Looking for consistently better at-bats and other O's notes

On Friday night as the Orioles faced Los Angeles Angels right-hander Raisel Iglesias in the ninth inning, they were facing an experienced closer who was called on to protect a 4-2 lead. A closer who, since the start of last season, has 49 saves, 0.940 WHIP, a 1.6 walk rate and a 13.1 strikeout rate.

But down to their last out, the Orioles produced four straight hits to beat Iglesias and the Angels 5-4 in a stunning, comeback, walk-off win.

On Saturday, O’s manager Brandon Hyde talked about the quality of the at-bats his hitters took at the end of that game and how in many late-inning situations this year, the O’s at-bats seem to get better. Then he wondered if his team could begin having more of those intense, quality at-bats earlier in games or more consistently through nine innings of games.

“For us to take the next step forward offensively, it’s going to be the focus of the at-bats be in the early and middle part of the game like they are late a lot of nights,” said Hyde. “Those at-bats off Iglesias were unbelievable. They had a pass-the-baton mentality of getting the right guy up. Sometimes with young players, (they) try to do too much at times. Game's not in the balance at that point, you know you are just trying to take the at-bat. But I feel like so far this year the last third of the game our at-bats have improved. And it’s usually off premier, back-end guys too.

“So it’s in there with our guys. And it’s not realistic to do it night after night after night. But, to be a relentless offense and to be able to blow teams out, which we have a hard time doing, or put up a big number, which is hard for us to do, it’s because we don’t take those at-bats we took in the ninth inning for nine innings. And for me, that’s our next step.

“And we have a lot of things to get better at, and we’re improving. There is no doubt. But we have room to improve, too, and that’s room for us to improve. To take four at-bats a night from each guy with that type of intensity. We were doing it off – I mean Iglesias is one of the best closers in the game. And we’ve done that a bunch of times this year, so we’ve come a long way and there is no doubt about it. And we still have room to grow and we’re going to get there.”

Feeling a draft: O’s executive vice-president and general manager Mike Elias met with O’s reporters before Saturday’s game on a variety of topics, to include the No. 1 overall pick in the draft coming up for the Orioles a week from today.

Elias has been involved with picking 1/1 several times now between his stints with the Astros and the Orioles. And he says he has learned a lot about making such a critical pick. I asked him if he feels confident that whichever player he takes a week from today will be the No. 1 ranked player on his draft board. Or do the dollars and negotiations always factor into such a decision?

“We take the player that we want to take and that we want to start our draft with,” he said. “And that we feel is going to kick off the maximization of the draft class. Detail beyond that is something that I don’t feel is in the interest of the organization for me to reveal, especially this week. But rest assured, we are going into any high pick that we have with the goal of maximizing the output of that pick itself.”

That's seven in a row: The O's win streak reached seven with Saturday's 1-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels as right-hander Dean Kremer pitched five innings and the bullpen went the final four in a combined five-hitter.

The Orioles (42-44) have their longest win streak since August 2017.

Since June 16, O's pitchers have allowed two runs or fewer 13 times in the last 22 games with a team ERA of 2.57 in that span. In those 13 games the Orioles are 12-1.

The team posted its eighth shutout on Saturday, already three more than they had all of last year, and Hyde said his catchers deserve a lot of credit for strong work all season with the pitching staff.

“What is not seen is the pitch-calling," he said. "The blocking, the lack of balls to the backstop, no advance of runners. But also the energy and the will to get pitchers through innings. And the want-to, and you see the emotion after innings. It’s been really cool.”

The Orioles haven't had an eight-game winning streak since April 22-May 1, 2005. 

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