It was May 25. The Orioles beat the New York Yankees 3-1 as Kyle Gibson got the win and Yennier Cano a save and New York was held to just three hits. The Orioles won the series two wins to one at Yankee Stadium.
At that point the Orioles were 33-17 through 50 games, playing .660 baseball and they had the second best record in the majors. They were just three games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League East lead.
But on this trip to the Bronx, the Orioles have been outplayed and beaten twice to start a four-game series, losing 6-3 and 8-4 to a Yankees team that was not exactly riding a hot streak into this series.
Have the Orioles just hit a lull in a season which could still deliver special things? Or has a run of 16-18 since that earlier series in New York exposed some issues? Or will the O's end up somewhere in the middle later, maybe not as prolific as the team that played .660 baseball for 50 games, but better than the club that has played .471 ball since.
The Orioles have now lost six of the last seven, eight of 12 and 10 of their past 16 games. To say the least they are getting the biggest test of the season right now.
While their offense has scored just 10 runs the last five games, it has also produced three runs or less in 14 of the last 25 games, going 3-11 in those contests.
Meanwhile in this series in New York, the O's bullpen has allowed seven earned runs in four innings while New York's 'pen has allowed just one run over 8 2/3 innings. That has led to the Orioles being outhomered 5-2 this series and outscored the last two games by 8-1 from the seventh inning to the end of the game.
"You play six months, you're going to have periods of not playing your best baseball," said Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde. "We're in that period right now."
The Orioles have lost two series in a row to Cincinnati and Minnesota and one more loss in the Bronx will produce a third straight series loss. They are 4-6-1 the last 11 series.
The Orioles came into this series with a 5-0-1 record in their past six AL East series, going 12-5 overall in that stretch. That was pretty strong baseball. Then they got outscored by seven runs the past two days.
Hyde made it clear his team doesn't need the All-Star break to regroup. What they need is wins now in some of the remaining games before they hit the break.
"We have five games to play to the All-Star break. We need to play these five games well. We have not played well in the last couple of games here.
"They're playing way faster than we are. They're playing better and we need to match that," said Hyde.
Added right-hander Kyle Gibson, who allowed four runs in six innings Tuesday: "It's surprising, obviously, because when you play so well for so long, consistently for 70 of these 84 games, we've played really, really good, you don't expect to have stretches like this. But nobody is immune to it, every team goes through it."
The Yankees relievers have posted a Major League-best 2.82 ERA and a .213 opponents’ batting average this season. The O's have seen that at work this series.
The Orioles are still 14-11 this year against AL East teams. But with yesterday's loss they fall to 3-5 against New York this year and to 10-17 against the Yankees since the beginning of the 2022 season.
No doubt, the Orioles need to find a way right now to bounce back, something they have done often this year. Whether it is getting a big game from a starting pitcher or scoring six or seven runs and mashing some homers on offense, now they have to find a way to not have a six or seven-game lull turn into something bigger.
Cowser gets the call: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com was first to report last night that the Orioles will call up outfielder Colton Cowser today. He wrote about that right here.
In 56 games, Cowser is having a special year for Triple-A Norfolk, batting .330/.459/.537/.996. He leads the International League in OBP, ranks 7th in batting average and eighth in OPS. From last year to this year with Norfolk, he increased his walk rate from 10.5 to 18.7 and lowered his K rate from 30.6 to 23.3.
I recently talked to Tides manager Buck Britton about Cowser.
“He commands the strike zone so well, so right there he gives himself a chance,” Britton told me. “You know he is going to be swinging at good pitches to hit. He’s a strong kid and can run a little bit. If you look at his track record, the guy just has always hit.”
And he is not wrong about that. In 2022, the player the Orioles drafted No. 5 overall out of Sam Houston State in 2021 produced an OPS of .875 for three teams. He played 62 games for High-A Aberdeen, 49 for Double-A Bowie and 27 at the end of the year for Norfolk. He has spent this entire season with the Triple-A Tides.
“He has tremendous bat-to-ball skill and because he walks and has the ability to make contact and doesn’t chase pitches outside the zone, put that all together and it’s a guy with an OPS approaching 1.000 and hitting .330, .340. Pretty good,” said Britton.