O's hope they dodged a bullet with Austin Hays, off to a hot-hitting start

The Orioles hope they have outfielder Austin Hays available today for the series finale at Oriole Park against the Boston Red Sox.

The clubs have split two games in this series and the Orioles' 8-6 loss Tuesday left their record at 15-8 and saw an end to their seven-game win streak.

Hays bruised his right hand while attempting a bunt in the third inning. Luckily X-rays were negative for a fracture, but he’ll undergo further evaluation.

"We caught a break there with the X-rays being negative, so that's great news," manager Brandon Hyde said after the game. "It's day-to-day. It's obviously really sore. I think we got lucky."

Hays is off to a fast batting start, hitting .301/.341/.542/.883 with six doubles, a triple, four home runs and nine RBIs in 23 games.

We hear Orioles hitters say often they are “feeling good at the plate.” But what does that mean exactly and how does a player get to that point when they feel good and confident in the box? That feeling can be fleeting and if hitters could bottle the feeling, they would take cases of it everywhere they go.

But that part is not possible.

Hays has had a good feeling at the plate this year. Through Monday's games, he was leading the team in batting average, slugging, OPS, hits (25), extra-base hits (11), total bases (45) and runs (16).

“Just feels like you are on time for everything,” Hays said about feeling good in the box. “You have the ability to stay through the breaking ball and you know, pull it with some power. And those fastballs that you get, no matter where they are, it seems like you can stay inside them and hit them on a line to the big part of the field. Think anytime someone is going really good, you see them doing damage both pull side on offspeed pitches and just driving heaters through the middle part of the field.”

And Hays was asked about the reverse of that. When a player is looking or feeling lost at the plate, how do you try and deal with that?

“A lot of times you know you are in a good count and get a good pitch to hit, but you are fouling that pitch off more often than not. And when you are going well that is the ball you put in play and drive it well somewhere. So you are missing a lot more pitches when you are not going well. And it can seem like you are early on the offspeed and hitting stuff on the end of the bat. Or making a decision too soon and you are out in front on pitches or chasing some out of the zone. It just all comes back to being on time for the fastball and hitting it through the middle part of the field. Making good decisions and swinging at pitches in the zone.”

But a hitter not on a time can fall into a slump and then some bad habits while trying to get out of it. Hays said experience helps you learn to handle it better as time goes on.

“Think it is easier the more of those you’ve had,” he said. “You understand there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you are going to come out on the other side of it. The balls will start to fall. You will get a hit again and the world is not going to end. Sometimes if it is one of your first times going through that, you feel like it will never end.”

Hays is that rare player that truly can impact a game with all five tools on a given night. In the top of the sixth on Monday night, with the O’s leading 5-4 over Boston, he threw a runner out trying to go first to third on a single to left. It was the O’s second outfield assist of the year and Hays has both. His 90 mph throw nailed Boston’s Justin Turner for a big out.

“It’s exciting anytime as an outfielder, when you can throw out a runner. Especially in a big part of the game. It’s what you want on defense – you want the ball hit to you so you can do that. So we train everyday in the outfield, making sure we are making accurate throws to bases and keeping our arms in shape. We do that everyday so when it lines up in a game, it’s a great feeling,” he said.

The Orioles win streak ended last night but they scored five runs in the ninth - four on Cedric Mullins' second career grand slam. But Kyle Bradish allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings and the O's could not dig out of a 7-0 early hole. Baltimore pitching has allowed 39 runs in going 2-3 this year against Boston. Today's winner will take this series.

After the game the Orioles will head to Detroit to begin a three-city road trip against the Tigers, Kansas City and Atlanta. 

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