KANSAS CITY – If a formula for producing one of the best records in baseball so far has been to hold your own against the best teams and clean up on losing records clubs, the Orioles are doing a pretty solid job in following the script.
They may have gone off script for a night, being shutout 6-0 by Kansas City last night, as the Royals (8-23) ended a 10-game home losing streak that fell a game short of the franchise record.
But the Orioles have played four series to date against teams with current winning records and they are 6-6 in the 12 games against Boston, the New York Yankees and Texas, going 2-2 in series.
But they are 14-4 through Tuesday’s games against clubs with current losing records, going 5-0 in series. That is a .778 win percentage and that will help a team get into the playoffs. So will a 20-10 record and a .667 overall win percentage that, if maintained through the full year, amounts to 108 wins.
But as noted previously here, the May schedule is about to get more challenging for the team, with series looming against Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Toronto and New York.
First the O’s wrap up their series today with Kansas City and a win would give them seven straight series wins for the first time since 1986.
Outfielder Austin Hays said the club’s strong play this year, built on that record against losing clubs, is a result of a hungry group of Orioles, who have been there themselves.
“Think when you have lost so many games the past few years, and a large portion of this team was a part of that, you are not going to take any day or any game for granted,” he said.
So they are pushing hard for wins right now, realizing at the end of the year the playoff teams will have the most wins and clubs like that hopefully don’t let games get away.
“You don’t know which game, what inning, what play would have made the difference, so playing every one of them like it’s the most important is the way you have to go about it. You don’t know which one will be the difference maker,” Hays said of the team’s collective approach.
Added infielder Ramon Urias: “You see last year we played some games with the A’s and lost some of those games and we lost some games to Detroit that we shouldn’t have lost and it hurt us. We know we have to take every game seriously, put forth our best effort and play winning ball every night. It doesn’t matter the opponent.
“You don’t know how many games you are going to need at the end. So that is why we have to keep our focus every night,” he said.
And a close-knit O’s team is piling up wins right now and doing it with great clubhouse chemistry. They enjoy playing together and seeing each other every day.
“The unity we have had the first month is huge,” said Urias. “Because early in the season, not all teams come out together like we did. We’ve done great in that part. We have guys that had some great seasons last year and they want more. We’re still hungry and we want to keep playing good baseball and good things come with that.’
O’Hearn’s homecoming: Ryan O’Hearn has played nine games for the Orioles since they added him over the winter. He has played 342 games in his career for the Kansas City Royals and is enjoying a homecoming of sorts in this series.
The year the Royals beat the Orioles in the AL Championship Series, 2014, they drafted him in round eight and he played in parts of 2018 through 2022 in the bigs with the team in blue.
“Obviously lot of love for people in Kansas City,” O’Hearn told reporters from both cities yesterday before the game. “I feel like I kind of grew up here, in this organization. When they first signed me, I was 20 years old and here until I was 29. It has been pretty cool walking around. More than the baseball for me it’s the people. I saw Butch my favorite usher out in the outfield yesterday, Dave a security guy, just random faces that you know. Cool to see everybody.”
O’Hearn is 5-for-19 for the Orioles batting .263 with a .634 OPS.
He calls it an “unbelievable opportunity” to play in the big leagues – for any team at any time. He said when someone joked he should get a statue here, he joked back and said it would be of him on the bench.
But while he appreciates what happened for him as a Royals player, he values his time now with another club.
“It’s weird begin on this side and looking at the K from a different angle. Never had been in this clubhouse before. But having people say hello, it’s been comforting to see familiar faces and feel like I made some sort of mark here.
“We have been rolling a lot here and I’m focusing right now on the Baltimore Orioles. Couldn’t be more excited to be part of the Orioles. Having a blast over here. Love the coaches, love the team.”
Series finale is today: With last night's 6-0 loss to K.C., the Orioles were blanked for the first time at Kauffman Stadium since May 17, 2014 when the score was 1-0.
So today they play the fifth rubber game of 2023, and they’re 2-2 in their previous four, including wins in their last two series-deciding games.
Tuesday night, O's pitchers did not record a walk or strikeout for the fifth time in Orioles history and for the first time since Aug. 21, 1989 versus Milwaukee.
The time of game of one hour and 59 minutes made it the fourth-fastest nine-inning game in the majors this year. And it was the fastest O's nine-inning game since Sept. 15, 2010 vs. Toronto, a 3-1 win that ended in 1 hour, 55 minutes.