In Chicago, the offense finally arrived as O's avoided the sweep

CHICAGO – It might feel like the Orioles have been struggling lately. They have, after all, lost back-to-back road series for the first time all year and they are 3-4 in their last seven series.

But by winning 6-3 Sunday at Wrigley Field over the Chicago Cubs, the Orioles avoided getting swept and have now won seven of their past 10 games. Yes, over that longer seven-series stretch they are 11-10. But even at a time when they are not winning at the same percentage as earlier and at a time when they are playing without Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle and yesterday Gunnar Henderson, they have won seven of 10 and have a better than .500 record while losing four of seven series.

Their offense was AWOL for most of Friday and Saturday, scoring five total runs. But a three-run sixth inning Sunday produced enough offense for a win. They did not get swept again – third time this season they lost the first two but won the third game of a series.

“Just keep going,” new outfielder Aaron Hicks said about avoiding the sweep. “Day-after-day, it’s a different day. To be able to turn the page and understand it’s a long season. In this game it’s all about winning series. If you lose the first two, make sure you get one out of there. That is kind of how you need to be, especially if you want to be a winning team and a team that goes far into the playoffs.”

Yep, keep grinding and get one win and they did.

“These guys come ready to play every day and they want to go out and win,” added Hicks, who is batting .327 with a .992 OPS in 16 games as an Oriole. He has walked as many times as he has struck out (10 to 10) and has scored 11 runs.

When asked if the Orioles are good enough to be a playoff team, would you be surprised to hear that Hicks said yes.

“Of course. I mean, you have to have a steady lineup that is out there producing every single day. You know a starting pitcher that is able to shut guys down. And you need to be resilient, especially when you are down. That is definitely what I’ve seen since I’ve been here. We may be losing by two or three runs, but they are still ready to go and having great at-bats late into the games,” he said.

Also, late in those games they can rely on their one-two punch of bullpen power arms in Yennier Cano and Félix Bautista. Cano averaged 96.2 mph on his sinker yesterday and Bautista averaged 100.6 mph and topped at 102 on his fastball. All 10 pitches he threw Sunday were fastballs. Bautista recorded his 19th save and eighth in a row.

“Those guys are hard to come by, especially having two on one team. You look at some of the old playoff teams like the Royals in like ’15 I think they had the three-headed monster at the backend of the bullpen. So, you feel very safe if we get through most of the game with a lead,” said O’s starter Dean Kremer, who got his eighth win yesterday.

Kremer allowed one earned run and three hits in five innings. Orioles starting pitchers have allowed three runs or less for 10 straight games with an ERA of 3.26 in that span. They have done that in 19 of their past 20 games with an ERA of 3.72 in that stretch.

After losing 10-3 Friday, O’s pitchers allowed just four earned runs on seven hits in the last two games in Chicago. The bullpen threw six scoreless on one hit in the two games.

Now for the Orioles, it’s time to enjoy today's off-day before they get their second look of the year at the Tampa Bay Rays for a brief two-game series beginning Tuesday. Tamp Bay holds the best record in the majors at 51-24 (.680) and leads the AL East by five games over Baltimore.

Minor league moves and news: We reported in this space yesterday about big movement coming in the next day or two on the O's farm. Eight players are getting promoted included Cesar Prieto, Justin Armbruester, Alex Pham and Jud Fabian. Read more on that here.





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