After an inconsistent start to the season, the Orioles offense really started to step it up a notch over the past 10 days and their American League rivals have been forced to take notice.
In their past nine games, dating to May 18, the Orioles produced 137 base runners (101 hits, 30 walks, six hit batsmen) which resulted in 55 runs being scored. This was a significant increase in offensive production from their previous seven games, where a combined total of just 15 runs were scored. The numbers were also much higher than the rest of the month of May, where a combined total of 53 runs were scored over the course of the first 17 games.
The leaders for the Orioles during this impressive offensive period included:
* J.J. Hardy, .432 average (16-for-37) and four RBIs
* Adam Jones, .350 average (14-for-40), one home run and seven RBIs
* Nelson Cruz, .382 average (13-for-34), five home runs and nine RBIs
* Chris Davis, .296 average (8-for-27), four home runs and 10 RBIs
* Nick Markakis, .326 average (14-for-43), one home run and six RBIs
* Steve Pearce, .466 average (7-for-15), one home run and five RBIs
Orioles manager Buck Showalter and hitting coach Jim Presley would be impressed by the amount of opportunities and number of runs their hitters have been producing. However, ultimately the team failed to take advantage of the offensive burst due to what felt like an almost inevitable return of pitching woes.
In total, the Orioles pitching staff allowed 55 runs during the nine games and that was the reason behind the 4-5 record during this period. Clinging on to third place in the American League East with a somewhat fragile record of 26-24, the O's are now in a crucial stage of their season where they need to convert these chances and ride the offensive hot streak while it lasts.
Despite the pitching staff not being able to piggyback on the improved run support, the Orioles must be looking forward to the upcoming four-game series against the Houston Astros, which starts tomorrow. The Astros comfortably have the second-lowest amount of runs scored of all 15 AL teams this season and, all things considered, anything less than at least three or four wins will be extremely disappointing.
Assuming the Orioles take three of the four games, they will then own a record of 29-25 heading into yet another tough stretch against the Texas Rangers (three games), Oakland Athletics (three games) and the struggling yet potentially damaging Boston Red Sox (three games). Here, offensive production will be absolutely crucial to winning games against powerful American League lineups.
Quite simply, the Orioles need to strike while the iron is still hot and this upcoming series against the Astros is a must-win. If they don't make the most of this opportunity they may well end up regretting it further down the track. It's a well-known fact that the Orioles have struggled to put away teams with sub-.500 records in recent years and there's no better time than now to turn that worrying trend around.
Daniel Clark blogs about the Orioles at The Big Leagues Daily from Melbourne, Australia. Follow him on Twitter: @DC_TBLDaily. His thoughts on the O's appear here as part of MASNsports.com's continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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.