CHICAGO – Austin Hays is going to keep playing. He won’t ask out of the lineup and won’t make excuses.
His right wrist has been sore since he made a diving catch along the right field line at Guaranteed Rate Field and was hit by a pitch on July 4. Pain on top of pain.
Hays wasn’t in Sunday’s lineup – manager Brandon Hyde’s choice – but he’s playing right field again tonight at Wrigley Field as the Orioles conclude a two-game series.
“It feels good enough to go out there and play,” he said this afternoon. “It’s painful to do some of my drill work. I’ve had to switch up some of my routines in the cage, like my top-hand drill that I normally do, but I’m still able to swing with two hands, and it feels a lot better when I do a one-hand finish. Earlier in the year, I was doing a two-hand finish.
“I’ve had to change up a couple things, but I still feel like I’m able to go out there and compete, swing.”
The hits need to start coming again. Hays is in a 3-for-42 slump with 10 strikeouts.
“I feel like I’m having pretty decent at-bats,” he said. “I’m hitting one or two balls hard a game. Just got to make sure of hitting too many ground balls, and just not having as consistent hard contact as I was before, but still like the pitches that I’m swinging at. I like how my at-bats are going. I feel like I’m on time with the fastball. Just trying to get something going.”
The sore wrist isn’t impacting Hays’ work in the outfield.
“When I have tape on it, I don’t really feel it throwing,” he said. “Defensively, I feel like I don’t even notice it when I’m out there.”
The All-Star break arrives on Monday and Hays can get an extended period of rest. Just what the team doctor ordered.
“I think that it’s not something that’s bad enough to go on the IL for,” he said. “Just something that affects small routines that I like to do in the cage on a daily basis. But as far as my at-bats go in the game and just being able to compete, I don’t feel like it’s affecting that.
“Those three or four days of full rest, I feel like I’ll come back and will be just about 100 percent ready for the second half.
The Orioles can move above .500 tonight for the first time since April 8, 2021, but players aren’t interested in being even or close to it. The mark isn’t as satisfying as it may appear from the outside, and manager Brandon Hyde is glad to hear it.
“We have a long way to go, and we try to win every night, try to win every series. That’s the bottom line,” Hyde said.
“It’s really short-term thinking. There are so many games left. But I’m really happy with how we’ve played the last couple months. Played really well of late. Just want to continue it.”
The Orioles have outscored their opponents 45-29 and posted a 3.14 ERA during a nine-game winning streak, their longest since taking 13 straight in September 1999. They’ve won 14 of their last 19 games, 17 of 25, 20 of 29 and 30 of 50.
They can make it 10 in a row tonight. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the only active team with a longer double-digit streak drought in a season is the Marlins, who have never crafted one of that length.
According to STATS, the Orioles are the second team in major league history to lose at least 110 games in a season and then have a winning streak of nine or more games the next year, joining the Louisville Colonels, who went 27-111 in 1889 and built streaks of 12, 11, and 10 games in 1890.
Per The Elias Sports Bureau, the 2022 Orioles are the fourth team since 1900 to win at least nine games in a row during the season after finishing with the worst record in the majors, joining the 2001 Cubs, 1993 Dodgers and 1902 St. Louis Browns.
The last time that the Orioles had at least 44 wins through their first 88 games was 2016, when they went 52-36.
The Orioles and Rays haven’t listed their starters for the weekend series at Tropicana Field.