Orioles manager Brandon Hyde can’t ignore the standings any longer.
His club is one game back in the wild card race, the season has moved past July and he’s peeking at the results.
“Yeah, I am,” he said. “Tried to stay up for the Seattle game, but I checked it this morning.
“When you’re in August, you start paying attention. After our games I’m always watching the Midwest games and the West Coast games at night anyway, but maybe a little differently now that we’re in August.”
The last few months of past seasons didn’t tempt Hyde to peruse the standings. Quite the opposite.
“Well, it wasn’t real fun looking at our record the last couple years. It’s a lot more fun this year,” he said, laughing.
“This year is a little bit different than the last couple years.”
So is the defense, which is turning double plays and saving runs. The Orioles are much more solid up the middle, and Hyde praised shortstop Jorge Mateo again this afternoon.
“Coming into spring training not sure what our shortstop situation was, wanted to give Jorgie the opportunity, and he’s played Gold Glove defense for us, so it’s been enormous,” Hyde said.
“The way Roogie (Rougned Odor) turns a double play. Two huge ones last night. Been doing that all year to help us win games. (Ryan) Mountcastle’s improved at first base, Ramón (Urías) has really improved at third base. We’ve got Gold Glovers in the outfield. And then, our catching all year has been so good.
"Robby (Chirinos) and (Anthony) Bemboom earlier, they did a great job, and now Rutsch (Adley Rutschman) getting the majority of the playing time is absolutely fantastic and is only getting better. So, our defense has been a huge step up this year.”
Hyde has noticed Rutschman becoming more comfortable behind the plate and working with the pitchers.
“His game-calling is excellent,” Hyde said. “He’s one of the best blockers in the league already, he’s one of the best framers in the league already. The way he controls the pitching staff, his tempo, the energy behind the plate, the positive reinforcement. The pitchers know that he’s trying to get them through their innings. The whole package. He does a great job.”
Cedric Mullins was outstanding again last night, running down fly balls on the track and sprinting into right-center field in the third inning to deny Alejandro Kirk with a runner on first base.
“That ball in right-center, he went a long way,” Hyde said. “I don’t know what the catch probability was on that, but I know it was a tough play. The eye test. It’s kind of lost now these days, because everything’s got a number on it, but I know that was a tough play and he made it look easy.”
Rutschman is batting .353/.529/.490 (18-for-51) with seven doubles, 13 runs scored, 17 walks and two hit-by-pitches in 16 games since the All-Star break. His on-base percentage leads the majors and his walks are tied for first.
Hyde has tried to avoid using his relievers for three consecutive days and won't let the playoff race change his approach.
"I'd be more aggressive a little bit if I had some veteran guys down there right now, honestly," he said. "There's still guys I want to take care of down there, and a lot of these guys are really early on in their career, and I'm not going to risk anything at this point.
"It's going to depend on pitches and workload prior to the three days, but yeah, I'd like to push on the gas a little bit, but if I had more veterans in the bullpen, then that would be a different story. I definitely would."
Right-handers Austin Voth and Josh Winckowski are the starters Thursday for the one-game series at Fenway Park.
For the Blue Jays
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. LF
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. DH
Alejandro Kirk C
Matt Chapman 3B
Bo Bichette SS
Raimel Tapia RF
Whit Merrifield CF
Cavan Biggio 1B
Santiago Espinal 2B
Alek Manoah RHP