Talk about April showers. The Orioles will kick off May with a doubleheader against the Pirates beginning at 4:05 p.m. after their Tuesday and Wednesday matchups were postponed. We haven’t seen the O’s play since Sunday, April 27. I’m almost beginning to forget what this team looks like. And oh yeah, Manny Machado makes his long-awaited 2014 debut this afternoon/evening in Charm City.
As we say goodbye to April and welcome in May, it’s time to look ahead to the Orioles’ schedule for the next month. Over the next 31 days, the O’s will play 30 games - 12 at Camden Yards and 18 on the road. They’ll travel outside Baltimore on three separate road trips.
Here’s how that breaks down:
May 2-8: 6 games, 2 cities (at Minnesota and Tampa Bay)
May 15-21: 6 games, 2 cities (at Kansas City and Pittsburgh)
May 26-June 5: 10 games, 3 cities (at Milwaukee, Houston and Texas)
The Birds get off-days on May 5, 19 and June 2.
Sadly the Orioles have just two homestands this month. Their first is a six-game set against the Astros and Tigers (May 9-14). Then they host the Indians for four games (May 22-25). Needless to say, it’s a pretty difficult 31 days, but after 15 consecutive AL East games (a stretch in which the O’s went 9-6), May sort of seems like a piece of cake.
Four of the eight teams the Orioles face this month made the postseason in 2013, five of them had winning records. Of their eight May opponents, the Orioles only posted a mark above .500 against the Astros (4-2) and Tigers (4-2) last season. To be fair, they didn’t face the Pirates or Brewers in 2013, but went 11-9 in their interleague games.
Jumping ahead to the end of the month, the O’s travel to Milwaukee to play arguably the best team in baseball, the surprisingly strong Brewers (20-8). Former Baltimore reliever Francisco Rodriguez has reinvented himself with his old team and has recorded a major league-leading 13 saves this season. At 2.82, the Brewers’ team ERA is second in the majors and they’re holding opponents to a .222 batting average while allowing just barely over one man on base per inning. Their pitching is good - really good.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. May begins with a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates, then the O’s travel to PNC Park for another two game set on May 20-21. Pittsburgh is off to a slow 10-16 start this season and has lost nine of its last 12 games. As a team, the Pirates are slashing .221/.296/.351, which is music to the ears of Bud Norris and Chris Tillman. The O’s No. 1 starter has given up 10 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings pitched over his last two starts in Boston and Toronto, but will look to correct that this evening.
At .265, the Orioles’ team batting average ranks sixth in the league and with the addition of Machado, who just went 8-for-12 in an abbreviated rehab stint with the Single-A Frederick Keys, the Birds’ production at the dish should only rise over the next month. They’re also facing some rather hitter-friendly pitching over the next month. Four of the O’s eight opponents have a staff ERA of 4.28 or higher (Twins, Rays, Astros and Indians). Only the Royals, Pirates and Brewers pitching staffs have a team ERA that ranks in the top 15 in the league.
The Birds play in the toughest division in baseball, but only play one AL East team this month - the Rays from May 6-8 in Tampa Bay. FanGraphs.com’s Jeff Sullivan noted before the season began that the O’s have the most difficult projected strength of schedule this season, according to average opponent WAR. Based on all the data above, I’m guessing their May is much lighter than the rest of the year.
Of course, anything could happen over the next month. As the old sports cliche goes, that’s why the play the games.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zamwi. 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.