Looking back on a strange road trip that ended well

CHICAGO - There were rain delays and even more rain delays. And then there was the threat of more rain. And that will likely continue even today as the Orioles return home this afternoon to face the Boston Red Sox.

Are the raindrops stalking this team?

Enough already.

But a road trip that began with the sweepless streak ending and three straight losses in wet St. Louis moved on to produce four straight wins in sometimes wet Chicago. 

It was an impressive sweep despite Chicago's poor record as the White Sox played hard and gave the Orioles fits for most of the four days. But the O's won all four and produced their first four-game road sweep since Aug. 22-25, 2011 at Minnesota. It was their first four-game sweep of the White Sox since July 6-9, 1995.

Here are some impressions from the last seven days I spent in two cities watching each pitch and each tarp pull.

Some hitters got going: Ryan Mountcastle entered the series in Chicago in a 2-for-25 slump over his previous six games with seven strikeouts. Then in the series opener he went 4-for-5, producing his seventh career four-hit game and first since Aug. 3, 2023.

That would help him have a decent overall road trip, batting .364 (8-for-22) with three doubles and an RBI.

Ryan O’Hearn went hitless in the series opener with Chicago and, at that point, was batting .205 his previous 12 games. Then in the second game of the series, in a 6-4 O’s win, he hit four balls very hard. He went 2-for-4 with a single and double and produced four exit velocities that night of 97, 98, 97 and 106.5 mph. It was a turnaround game for him. You could tell he was swinging it better Saturday afternoon and in the eighth inning he hit a two-run homer. It was the first of three for the Orioles as that homer explosion provided a comeback win Saturday.

Gunnar Henderson had just five hits in 23 at-bats on the trip, but he hit two more homers and drove in six. And he walked nine times in the seven games with five strikeouts producing an OBP of .438 through St. Louis and Chicago.

Jordan Westburg went just 1-for-15 in the first four games of the trip but then went 5-for-12 with a double and homer in the final three games.

Adley Rutschman stayed hot and kept producing huge hits like his two-run homer on Sunday. He went just 6-for-25 during the trip but drove in seven runs in the last four games of the trip.

Rutschman has been a very productive hitter over his last 32 games since April 19, yet one that has just five walks to 28 strikeouts in that span. He has been more aggressive hitting this year and seems less inclined to walk but more inclined to slug. In those 32 games, Rutschman is batting .313/.338/.552/.890 with five doubles, nine homers and 28 RBIs.

Rutschman has 10 homers on the year and is on a pace to finish with 32 home runs after hitting 20 last year. 

Suárez was big: Big Al, as his teammates call him, came up big in an emergency start on Saturday. His previous seven outings had been out of the bullpen, and he had not thrown more 43 pitches in any game. He had just thrown twice in the St. Louis series. Still, he was able to give the Orioles four scoreless to begin that game on just two hits. He threw 80 pitches, 50 for strikes.

Suarez has now thrown six consecutive scoreless appearances covering 9 2/3 innings. In that span he has allowed a .152 batting average and .455 OPS against.

Coming through in the clutch: One point that was reinforced in the series at Chicago is that the Orioles have talented young players who are not afraid of the big moments. Another way to say that is they come through in the clutch.

Not always, no one does that, but think back to big hits Westburg keeps getting his amazing stats with runners in scoring position. Or Colton Cowser’s amazing game-ending catch leaping over the center field wall Friday night. Or Rutschman’s clutch pinch-hit, two-run single that gave the Orioles a 6-4 lead in the eighth inning Friday night. Or again his homer yesterday.

The trip ended on a high note with Kyle Bradish throwing seven dominant, no-hit innings. No way he was going past 103 pitches and second-guessing Brandon Hyde over that with a pitcher coming off a PRP injection is just foolish and uninformed.

At a time when pitchers are getting hurt often throughout MLB, fans should be delighted to see Bradish throwing as he is right now.

The Orioles now begin a stretch of 14 straight games versus AL East opponents as they host Boston and Tampa Bay this week and then play at Toronto and Tampa Bay.

The Orioles have gone 17 straight AL East series without losing one and they are 39-22 (.639) since the start of the 2023 season within the division.

O's starting pitchers allowed no runs in the last two games in Chicago and just five in 22 innings in the series. For the year, O's starters have a 3.10 ERA which ranks fourth-best in the AL and fifth in MLB.

The Orioles are now 22-3 when hitting two or more homers.

At 33-18 (.647) through 51 games, the Orioles are two games out behind the Yankees in the AL East. After 51 games last year they were 33-18 and two games out in the AL East. 

Young is movin' on up: The Orioles will be promoting right-handed pitcher Brandon Young from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk, according to a source. With the Baysox he is 0-2 with a 4.09 ERA in seven games, but Young has fanned 36 with four walks in 22 innings for a K rate of 14.73 per nine.


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