Leftovers for breakfast

CHICAGO – The Orioles have posted a 13-9 record in June, with a chance for their first winning month since August 2017. They haven’t gone .500 since July 2019.

They’ve built a 20-15 record since May 19, which is their best 35-game stretch in five years.

They have a chance today to post their first five-game winning streak since taking seven in a row from Aug. 7-14, 2020.

Trey Mancini talked yesterday about players showing up to the ballpark expecting to win, “and that's not a feeling we've had here in a long time.” Manager Brandon Hyde noted the energy and confidence, passing much of the credit to the pitching staff, including a bullpen stocked with waiver claims that’s registered a 3.07 ERA that ranks sixth in the majors.

The Orioles were dead last in 2021 at 5.70, and they hadn’t traded Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott.

Just the idea of being on a .500 club has to excite Mancini, the senior member who’s been on the losing side past early April since the big collapse of September 2017.

“Yeah, I think so with how the last however many years have gone for us,” Mancini said.

“It’s been a while since we’ve really been close to .500, not that that’s the goal or any sort of ultimate goal by any means, but it’s definitely nice to be there. But again, it’s nothing we’re thinking about. We’re still a few games under and we’re going to go out there tomorrow and going to try to win another game and not really about anything beyond that.”

* Yesterday’s pregame ceremony was one of the most touching that I’ve witnessed, with 7-year-old cancer survivor and fighter Beau Dowling invited to participate in a “Home Run for Life” moment that brought both teams out of the dugout to stand on the baselines.

A taped home run call played over the public address system as Dowling swung, dropped his bat and sprinted around the bases while fans cheered. He was met with high fives from each player, Austin Hays being the last from the Orioles. Hays slapped hands with Dowling and gave him an enthusiastic push toward second.

Mancini, a survivor of Stage 3 colon cancer, hung around home plate afterward to meet the family and talk to Dowling. Of course he did.

“It was so cool,” Mancini said. “I came to the park today and I knew that we had a pregame ceremony. I didn’t know what it was, but once I found out, I wanted to go over there after he ran the bases and just tell him that he was awesome. And I told him that I had cancer two years ago and I’m doing just fine now and doing well, and I know the same thing is going to happen for him, too. So, I just wanted him to know that.

“But that was really cool to see both teams on the line and his family out there, and it was absolutely incredible to be a part of.”

* One of the standout moments from this series, at least for me, came in the second inning of Friday night’s game.

Jorge Mateo is drilled in the ribcage area by Michael Kopech’s 99 mph fastball. He says later that he didn’t think it was intentional, but his reaction suggests otherwise, and the benches and bullpens empty.

The crowd was hyped, the visitors already were at a disadvantage by resorting to a bullpen game after Kyle Bradish went on the injured list, and Richie Martin offered the best response with a run-scoring single after Mateo stole second base and exchanged more words with White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.

Martin wasn’t trying to make a statement. He just wanted a quality at-bat.

“I think it’s just big that we got the win,” he said. “That one instance isn’t going to decide a game. Nothing behind that.”

I felt like it still made a point. The Orioles weren’t going to be distracted or intimidated. Even if it wasn’t Martin’s intent, a message appeared to be sent. And it was the perfect counterpunch.

The Orioles retired the last 19 batters as fans booed and chanted for the firing of manager Tony La Russa. The bullpen accounted for the last 18 – outs, not chants.

“They’re amazing,” Martin said. “It’s lights out top to bottom. It’s awesome. They keep you on your toes, fill up the zone, throw strikes and attack. It’s just fun to play behind.”

* DL Hall starts again this afternoon for Triple-A Norfolk in Lehigh Valley.

Attention will keep shifting away from the Orioles, as it always does when a top pitching prospect is on the mound. His line will be monitored. A good outing will fuel the calls for his promotion.

Hall is going to pitch in Baltimore this summer if he stays healthy. When it happens is the only question.

Increasing the pitch count isn’t an issue. Hall was stretched out to 92 in his last start, but in 4 1/3 innings. He was charged with five runs, but only two earned, and walked five batters.

“Obviously, the stuff is electric,” said Norfolk manager Buck Britton. “I think it’s just the command at times leaves him. He’s not missing big, I will say. I think (Tuesday) night the umpire might have been a little tight, but nonetheless, he still struggled to get the ball over the plate a little bit. But he’s getting closer to having that command that he’s going to need to pitch up in the big leagues. It’s just going to be a work in progress.”

Understandable considering how injuries have prematurely ended a couple of his minor league seasons, including 2021, when he made seven starts for Double-A Bowie and was shut down with a stress reaction his left elbow.

The Orioles kept Hall at extended spring training after breaking camp.

“This guy didn’t pitch much last year, but you can’t look at the stuff and not be excited for him,” Britton said. “We just need him to be a little more consistent, maybe pitch off that fastball a little more. He’s going to be good. We’ve just got to get him locked in here for a stretch.”

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