The Orioles split a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox, the team with the best record in the American League. Encouraging on one hand, but on the other not so much, since they won the first two games of the series.
In the first two games and seven innings of the series, the Orioles outscored the White Sox 21-9. But in the last 11 innings of the series the Orioles were outscored 11-3 and it ended in a two-two split of games.
After winning four of their first five series of the season, the Orioles are 0-2-1 over the last three, dropping series to the Royals and Rays before playing Chicago.
Overall, the Orioles are doing just fine at 14-10. They are playing .583 baseball right now. That is solid for one month and a day. Keep up that winning percentage over the full year and they will go 94-68. They would almost certainly be a playoff team and maybe even a division winner with that record.
The Orioles will enjoy their third scheduled off day of the season today. Then the 10-game homestand continues with the New York Yankees in Baltimore starting Tuesday night. So far the Orioles are 7-4 in AL East games and have won three of four series in the division.
We should know a lot more over the next few days about Britton and shortstop J.J. Hardy and their injuries. In the clubhouse yesterday, Adam Jones refused to play the “woe is us” card and his manager would be happy to know that. Jones said all teams have injuries and the Orioles have to overcome the loss of those two players whether they are out for a short time or a longer stretch.
“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the grind,” Jones said. “Things happen. Everybody does also. So you can’t say we have - everybody is going through the same thing. It’s unfortunate, everybody has to go through it. This is a true test of what a team is all about. “
As deep as the Orioles’ bullpen is, there is a real comfort level with O’Day in the eighth and Britton in the ninth. Having to make changes to that for potentially more than just a few games would be a challenge for one of the game’s best bullpens. Would O’Day become closer and Brad Brach the setup man?
As for Hardy, if he has to miss time the Orioles have some decisions to make. First, does Manny Machado stay at third or move over and replace Hardy at short? If Machado stays at third, does Ryan Flaherty rejoin the team or would Paul Janish become a consideration? We know his defense at short is excellent and he is batting .318 in 19 games at Triple-A Norfolk.
As for the Orioles, there is some sense that the starting rotation pitchers are settling in, yesterday’s outing being, they hope, just a bump in the road. Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman, Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson have all thrown well lately. Getting more innings and more production from this group would be huge for the team.
We know the Orioles can score runs and the White Sox staff found that out during the first three games of that series. The Orioles are getting some production from corner outfielders that they didn’t get most of last year. Joey Rickard, Mark Trumbo, Nolan Reimold and Hyun Soo Kim have all been solid.
Orioles left fielders rank third in the American League with an OPS of .934. Orioles right fielders also rank third in OPS at .818. Last season, O’s right fielders ranked sixth in the AL in OPS and Orioles left fielders ranked 13th.
So some good things have happened during the season’s first 24 games. The offense has shown it can be good, the defense seems to make big plays nightly, the bullpen has been strong and the starting pitching may be improving with three homegrown pitchers.
The Orioles did fall into second place last night when Boston beat New York 8-7. Boston is 15-10 and 1/2-game ahead of the Orioles. David Price gave up six runs but got the victory. He is 4-0 but with an ERA of 6.14.
So the Orioles await a visit from the Yankees along with some important medical news. They have handled some challenges well so far with many more to come in this 2016 season.