear that he would be the fit they are looking for anyway. Morse is an interesting option, but he’s been injured with a strained quadriceps and hasn’t played since June 20. O’s fans will remember the team’s rumored interest in Morneau this offseason, and the former MVP is in the last year of his deal with the Twins.
Quentin seems to be the most intriguing option for Baltimore. He’s a career .255/.351/.492 hitter over eight seasons in the big leagues and could add even more power to the O’s lineup. Quentin is signed through 2015, so the Orioles would have to be willing to part with some building blocks for San Diego.
Should the Orioles stand pat, I’m confident in their lineup’s ability to bounce back. Davis’ track record shows that his .136/.208/.136 slash over the last seven games is just a bump in the road of a long season. Machado’s .152 BABIP over the past two weeks might actually be the definition of bad luck. Wieters’ career .276/.343/.467 line against lefties shows just how much he could improve the O’s lineup.
But the best news of all for the Orioles is that good pitching masks good hitting. Baltimore’s rotation has recorded 11 quality starts in their last 15 games and Tuesday’s starter, Wei-Yin Chen, is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four home starts this season.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.