The starters need to get deeper into games. The bullpen needs to get more outs. The defense needs to tighten. A team doesn’t slide into last place if these three areas are secured.
But there may not be a heavier weight dragging down the Orioles than a light-hitting lineup.
The Orioles went 7-for-47 (.149) in yesterday’s doubleheader and scored only three runs while being swept by the Mariners. They’ve registered a .218 average in 13 games, the sixth-lowest in the majors as they boarded their flight to Texas, and a .641 OPS that was last in the American League and 27th in baseball.
Manager Brandon Hyde is adjusting the lineup, moving players up and down or to the bench. It’s easy to compensate for a few simultaneous slumps, but much harder when the problem is widespread and the roster holds only three reserves.
He’s waiting for the dam to burst. For players to get on base, hit with runners in scoring position, ease the pressure on his pitchers to be perfect.
Cedric Mullins took a 15-game hitting streak into the doubleheader and went 0-for-6. As if the Orioles can afford for him to cool down.
He could be the first player under quarantine to isolate him from slumping teammates.
Trey Mancini was supposed to sit out Wednesday’s game before the postponement, a mini-reset intended to clear his head and ease the frustration that bubbled to the surface, and he batted cleanup in both ends of the doubleheader.
“I think we’ve had some guys with some tough luck, to be honest with you,” Hyde said. “For me, (Maikel) Franco is swinging the bat better than his numbers have shown. It was nice to see Trey swing the bat like he did that first game. I feel like he’s taking better at-bats now. I think (Anthony) Santander, I’m not worried about him. He’s going to get hot here at some point soon and take some good at-bats. DJ Stewart drawing a walk there late, that’s what he’s really good at, being selective and being able to work the count.
“I do believe that our offense is a lot better than we’re swinging the bat right now and we are going to turn it around.”
Bruce Zimmermann said he didn’t feel extra pressure in Game 2 based on the offense’s inability to provide support. He can’t let those thoughts creep into his head.
“That’s the last thing I want to do,” he said. “I think that’s the last thing any pitcher really wants to do when that’s happening. My job is to go out there and make pitches and get us back in the dugout in three runs or less in six innings. That’s what I’m trying to do each time.
“We’ll get going. We’ve seen spurts of it so far. Guys are starting to swing it a lot better. I’ll take care of my job and those guys will take care of theirs and we’ll sync up and we’ll start winning some ballgames here.”
* Zimmermann and Game 1 starter Matt Harvey combined to allow four runs in 9 2/3 innings. Harvey left with the score tied, Zimmermann took the loss.
Harvey’s fastball ticked up early and he seems to be gaining more strength, an encouraging sign for the Orioles.
“It’s getting a little warmer,” he said. “I think the first series obviously in Boston it was a little cold, so everyone was kind of maybe a little tight or whatnot, but I’m definitely feeling stronger. Definitely feel good, feel strong and just need to eliminate those innings that are kind of making the pitch count go up and, I guess, searching for a little bit of a mechanical search instead of attacking like I did early in the game.”
Harvey had enough left in the tank yesterday to kick himself for the 91.7 mph fastball that Mitch Haniger walloped for a two-run homer. He got two earlier strikeouts on 94 mph heat and an 84 mph slider.
The fastball is “definitely coming,” Harvey said.
“I made the one mistake, he hit the home run. In my mind I was thinking two-seam fastball like I had been doing into righties the whole game, and then for some reason I threw him a four and it didn’t really do much and went right into his bat path and cost us the game, so I’m pretty frustrated with that.
“Got to keep working. Those mistakes can’t happen, especially in a close ballgame like that, so I’m pretty frustrated about that.”
* The Orioles had two unplanned off-days this week due to weather-related postponements, which could force some shuffling in the rotation unless Dean Kremer returns Saturday on short rest. There are open dates next Monday and Thursday that provide rest for everyone, but would be more beneficial after the first month of the season.
The dog days are just puppies.
“We’ve got two more off-days next week, which is so unusual, but it does help our pitching,” Hyde said. “We have some guys offensively, too, who could have used an off-day (Wednesday). I don’t think it’s a terrible thing. I was going to give Trey a day off anyway.
“Honestly, you’d rather see more off-days later in the summer than you do early because the guys are more fresh right now, but it does help out from a pitching standpoint a little bit. I don’t think it affects us either way.”
* Mancini has regained his strength after undergoing chemotherapy treatments throughout the summer of 2020.
Here’s the tale of the tape:
Mancini has hit the two longest home runs by the Orioles this season, with blasts measured at 429 feet yesterday and 427 feet on April 10 against the Red Sox.
Yesterday’s two-run shot in Game 1, the entirety of his team’s scoring, put Mancini among 12 players with at least two 110 mph-plus homers this season.
* Freddy Galvis hit his first home run with the Orioles and it came in his 13th game of the season.
Galvis hadn’t needed 13 or more games to collect his first homer since 2015 with the Phillies, also in 13 games.