O's look to regroup in Toronto after tough end to Trop series

Some days in baseball you just have to tip your hat to your opponent and move on to the next. You don’t want to, but that’s the best play.

So it is for the Orioles who lost a chance at a season-ending tiebreaker edge against Tampa Bay with Sunday’s 4-1 loss. Thanks to Jorge Mateo’s double to leadoff the ninth inning, they were not on the wrong side of a perfect game and were not no-hit or shutout. But their lineup did get dominated in losing the season series 10-9.

It was still a great improvement from the 1-18 record versus Tampa Bay of a year ago, but if these teams tie for any playoff spot, Tampa Bay now holds the tiebreaking edge. The O’s had a chance for their first season series win over the Rays since 2016 and also their first series win at Tropicana Field since June 23-25, 2017.

But Drew Rasmussen buzzed through their lineup on just 28 pitches through three innings, 44 through five and 79 through eight. They were not taking many pitches but if they had they just might have found themselves down 0-1 and/or 0-2 in the count against a pitcher on a roll.

Rasmussen had pitched to an ERA of 2.16 his previous seven starts and of 2.01 in eight home starts and looked every bit that pitcher and then some on Sunday.

"It was definitely a relief,” Mateo said through team translator Brandon Quinones. “No team ever wants to have that on them and be the team that got a perfect game thrown against them, so it was definitely nice to get that hit in the last inning. We've been playing well. Hopefully, we keep it going."

The Orioles (59-55) won big on Friday scoring 10 runs on a season-high 19 hits. And yes, I characterized that as a “statement win.” Then, they scored three runs the next two games and maybe the real statement is that the Rays pitching is still formidable and the Trop is still a tough place for the Orioles.

There is some debate among the fanbase about how good or not the Orioles offense is? I say inconsistent doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Take this month for instance. The Orioles have gone 8-4 and they have scored six runs or more seven times, going 7-0 in those games. But in the four losses they have scored one, three, two and one run.

The 2022 Orioles, maybe in part because of the new wall at Camden Yards, got off to a terrible offensive start and had scored just 24 runs in the first 12 games. But in the 102 games since they have scored 459 runs – an average of 4.5 per game. The AL average this year is 4.21 runs per game. The AL average team slugging percentage is .392 and OPS is .700. The Orioles are at .392 and .697. They are holding their own, neither poor or great. But the 4.5 runs per game over such an extended stretch is not a bad stat.

Still the O’s have top prospects Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers out there if they want to make the call to go get one or two of their very best hitting prospects and both are solid defenders too.

Would it upset team chemistry or camaraderie to add them now? The team gambled with a start for lefty DL Hall at a time when he was not consistently mowing down Triple-A hitters. In this case both these two are swinging the bats pretty well.

Henderson went 3-for-6 in Sunday’s win for the Tides with a double, homer and three RBIs. For the year, he is batting .293/.400/.525/.925 in 52 Triple-A games. Henderson has hit safely in 21 of 24 games since July 10, batting .326 (31-for-95) with 22 runs, five doubles, two triples, five homers, 15 RBIs and 14 walks with a .423 OBP in that span. His OPS was .826 in July and is .877 this month.

Stowers is batting .269/.363/.538/.901 and had an OPS of .891 in July and that is .952 in August.

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