The latest road trip for the Orioles removes them from the cold and dampness in Boston and transports them to climate-controlled Tropicana Field, where it’s always 72 degrees and usually an adventure.
The Rays are the darlings of the American League East, a low-budget team holding the highest spot in the standings. They’re the only division club above .500.
But right behind them are the 7-10 Orioles, winners of two road series this year to leave them one short of the 2018 total.
It’s nice to get an outsider’s perspective. Well, someone who was an outsider until the Orioles claimed him off waivers less than two weeks ago.
“We’re just a team that’s out there, we’re just one day at a time,” said Dan Straily, who held the Red Sox to one run over five innings yesterday to earn his first win.
“There’s no, like, big picture for us. I really have noticed that since I got here. I’ve only been here a week now or so, and these guys, they’re not worried about the future. They’re not worried about the long haul of the season. It’s just, how can we win today? It’s one of those things, I’ve been in a lot of clubhouses, and this one’s got its own little different vibes going on. This one’s definitely more focused on winning today than some of the others that I’ve been in.”
Manager Brandon Hyde watched the last half of yesterday’s game away from the dugout after earning his second career ejection. He got the gist of it.
A club that’s projected by everyone to lose 100-plus games, with full transparency relating to the rebuild, is three below .500 and competing to Hyde’s satisfaction.
“I like the way our team plays,” he said yesterday morning. “I think we’re a fun team to watch. We’ve been in almost every single game. It’s just been something here or there that we’ve come up short a few times, whether it be, (Sunday) not being able to push a couple runs across or a backup slider that hasn’t worked out for us late in the game. But we are right in every single game so far except maybe one or two.
“I love the way we compete, I love the way we grind out at-bats. And I think it’s a team effort. Guys are really pulling for each other. Obviously, I wish our record was better, but I’m happy with how we’re going about our business and how we’re playing and I feel like we’re going to improve as the season goes on.”
Much of it hinges on the maturation of their younger pitchers.
“I think we can definitely execute in leverage counts on the mound, so we can definitely execute better on the mound in big spots and not get beat in the middle of the plate. I’ve just seen that a lot,” Hyde said.
“I think an example is (Evan) Phillips (Sunday). We had a 3-2 count with (Eduardo) Núñez and didn’t give in and buried a slider down underneath, and he got a chase strikeout to end the inning. And just the not-giving-in attitude, a little bit, that I think our guys are still developing and still understanding why that’s so important. Sometimes it’s appropriate to walk a guy, sometimes it’s appropriate to pitch on the black. And then there’s other times when you want to be aggressive and go right at guys, and I think our guys are still finding when’s the right time to do that.
“That’s why Doug (Brocail) has gone out to the mound a couple of times in big spots, just because I don’t think our guys have the experience and understand how to do that yet. And I think we will over the course of the year.”
Hyde mentioned the leverage counts working in the Orioles’ favor yesterday as relievers Jimmy Yacabonis, Paul Fry, Evan Phillips and Miguel Castro combined for four scoreless innings. Phillips replaced Fry in the eighth after a leadoff walk and got a fly ball and double play.
“I thought Paul Fry and Evan Phillips were really good, but they’ve been good,” Hyde said. “They both have some swing-and-miss stuff. I love their aggressiveness. They attacked early and went to chase late and got some big outs for us.”
Hyde didn’t reveal where he watched the rest of the game after his ejection. He mentioned only the reasons why he argued Rafael Devers’ slide into second base and how he wasn’t trying to get tossed just to fire up his club.
He had a much better reason. And he won’t be afraid to run out there again, even knowing, as he did yesterday, that resuming an argument after a challenge is grounds for dismissal from the game.
“For me, I just felt like it was wrong,” Hyde said. “For me, they made a wrong decision and I’m not just going to allow our team to just ... I just felt like the whole thing was wrong. I felt like it was handled (wrong), I just didn’t agree with the decision in New York at all and if I disagree with something, I’ll stand up for what I believe in. I don’t believe that call was right.
“I’m going to get thrown out at times. I’m going to pick my spots, and I think when I disagree with something, then I’m going to let people know. But circumstances change and in that type of situation I go out there, I know I’m getting thrown out. But I really believe that the wrong call was made.”