After impressive sweep at Target Field, the All-Star break arrives in Birdland

MINNEAPOLIS – It was just last Tuesday, on the Fourth of July. The New York Yankees beat the Orioles 8-4 and had taken the first two games of a four-game series. After losing two of three last weekend and scoring just three runs in three games versus Minnesota, the Orioles had lost six of their past seven.

The Orioles had fallen six games behind Tampa Bay. Catch the Rays? How about try to hold on to a wild-card spot first. Was the season starting to slip away from the Orioles?

Some in Birdland posed such a question.

It looks like a foolish one this morning. Since that loss the Orioles have won five in a row by a 44-9 score. They hit a barrage of six homers yesterday and won 15-2 against a Minnesota pitching staff that began the weekend leading the majors in team ERA at 3.55 and in rotation ERA at 3.54.

Last weekend in Baltimore the Twins held the Orioles to three runs. This past weekend in Minneapolis they “held” the Orioles to 24.

We could say what a difference a few days can make and we would be right, but really, a team that has shown a lot of heart all year just provided another example the past five days.

The Orioles won and the Rays lost. That was repeated several times, and now the Orioles hit the break at 54-35 and are just two games back of Tampa Bay. The clubs are tied in the loss column. A team that was 13-0 to start the year and was 20-3 at one point is now tied with the Orioles in losses by the All-Star break.

Is it Oriole magic?

This team has something special going and we didn’t need to see what happened over the weekend to know that. But in case anyone forgot, there was the latest reminder.

The Orioles are for real. The Orioles are legit. Doubt them at your own risk.

“After that second game in New York, we were not playing good baseball and it was disappointing,” manager Brandon Hyde said in his office after Sunday’s win. “I felt like that third game really turned the corner for us, got us some momentum, and we’ve played these last five games extremely well and our starting pitching has been the key. We showed our power today. Felt like we were in a power drought for a little while, but these guys showed how much power they have.

“This Minnesota rotation, for me, is one of the best - if not the best - in baseball, and to come out of here with three wins against three good starters is impressive.”

It is, and Hyde mentioned the pitching. It can get overlooked a bit after the six-homer outburst, but it’s been on a roll. The Orioles' staff allowed five runs in three games at Target Field, with the starters allowing five in 19 innings and the bullpen none over 8 2/3.

O’s starters have now thrown five straight quality starts for a 1.67 ERA in that span. They have seven quality starts the past nine games with an ERA of 2.28. Also, O's starters have pitched at least six innings for seven straight games for the first time since Aug. 5-11, 2016. 

Yesterday's 15-2 rout was the O's largest win margin of the year and the second time in four days they were a plus-13 after beating the Yankees 14-1 Thursday. The win streak has produced a plus-35 run differential.  

It was the Orioles' first sweep at Minnesota since a four-game sweep Aug. 22-25, 2011. The three teams to sweep Minnesota three in a row this year are the Braves, Rays and Orioles. Minnesota was swept at home for the first time this year, and the first time since Cleveland did it to them Sept. 9-11, 2022. 

The Orioles are rolling. And now they take some time off for the All-Star break. All but four of them. It is a deserved break, and they can pick up where they left off on Friday in Baltimore.

For now, fans can dream of not only a chase for a playoff spot but also the team’s first AL East title since 2014. The Orioles are 3-2 versus the Rays and now two games back of them in the standings.

The third series out of the All-Star break will be a four-game set at the Trop starting July 20.

The 2023 season, pretty special from the start, has more fun, it appears, that can be extracted from it.

O's get two outfielders, one pitcher in the draft: On day one of the MLB Draft last night, the Orioles selected Vanderbilt outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. with the No. 17 pick in round one. A career .311 hitter, he gets top-of-scale 80 scouting grades from Baseball America for his elite defense and speed.

Said O's executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias: "He is a premium college player from the most premium conference there is, from the most premium program there is, and he's been excellent for three years there after being identified as a top prospect coming out of high school. I think the conversation with him starts with his center field defense. It's absolutely electric in college, and probably one of the better college center field defenders we've seen in a while. He's arguably one of the best baserunners and basestealers in recent college baseball history."

The Orioles added University of North Carolina outfielder Mac Horvath with the No. 53 overall pick and Florida State right-hander pitcher Jackson Baumeister with pick No. 63. Click here for more on day one of the draft, including quotes from Elias.

The draft resumes today at 2 p.m. ET with rounds three through 10, and the Orioles have nine selections this afternoon, beginning with pick No. 86. Check this blog later today for a write-up after each pick today and full coverage of day two of the draft.

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