The Orioles would much prefer to be hosting games late in the season that dictate whether they make the playoffs. Somewhere down the rebuild road, it’s supposed to happen for them.
In the meantime, while the last few games determine whether they pick first or second in next year’s draft, they get a chance to see how the other half lives on its home turf. In a raucous environment.
They can’t catch postseason fever, which certainly would present complications during COVID-19, but they’re feeling the heat in Toronto.
Fans were hanging on every pitch at Rogers Centre and sweating out a four-run rally by the Orioles in the eighth inning, when they sent 10 batters to the plate and took chunks out of the Blue Jays’ 6-0 lead.
The Orioles lost 6-4, but there’s value in it for a young club.
“This is fun, this is what it’s about for me,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
“Our guys really haven’t had a whole lot of experiences in this type of environment. It’s loud in here, the fans are into it. We’re getting booed a little bit. For me, this is what makes Major League Baseball fun, and playing the games that matter and hostile environments on the road, playing against teams that are must-win types of games. For me, this is what competitors live for, so it’s a lot of fun. And I’m happy our guys are able to experience it.”
“It’s a really positive environment for us to play in,” said Austin Hays, who had two hits, made a sliding catch in right field and later threw out Cavan Biggio at the plate for a double play. “The goal is for us in the next couple years to be on the other side of this and be in the situation that those guys over there are in right now. We’re just trying to continue to play hard and play the game the right way and treat every game like it matters and keep battling like we tried to battle our way back into that game (last night).
“We had a chance, so we’re just trying to continue to play hard and the environment definitely helps with that.”
Thomas Eshelman got the start and worked 2 2/3 innings in the latest bullpen game, the two runs against him coming on Danny Jansen’s homer in the third.
“It’s my first time pitching in Canada, so it was a good atmosphere to pitch in,” Eshelman said. “They’re very passionate fans toward their team, so it was good for us to experience. Wish we would have pulled it out, but we played a good ballclub tonight and we played pretty good baseball. I’m happy for us and hopefully we can translate it into tomorrow and Sunday.”
* Cedric Mullins was hitless in four plate appearances last night, reaching in the eighth inning after an Adam Cimber pitch struck his right elbow pad. He’s 2-for-23 in his last eight games and 2-for-25 dating back to the Sept. 22 game in Philadelphia.
Perhaps the grind of the season is catching up to him, with 157 games played. He’s also had a sore hamstring, which kept him out of the lineup on back-to-back nights.
Being able to earn so many starts and plate appearances is a big part of the Mullins story in 2021, a player who still had to win a job in spring training. And he isn’t using fatigue or discomfort as convenient excuses for any struggles.
“I’d say I’ve had a few years to prepare for what a full season brings and the body is feeling pretty well,” he said. “I had a couple days of a sore hamstring, but being able to bounce back from a couple days is pretty huge in terms of how I feel.”
Mullins was a unanimous choice for Most Valuable Oriole, which hadn’t occurred since at least 1998. Five players fell one vote short - B.J. Surhoff in 1999, Jeff Conine in 2001, Chris Davis in 2013, Jonathan Schoop in 2017 and Adam Jones in 2018.
If my memory isn’t failing, Albert Belle received the only other first-place vote in 2001, though he didn’t appear in a single game due to a degenerative hip condition that ended his career.
“Addition by subtraction,” as the reporter described it.
A unique reason for an MVO to be denied unanimous selection.
* The media sessions with Hyde no longer include daily injury updates.
The day-to-day guys ended up on the injured lists.
Head athletic trainer Brian Ebel kept accompanying Ramón Urías and Keegan Akin on walks around the field during batting practice. Part of their rehabs from adductor strains - Urías on the right side, Akin on the left.
The Orioles have 12 players on the IL, including seven on the 60-day. Some of it is unavoidable. Some of it likely is a product of the reduction in expanded rosters to 28 players. Can’t just sit an injured player with so few extras on the bench and in the bullpen.
Reliever Travis Lakins Sr. was placed on the 60-day IL after undergoing surgery July 6 to repair a recurrent olecranon stress fracture in his throwing elbow. Hyde said recently that Lakins is expected to be ready for spring training, as the team stated after the procedure.