Latest challenge for the Orioles begins tonight in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO - Coming off a tough day for the pitching staff and continuing a stretch of games without center fielder Cedric Mullins while beginning a six-game road trip against .500 or better clubs, this is a challenging time for the Orioles. 

And we thought May was going to be the hard part?

The Orioles did fine in May, going 16-12 and that included the 13-9 record in a span of 22 games versus winning record clubs. They more than held their own after a 1-0 March and 18-9 April.

But as they begin a weekend series at San Francisco’s Oracle Park tonight, the Orioles have lost back-to-back series for the first time all year.

They still hold one of MLB’s best records at 35-21, but in case you thought there was ever a time they could lighten up on the gas pedal, there doesn’t seem to be. The Giants are 28-28 and have played better going 22-15 since April 22. Milwaukee is next up and is 29-26.

The O’s bullpen, by my count, posted an ERA of 2.86 in April but that number was 4.15 in May. At an overall bullpen ERA of 3.45 for the year after Wednesday, the O’s ‘pen has fallen from the top spot or two to fifth in the AL. The ‘pen ERA was still 2.89 as of May 17 and even though that number dropped the last couple of weeks there were still several games in there where the ‘pen threw well.

But as this latest road trip begins, we find out how the O’s handle this latest challenge. Playing decent teams with a reeling bullpen and without their star in center field.

How do some Orioles fare in some stat categories among American League leaders? Worth checking on during the off day heading into this series and these are all through Wednesday’s games.

* Batting average – Austin Hays third at .311.

* Hits – Adley Rutschman tied for 12th at 58.

* Doubles – Anthony Santander tied for eighth at 15.

* Home Runs – Ryan Mountcastle tied for 11th with 11.

* RBIs – Cedric Mullins tied for seventh with 39 and Ryan Mountcastle tied for 11th with 38.

* OBP – Adley Rutschman is first at .411 and is the AL walks leader with 43.

* Slugging – Austin Hays is 14th at .506.

* Extra-base hits – Anthony Santander is tied for fifth at 25, Ryan Mountcastle tied for 12th at 24.

* OPS – Austin Hays is 12th (.859), Anthony Santander 13th (.857) and Adley Rutschman 15th (.853).

* Four-hit games – Adley Rutschman is first with four.

Tonight's pitching matchup features the Orioles' Dean Kremer (5-2, 4.58 ERA) facing the Giants' Logan Webb A(4-5, 2.75 ERA).

Over his past five starts, Kremer is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA, allowing just two homers in 29 1/3 innings and with an OPS against of .668 in that span.

Webb has an ERA of 1.00 his past four starts and is 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA his last seven games. The Giants are 4-7 in his starts, but one reason is a lack of offense. In the seven losses when he started the game, San Francisco scored just eight total runs. 

Santander hit a two-run homer Wednesday against the Guardians to cap off a huge month of May for the switch-hitter. His May OPS was second-best in the AL. Over his last three games, he is 7-for-13 with three doubles, a triple and a home run. 

In May he hit .337/.422/.634/.1.056 with seven doubles, a triple, seven homers and 22 RBIs.

AL leaders in OPS in May:

1.356 - Aaron Judge, Yankees
1.056 - Anthony Santander, Orioles
1.044 - Kevin Kiermaier, Blue Jays
1.034 - Mickey Moniak, Angels


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