It has been a little over two weeks since my trek to Salisbury, Md. and Perdue Stadium to see up close how the Orioles’ Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds affiliate had gotten off to a remarkable 24-4 start.
The Shorebirds were playing at a .857 winning percentage through 28 games and they were obviously going to cool off some. But it hasn’t been much. After last night’s 12-2 home win over Lakewood, the Shorebirds are 36-10 (.783).
That is still easily the best-record in all of minor league full season baseball, which is made up of 120 teams. But here is something pretty amazing. The team with the second-best record is not only in Delmarva’s league but also in the same division. Greensboro won again last night and is 33-14 (.702) and 3 1/2 games back of Delmarva.
But Delmarva’s start has been pretty special as the Shorebirds, an Orioles affiliate since 1997, chase their first playoff berth since 2005 and first South Atlantic League championship since 2000.
With Friday’s win, Delmarva already has one more win than last year’s club had in the first half, when the 2018 team went 35-32. The Shorebirds have had winning streaks of 10, five and seven games. Their pitchers have a strikeout rate of 10.75 per nine innings.
When I published this story after Delmarva was 24-4, I had several quotes from manager Kyle Moore. But here are some other quotes on players he spoke about that day that didn’t make that first story.
Moore on infielder Adam Hall, the club’s second-round pick in 2017, who is batting .327/.409/.435: “Adam has some serious bat speed and some real ability hand-eye wise. He’s really competing and swinging at strikes. When he gets his best swing off at a strike, there is always a chance of something good happening because he can really run. He makes a lot of contact and puts pressure on the defense. We are working to teach him to score runs. If he’s going to be productive in the majors, he’ll need to score runs. With his skill-set right now he looks really good.”
Moore on the defense of Hall, who has played at both second base and shortstop: “It’s really good. His range is above average and he’s got at least an average arm. But with the range and speed he has, there are so many balls he can get to that really helps our pitching staff. Second base, a ball hit anywhere close to him, he’s going to catch it. When you can catch the ball like we can up the middle, it’s usually an out.”
Moore on outfielder Doran Turchin, who has been a productive bat in the middle of their lineup, hitting .236 with five homers, 35 RBIs: “He’s a really good athlete and he can really turn on the ball. He’s got high bat speed. Just really like his skill set. He’s got a plus arm and is just a toolsy player where you go ‘Man, we’ve got to get this kid to put it together with his skills.’ So far he’s been really productive. He’s developing and definitely got off to a good start. He’s really young too, I think he just turned 21, so he’s exciting.”
Moore on 2018 top draft pick Grayson Rodriguez, who is 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA: “Probably the biggest thing that surprises me about Grayson is his feel for his off-speed stuff in different counts. Grayson doesn’t have fastball counts. A 2-0 pitch may not be a fastball for him. To say that about a 19-year-old high school kid is remarkable. Yeah, he’s got the big fastball. And if you come to a game to see him, you’ll notice the fastball right away. But it’s not always a fastball count. He can throw his changeup, slider and curveball for strikes. Man, how does a 19-year-old command four pitches? It seems every night he commands at least three of the four with a high-end fastball. For 19, pretty good.”
Moore said Rodriguez is very motivated to improve: “Got a great makeup. Huge drive, huge competitor. Everything you want when you look in a kid’s eye, he has. Then when you see his stuff, you understand how he is mowing them down and striking out about 10 per nine. So, the makeup is awesome and he’s got the stuff to match it. That’s a good combination.”
Moore on 22-year-old right-hander Ofelky Peralta, who the club moved down a level back to Delmarva this year after he struggled at Single-A Frederick in 2017-18. He is 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA for the Shorebirds: “What a great decision. He had been kind of rushed to High-A and not succeeded as a 19 and 20-year-old. And that is a tough league. Those are college players and some really high draft picks and he just wasn’t ready. So to come here and be truly in a place for his development has been awesome for him. He has to throw his secondary stuff. Everyone knows this kid has a big fastball. He’s gotten up to 98 (mph) this year. If he went out in this league and only threw fastballs, no one would hit him. That’s how good his fastball is. But he has to work on the off-speed. His changeup has come on to be, in my opinion, a little bit above average which is awesome and now we’re working on a breaking ball. If he gets those two going, you might really have something.”
On Peralta fanning 47 over 35 2/3 innings. Has the stuff been that strong?: “Certainly a factor is his work regimen and routine but absolutely because of the stuff. His fastball is a major league electric fastball and so when he needs to lean on that, he does get a lot of swings and misses on it. At this point he gets fewer swings and misses on the off-speed. So most of the strikeouts are attributed to his fastball. Once you put 97 in the back of the hitter’s mind, it puts him pretty out in front of about anything else that comes out. So stuff for sure produces those strikeouts, but hats off to him for working really hard on the secondary stuff.”
The O’s losing streak reaches seven: The Orioles lost 8-6 to Colorado last night when Trevor Story hit a two-run homer in the last of the ninth off Mychal Givens for a walk-off ending. It was his second career walk-off homer and the Orioles last two losses came via ninth-inning runs against Givens.
The right-hander has been the losing pitcher in three of the last five games. In those games he has allowed eight runs and three homers over 2 2/3 innings. His ERA jumped from 2.75 to 5.64.
The Orioles have one win since May 12, going 1-10 in that span. They’ve allowed six or more runs for six straight games, giving up 52 runs in that stretch.
Since scoring just one run in the last two games of last weekend’s Cleveland series, the Orioles have scored 27 runs on 46 hits with nine homers their past five games.
Renato Núñez hit his first career pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning, his 11th homer of the season. He has now homered in three consecutive games for the first time in his career and is the first Oriole to do so since Jonathan Schoop homered in three straight from July 22-24, 2018 versus Toronto and Boston. Núñez has hit four homers his last five games.