The Orioles reach their latest off-day with 14 games still played and an unexpected complication in breaking down an unusual season into increments.
The fractions are supposed to show that they’re one-fourth of the way into it, but yesterday’s rain in D.C. and grounds crew follies forced a suspension and the resumption Friday at Camden Yards with the Orioles ahead 5-2 in the top of the sixth inning.
Manager Brandon Hyde is making the necessary mental adjustments, however the numbers are crunched. Retraining himself to view the season in a dissimilar manner without it becoming a daily obsession.
“I think about it,” he said yesterday in his Zoom conference call with the media. “I just think have 40-something games to go. I’m not thinking about this is the 15th game or what we have left.
“It’s a lot different. It does feel like August, though, in a normal season. But like everybody says, it’s a sprint season, we’re a quarter of the way through and I think it’s going to go by pretty fast. We are trying to take it game by game, series by series and just trying to keep these guys healthy and to stay competitive for the rest of the summer.”
Losing streaks are supposed to feel longer and winning streaks much better over a 60-game period. True?
“Maybe a little bit,” Hyde said. “You lose those four against Miami, that’s four out of 60 it takes more to come back from. So, yeah, I think it is more impactful for sure.”
* Heading into yesterday’s series finale in D.C., the Orioles led the American League with a .475 average on 0-0 counts. Two of their three home runs in the eighth inning Saturday night came on the first pitch.
Be aggressive but also selective. Stay in attack mode and also be patient.
The apparent contradictions in approach actually make sense.
“We like our guys to be aggressive if it’s on 0-0 count, ball in the zone they can drive,” Hyde said. “I don’t know if it’s exactly by design, but I do know we have some aggressive hitters. I think we’re overaggressive at times and that presents some problems a little bit. I think you saw in the Marlins series, where we made a lot of early-count outs.
“We’ve got to manage our strike zone a little bit better, but we do have aggressive early-in-the-count guys. We don’t have a ton of high-walk guys, so we are looking to swing the bat early. I would like to be a little bit more selective aggressive, to be honest, but they throw a strike on that first pitch, a lot of times our guys are ready.”
* While tabulating how many ways the Orioles have demonstrated improvement over last season, also include the opponent’s .119 average with two strikes heading into yesterday that ranked second in the majors.
Teams were only 29-for-244, a noteworthy achievement considering how Orioles pitching kept failing to put away hitters in 2019.
They ranked last in the majors with an opponents’ average of .192.
* Bryan Holaday made his initial start behind the plate yesterday and delivered the game’s first run with a bases-loaded single in the fifth inning, but he’s been used at first base and can move across the diamond to third. A pretty versatile guy for a catcher.
Hyde also values his leadership in a clubhouse that lost Trey Mancini.
“Anywhere I go, having been around the game for a while now, that’s definitely one of the roles that I fall into,” Holaday said. “If there’s anything I can do to help the team out and help the team win and get better, that’s what I’m here for. So I definitely take a lot of pride in that.”
His work at first base gained notice during the 11-inning affair on Aug. 1 against the Rays when he made a lunging catch of Manuel Margot’s blistering line drive and doubled off Kevin Kiermaier at second base.
“It was a great experience because I caught it,” he said. “For me, it’s fun anytime you get in the game. Every day, I take ground balls at first base, third base, I’ll take fly balls in the outfield. Been around this game long enough to where you know anything can happen. You can get in the game at any point in time and at any position.
“I’ve pitched four times, as well, so I’m ready for anything. But definitely getting put in that situation was a lot of fun and it worked out well for us.”
Holaday was a veteran at an alternate camp site filled with young players trying to stay ready if needed or furthering their development.
“It was interesting because going there I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “I didn’t know much about what was going on and I thought that the Orioles were doing a tremendous job with it. Just the structure of the whole thing and how they space guys out, it allows you to get a ton of work in in the amount of time you’re given. I just thought the way it’s run and the amount of staff they have there is the perfect size and really helps everyone focus and get better. And it’s definitely huge for the young guys, but it helped me out a ton.
“I was able to get there and get a ton of at-bats in in simulated games and so I thought they’re just doing a tremendous job there, the way it’s run. There’s no wasted time. You’re getting your work in and there’s plenty of staff there, so anything you need, they’re there for you. That’s really nice and definitely helped me out, so any veteran guy that’s down is going to get better.”
The Orioles put Holaday on the taxi squad for the trip to Boston and selected his contract on Aug. 1 rather than risk him opting out of his contract. I’ve heard that the Giants were interested in him.
* Did anyone predict that Cole Sulser would lead the team in saves through the first 14 games?
I’ll need proof.
Sulser notched his third save on Aug. 2 against a Rays team that exposed him to waivers last September. He was credited with a hold Saturday night be shaking off some rust and getting three big outs in the bottom of the eighth inning in D.C.
The seven scoreless appearances with the Rays on their expanded roster didn’t buy him any security. They needed room on their 40-man roster and had the pitching depth to risk losing him.
The Orioles claimed Sulser on Oct. 1 after he posted a 3.27 ERA and 1.136 WHIP in 49 appearances with Triple-A Durham and struck out 89 batters in 66 innings. He struck out nine with the Rays in 7 1/3 innings.
“I can’t believe Tampa just let him walk because he was a pretty good pitcher for Durham last year and everywhere he’s been, his numbers have been pretty good,” said a minor league coach from outside the organization. “I just think that’s a really good acquisition.”
* Miguel Castro registered the team’s other save Saturday night by protecting a 5-3 lead. He struck out two batters, giving him 10 in 7 1/3 innings, and still hadn’t surrendered a run.
“Really throwing the ball well. Attacking guys, a lot of strikes,” Hyde said.
“It’s all about strikes with Miggy because his stuff is so good. He’s got three really good pitches. I like the way he’s locating. He’s working down, his arm’s staying on top, his fingers are staying on top and he’s driving the ball down.”