The dog days of August can clamp down on a team under normal circumstances or in a season that’s been shortened and manipulated and undergone changes on the fly.
The Orioles began a stretch last night of 14 straight games against division opponents. They knew it was coming. The restrictions on travel set them up for it.
They won two of three games in Boston to start the season, lost twice to the Yankees and swept the Rays. Now they get the Blue Jays for three, followed by four against the Red Sox to close the homestand, three in St. Petersburg and four in the Jays’ new digs in Buffalo.
Last night’s 7-1 loss didn’t help the situation - not for a team that was 24-52 (.316) in the division in 2019.
“Yeah, we’ve got a tough stretch with the AL East. But, hey, we play in the AL East. That’s how it’s meant to be,” reliever Shawn Armstrong said yesterday during his Zoom conference call.
“It’s one of the toughest divisions in baseball and we’re here to compete and go out and get a W, just like we are tonight.”
Players are enjoying this ride for as long as it lasts. Perhaps it delivers them to the expanded playoffs. Or maybe there’s a breakdown along the way.
“You look at our lineup,” Armstrong said. “(Sunday) I’m sitting in the dugout in a 5-1 ballgame. Just the presence and the communication and the excitement that the batters have, like with (Anthony) Santander and Sevie (Pedro Severino) hitting home runs and everybody getting on board. I think that says a lot about the Orioles, because we were missing that last year.
“Yes, we’re hot right now, the vibe’s great, the atmosphere’s great, it’s a lot of fun being here. Even in the clubhouse, having to wear a mask and six feet apart, we’re still having a good time collectively. And I think that also takes to our presence on the field. You see when a guy hits a home run, you see when a guy goes oppo with a guy on second just to get the one run in for a single, the bullpen’s going crazy, the starters are going crazy. ... We don’t care who’s in the box, we don’t care which team is in the opposing dugout.”
They don’t care who doubts them, and the voices could become louder after back-to-back losses.
“We see it all over social media. ‘Oh, it’s a fluke.’ We’re staying solid, we’re working here amongst ourselves, relying on one another and we’re trying to avoid the noise,” Armstrong said.
“We’re taking it one game at a time, one day at a time, and we’re trusting each other day in and day out and I think it says a lot about us.”
“It feels great,” Santander said in his recent Zoom call. “I thank God for everybody being here and everybody contributing to every single game out there. I think we’re all doing a great job overall. Every single one of my teammates is trying to help the team win every single day. I think we’re playing as a team, we have really good chemistry and it’s great just seeing everybody helping out.”
The appearances made by Chris Davis have been dwindling. He wasn’t in the lineup again last night and the presence of right-handers Nate Pearson and Tanner Roark the next two nights don’t ensure his return.
Manager Brandon Hyde sat Davis against left-handers Patrick Corbin and Hyun Jin Ryu, but also right-handers Jake Arrieta and Max Scherzer. He’s in the same predicament as last season. Offering a reset to a struggling player who has two years and $46 million left on his contract after 2020 and can’t get comfortable at the plate if he’s sitting on the bench.
“Right now, for me, I’m just ... I appreciate Chris and have a great relationship with him and talk to him on a daily basis, talk a lot to him,” Hyde said.
“But right now, I’m going to try to put our best lineup out there. (Chance) Sisco and Severino, the way they’re swinging the bats right now, it’s tough to get those guys out of the lineup and I think everybody understands that. We’re trying to win as many games as possible.
“I’m going to try to still find the right matchups for CD.”
Pearson is a rookie and former first-round draft pick who’s made three starts this season and allowed seven earned runs (10 total) and walked nine batters in 12 1/3 innings. He tossed five scoreless innings against the Nationals in his debut.
Right-handed hitters have slashed .115/.250/.231 against him. Left-handers have slashed .316/.435/.526.
Davis is 1-for-7 with a double, two walks and three strikeouts against Roark.
Hyde doesn’t believe in seven at-bat sample sizes. Those matchups won’t influence his decision.