Orioles' outfielder Austin Hays is trying to make his July a real outlier this season. So far it is the only month his OPS was not .800 or better.
And it is a real outlier as his OPS in July was just .446. It was a month where Hays made the All-Star team and was a starter for the American League. But his bat was slumping.
And then he started to elevate the ball again and drive it more consistently and he got back on track. In 128 games for the year, he’s batting .287/.333/.462/.795. That is good for an OPS+ of 118, better than the 107 OPS+ he posted in 2021 and the 105 number from last year.
Hays’ current OPS+ number ranks fifth among O’s regulars, behind Ryan O’Hearn, Anthony Santander, Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman.
“I want to finish really strong,” he said yesterday in the Baltimore clubhouse, before going 2-for-4 in the loss to St. Louis. “Just stay focused. Don’t get complacent. I like where I am right now, but still a lot of at-bats sitting out there. Lot of opportunity left. I really want to finish strong. Just as hungry now as I was at the start of the year.”
And after his struggles of July, Hays posted an OPS of .858 in August and it is .897 this month. He wants to close out a strong year for him with a strong finish to that year.
“Just trying to stay focused on all the right things," he said. "Play the game the right way. Focus on winning and doing whatever I have to do for the team to put us in a position to win. All my focus is on that.”
Where does his strong drive come from to finish off a solid year?
“Winning helps a lot. When you have a chance to win every game, that is where your focus is. In the past some years we were behind by a bunch of runs early, you have some different thoughts that are keeping you going and giving you that drive. When you have a chance to win every game, that is the drive," said Hays.
The Orioles are closing in on clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2016 and their big series with Tampa Bay begins tomorrow night. Hays sees the young Orioles as handling life at the top of the AL East solidly thus far.
“I think we’ve handled it really well. Not getting too high on the wins. We celebrate and have our stuff we do after the game, then we go home and turn the page. Then we prepare for the next game and we’re on to the next game. Even though we are young, we have been mature in handling the ups and downs of the season really well and been very consistent,” he said.
O’s face Drew Rom: He was drafted by then O’s scouting director Gary Rajsich in the fourth-round out of a high school near Cincinnati in 2018. He spent the last few years getting developed on the mound by the current O’s regime and minor league staff. Now he is pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Tonight, Drew Rom, 23, will pitch at Camden Yards. But not for, but rather against the Orioles.
In the Cardinals clubhouse yesterday, Rom praised the O’s current pitching development program in an interview with several O’s reporters.
“Unbelievable. Those guys over there are some of the best they could ask for," he said of the coaches and other staff. "Coming from the Astros with the success that they had and coming to Baltimore. Two or three years later they have (Kyle) Bradish who is one of the top pitchers in baseball and everyone is following suit right behind him.
“Over there they do it right. They definitely know what they are talking about. It’s paid off for them for sure. Everyone can see their pitching staff has been unbelievable, both starters and bullpen,” said Rom.
Rom is 0-2 with a 7.79 ERA in four starts since making his MLB debut Aug. 21 at Pittsburgh.
O's and Rays both lose: For the last eight days the Orioles have been at least three games ahead in the AL East. That could have been cut to two games last night, but after the Orioles 5-2 loss to St. Louis, Tampa Bay lost 3-2 at Minnesota.
So, the O's lead remains three games as the teams begin a four-game series on Thursday night in Baltimore.
With 18 to play the Orioles are 91-53 and Tampa Bay is 89-57.