More cooperative weather tonight will force the Orioles to again confront their slumping offense. They can run, but they can’t hide.
The Orioles have registered a .215 average that was tied with the Indians for last in the majors before last night. They’ve scored 19 runs in 10 home games, the lowest total in baseball.
I always thought Camden Yards was supposed to be a hitters’ park.
The Indians and Twins were tied for 28th with 28 runs scored in eight home games. The Yankees were first with ... wait for it ... 88 runs in 13 games in the Bronx. The Braves were next with 77 in 12.
The Orioles’ slash line at home is an unsightly .176/.256/.285 and they’ve hit only six home runs. They’re batting .241/.302/.400 with 17 home runs in 13 road games.
Manager Buck Showalter has to trust the track records of his players, the ones with past success at the plate. But he’s never been fond of hearing guys say, ‘Don’t worry, my numbers will be there at the end of the year.’ Lean on that one too strongly and it’s liable to break.
“It’s not a quote I really like,” he said, “because games are being played right now.”
They won’t hold much meaning in the coming months if the track records don’t kick in real fast.
Showalter checks the lifetime numbers and believes that the bats will perk up.
“Oh yeah, without a doubt. I do,” he said. “That’s where the challenge of, whether it be a player or a coach or a manager, GM, whatever, the challenge is to have that patience and trust that while you need it yesterday.
“It’s not one of those, ‘What other alternatives do you have?’ You’ve always got alternatives, you know? But I think our best alternative is trusting and having the patience with the people that have shown they can do it.
“Trum (Mark Trumbo) had a great night last night (at Double-A Bowie). He felt good, used some words you don’t really hear too much to describe it. He stayed the whole game. He had a great scouting report on a couple pitchers.”
Trumbo’s return from a strained quadriceps muscle could come while the Orioles start their West Coast trip early next week. He lost a game yesterday with the rainout at Bowie, and there’s no game for him Thursday. The current plan calls for him to join Triple-A Norfolk Friday in Charlotte.
Maybe Trumbo can provide a jolt in his return to the designated hitter role, but it’s going to take more than one player. Trey Mancini’s return to left field is a positive development, but switch-hitter Anthony Santander, who’s getting regular reps in right, is fighting a 3-for-30 slump in his last 10 games with an at-bat to lower his average to .153 with a .448 OPS.
“It’s expected, some of the challenges,” Showalter said. “He’s facing really good pitching. You go through periods where it looks like every pitcher is, ‘My gosh.’ It will challenge your confidence level. And then all of a sudden the game will slow down as a young player and guys are making mistakes and you’re seeing some guys, fourth or fifth starters, who aren’t on the top of their game. And every mistake you get, you’re on.
“This game will make you think that, ‘My gosh, this level.’ The reason I bring it up is that the level of two-strike pitches is one of the big challenges when you get to the big leagues, the out pitches that everybody has. When they get ahead in the count, they do that. And that’s why it puts more premium on guys like Anthony. When they get a mistake, they’ve got to be on it.”
Santander is 0-for-8 with four strikeouts in 0-2 counts, 0-for-9 with three strikeouts on 1-2 counts and 1-for-12 with a double and four strikeouts on 2-2 counts. He’s 1-for-7 with a double, two walks and five strikeouts with the count full.
Prior to falling into his current slump, Santander went 3-for-6 with a home run and three RBIs in a 12-inning win at Yankee Stadium. He collected hits in six of his first 10 games of the season with an at-bat.
“He’s had some good swings,” Showalter said. “And I like him as much as I did the day we drafted him (in Rule 5) and when we came out of camp. He’s got a good future ahead of him. We’ve had to really expose him, and I look at it as good for him. It may not be statistically pleasing for him or anybody, but there are some positives to gain from it.”
Santander, 23, no longer will hold his Rule 5 status after 44 days, and the Orioles can decide whether there’s more to gain by moving him down a level or two.
“I hope he gets hotter than you-know-what and May 12 isn’t a date anybody’s looking at,” Showalter said. “That’s what we hoped coming out of camp, and that still can happen with him, because he’s going to give himself a chance to be as good as he’s capable of being. The question is when, because of his work ethic. He’s got all the other stuff.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to keep in mind he’s, what, 22-23 years old? Basically a senior in college learning at a very tough level.”
He won’t flinch. He won’t back down from the challenge, which makes it easier to Showalter to keep running him out there while Colby Rasmus is on the disabled list.
“I love the fearless part of him,” Showalter said. “He ain’t afraid. I look for it. He comes in here every day and he’s ready to take a step. Today’s the day. He’s strong.”