The Orioles hold a nine-game lead in the American League East, tying their season high, following today’s 12-8 win over the Twins before 40,905 at Camden Yards.
A season-high 23 games above .500 is nose-bleed territory.
The Orioles are 37-17 since June 30, the best record in the majors. They’re 21-6 at home since June 30 and have outscored opponents 139-82.
Is that good?
Manager Buck Showalter talked yesterday about how different players have stepped up, how it can’t always be the same guys. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like, “Next time, it could be Ryan Flaherty.”
Different guys stepping up.
“It’s pretty easy pickings because we’ve had a lot of guys,” Showalter said. “Just because they haven’t been playing consistently doesn’t mean they’re not capable. These guys would be hitting third and fourth at Norfolk. They’re all capable. David Lough had a big day for us. I don’t think I’ve seen a scoreboard where everybody on both teams had a hit, but it sure felt like it. Day like today, ball’s carrying. It was a very offensive day. It’s a hard day to pitch. We just had a few more points than they did.
“You know they’re one of the better offensive teams in our league and it’s just a matter of time before they challenge you. But Ryan was big today. I think everybody pulls for him. We all know how hard he works and how much it means to him to win, to contribute, in that order. It was good to see something come back to him. David’s been the same way. Both of these guys through thick and thin. It’s like Stevie (Pearce). They stay ready for their opportunities.”
J.J. Hardy continued his power surge with a grand slam, and he made three really nice plays in the field. Once again, he charged a soft liner, played the short hop, stepped on the bag and turned the double play.
Try doing that at home. Just don’t break a lamp.
“J.J. makes adjustments all the time, he and Jimmy (Presley) do, the little things,” Showalter said. “You keep trying things. You don’t just sit there and say, ‘Que sera, it’s meant to be.’ These guys grind every at-bat, every game and look for ways to improve and be there.
“The three plays J.J. made in the field today. The ball up the middle, the shift play that he goes over and makes in a key situation, and the play that ended the game is a very difficult play. You start to take the hop and take the out because you’ve got a fast runner and he makes a quick decision to take the short hop on a hard chewed-up field at that point in the game and turn the double play. People, just the naked eye, they see a play up the middle, kind of routine. They are far from routine. Those are plays he’s spoiled us with, but we don’t him them for granted. He’s a special defender.”
Wei-Yin Chen was charged with four runs, the last scoring as he sat on the bench with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. He walked none and struck out seven while improving to 14-4 with a 3.83 ERA.
“Good. Real good,” Showalter said. “Crisp, good depth on his breaking ball. I was trying to get him through the seventh and couldn’t quite get through there. Was really trying to stay away from some guys in the bullpen, but weren’t able to get through it. And that’s a tribute to them as much as anything else. But Wei-Yin was solid. He had a good look, good tempo, the guy you’d like to have on the mound when it’s as hot and sticky as it was today.”
The Orioles have scored 24 runs in the first three games of the series. Is it the hitting coming around, the weather, the Twins’ pitching?
“Maybe it’s a bit of all that,” Showalter said. “It’s not only one thing. Our guys have strung together some good at-bats, but they helped us a lot. There were seven or eight baseunners we didn’t earn, whether it’s a hit-by-pitch or a walk. I think we’ve been very selective. We’ve strung together a lot of good at-bats. Today we needed all of them.”
New outfielder Alejandro De Aza showed up in the middle of the game and sat on the bench.
“I didn’t spend much time with him other than a handshake,” Showalter said. “We had a lot going on in that game. I haven’t talked to him yet. Happy to be here, I hope. I’m sure he is. I know he’s been talking to some of the guys.
“I was going to try to get him in the game today, but things kind of changed from inning to inning.”
You know what else changed? The Orioles’ lead in the AL East.