A look at the O's improved play vs. AL East and other notes

TORONTO – Don’t look now but the Orioles may slowly be making some gains on their American League East opponents. Not in the standings yet – as they're still in last place – but they're making gains in head-to-head competition.

Through the season’s first 65 games, the Orioles have already won or tied series with every AL East club – the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays.

The Orioles have won one series against New York, two against Boston and one against Tampa Bay. And Thursday’s 10-2 win at Rogers Centre, once a house of horrors for the Orioles, gave them a four-game split with Toronto.

In fact the Orioles are 9-7 in their last 16 AL East games. They are 13-18 (.419) overall for the year versus the AL East after going 20-56 (.263) last year. The Orioles are 4-9 versus the Yankees, but are 9-9 combined against the rest of division. They are 5-3 against Boston, 2-2 versus Toronto and 2-4 against Tampa Bay. They are 1-3 in series versus New York, but 3-1-1 in their other five AL East series.

Before the game Thursday, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde talked about the club’s more competitive play within the division.

“I think early this season we have played some tight games against our division and you know the last two games here have been close,” Hyde said. “This division is unlike any other and it’s not even close. The lineups that you face, the arms that they have.

“I am pleased with how competitive we’ve been in our division. (I'd) like to be on the other side of some of those games, but pretty pleased with how we’ve played against what are for me, some of the best teams in Major League Baseball so far this year.”

If the AL playoff field were set today, three AL East teams would make the six-team postseason field. And Boston is just a few games behind Cleveland for what would be the sixth and final playoff berth.

Wells good again: The Orioles' rotation has had a hard time in the last few weeks, and getting quality starts has been a real chore. The Orioles had just one quality start their past 14 games, with a rotation ERA of 7.38, until right-hander Tyler Wells provided one at Rogers Centre in the series finale. It was his latest strong outing.

And there is this stat: In the last 22 games, the Orioles have just three quality starts and Wells has recorded all three.

He is really coming on, and yesterday maintained strong focus even when pitching with a 7-0 lead by the third inning. He said he would try to convince himself to have more intensity out there, and not less, when pitching with a big margin.

He allowed five hits and one run over six innings and is now 4-4 with an ERA of 3.62. Wells has thrown six innings or more three times in the last four games. Impressive for a pitcher on a pitch count with a club that hasn't let him throw over 90 pitches yet.  

“I’m extremely happy about it. The best way to put it is, I’m happy to be efficient, take some innings off the bullpen. Happy to give our team a chance to win. Those are my primary focuses,” said Wells after his fourth career quality start.

Wells passed his 2021 innings total yesterday. He threw 57 innings out of the bullpen last year and is now at 59 2/3 innings after 13 starts.

“Physically I feel great,” said Wells. “It’s a different kind of workload. The starter rotation of being able to recover between outings is really nice. Feeling really good so far and hopefully just going forward I take it that will be something (his innings load for the year) they are going to monitor and right now I am not too worried about it.”

The Orioles are 9-4 when they get a quality start, and this year Wells and Jordan Lyles have four each while Bruce Zimmermann has three and Kyle Bradish two.

Notes on Adley and the offense: The Orioles scored 22 runs in the final three games in Toronto. They've scored six runs or more in eight of their past 14 games, scoring 80 runs in the 14 games.

They've scored 54 runs in their past nine games (6.00 per game), 147 in the last 27 (5.44 per game) and 245 in their last 53 games (4.62 per game).

Ryan Mountcastle had another big hit on Thursday with his two-run single to left in the third inning off Kevin Gausman providing a 3-0 lead and starting the big six-run inning. That tied for the O’s largest inning of the year. 

In the last three games in Toronto, Mountcastle went 7-for-14 with two doubles and three homers. In the eight games on the road trip he went 11-for-31 (.355) with three doubles, four homers, eight runs and eight RBIs. Over 29 career games versus Toronto, he has batted .348 (40-for-115) with four doubles, 12 homers, 23 RBIs and a 1.096 OPS.

Adley Rutschman went 1-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI on Thursday, his third RBI in the big leagues. He hit his first homer on Wednesday night, and in the eight games of the road trip he batted .296 (8-for-27) with six extra-base hits. He had five doubles, a homer and three RBIs.

“Just getting more comfortable,” Hyde said of the rookie. “Seeing more major league pitching. He didn’t have major league camp and so, you can rehab in the minors all you want, there’s nothing like being here. It’s just getting more comfortable and he’s so talented, it was a matter of time."




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