Three more observations about the Orioles

Another series is in the books and the Orioles have moved on to the Rays, who arrive at Camden Yards for three games.

Sportswriters are prisoners to lists of five, but three sounds right. So here are three more observations while I wait for the lineup to be posted – and for more questions about possible call-ups.

I swear, I don’t have any inside information on Jacob Nottingham.

* Trey Mancini keeps squaring up baseballs, but now they’re finding grass or the seats.

Mancini entered yesterday slashing .375/.444/.500 in May, the second-highest average in the American League and third-highest on-base percentage. He’s reached base in 13 consecutive games after lining a single into center field in the first inning, and is batting .360 (18-for-50) with two home runs and five RBIs during that span, including his 10-pitch single in the ninth inning that led to Anthony Santander’s walk-off home run.

Third baseman DJ LeMahieu robbed him of an extra-base hit in the third inning with a backhand stop of a scorching grounder that included a wicked little hop at the end.

Impressive exit velocities are wonderful, but Mancini would prefer a higher average and OPS, perhaps a couple of home runs for the effort. Drive in some runs for a team that couldn’t buy them. And yes, take every infield single with good humor.

“Maybe I quieted things down a tiny bit mechanically, but basically that’s been it,” he said earlier this week. “I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent in my approach and the way that I’ve hit the ball. The bad luck streak, as tough as it is when you’re going through it, I think I’ve played long enough to know that if you keep doing that, then the results will eventually shift in a better direction, and they have.

“It’s been basically all about staying the course, not panicking, even if the results on the scoreboard aren’t the same as how you’re feeling or how you’re hitting the ball. I think it’s taken me a long time to get to the point where you can be happy with the process and the effort you’re putting in, rather than the straight-up results that you’re getting and letting that dictate how you carry yourself, or your mood.

“I feel pretty good about how I’ve handled all that early on, and luckily it’s been paying dividends lately with some better results.”

* Jorge Mateo isn’t just delivering spectacular plays at shortstop. He’s become a more consistent fielder, handling the routine stuff and making everything else appear the same.

He gets to every ball. He’s making every type of throw – feet planted, on the move, across his body. The first baseman barely has to move. Just raise the mitt and wait for it.

Of course, there’s still the highlight plays. Yesterday, he dived to his left to corral Gleyber Torres’ ground ball and flipped to Chris Owings for the force at second base.

Losing Ryan Mountcastle to the injured list and Austin Hays to day-to-day status really hurt the lineup, but don’t discount the impact of Mateo going to the bench with a bruised shoulder and chest. He’s disruptive on the basepaths, with 11 steals in 12 attempts and the speed to go first to third on a pitchout, and he’s becoming a more important part of a lineup that’s deadened by too many holes.

Mateo broke a 2-2 tie yesterday by dumping a two-out single into center field that scored Anthony Santander.

“Jorgie’s never gotten the opportunity to play every single day and especially at shortstop, and we wanted to give him that opportunity,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “He’s shown that he can do it. Now it’s just about being consistent and being able to play a six-month season playing every day.

“I’m just looking forward to watching him progress. I think he’s going to improve. I think his at-bats already have improved since the beginning of the year till now. They made some slight swing adjustments with him that I think are going to pay off. He’s an exciting player. It’s just about being consistent going forward now, being able to post every single day and be an everyday player. That’s just going to take reps and experience.”

* If eyebrows were raised over the Orioles’ decision to give Jordan Lyles a contract guaranteeing $8 million this season, with an option for 2023 that could inflate the value to $18 million, perhaps the deal is making more sense.

The Orioles wanted a veteran starting pitcher who could be depended upon to take the ball every five days, push through the early and middle innings, and assist John Means in a leadership role. But at a reasonable cost, of course.

All three components became much more important with Means undergoing ligament-reconstructive surgery on his left elbow after only two starts.

Lyles could become a bargain in today’s market, and Wednesday night’s start was a great example.

Walks back to the dugout after six innings at 96 pitches, with 16 of 18 batters retired, and checks Hyde’s facial expressions to determine if he’d return for the seventh. Didn’t approach him, didn’t ask. Retires the side in order in the seventh and, at 106 pitches, asked to go back out for the eighth.

Hyde didn’t let him, but it was typical Lyles.

“I think he’s doing what we thought he was going to do, and this is an extremely tough division to pitch in,” Hyde said. “He’s answered the bell every time, he’s given us a chance to win every time out. He’s an ultra-competitor, does not want to come out of the game. Feels like it’s his game, and I appreciate that about him.”

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